Garnet Valley’s Maddie Ireland steals a pass from Central Bucks South’s Kaley Smith. The Jaguars’ win gave them a state tourney berth.
Garnet Valley's Maddie Ireland steals a pass from Central Bucks South's Kaley Smith. The Jaguars' win gave them a state tourney berth. (Robert J Gurecki)

CONCORD — For a half Wednesday night, Garnet Valley's girls basketball team hadn't done much to prevent its season from ending.

The Jags, who entered the Class AAAA district tournament as the No. 2 seed, weren't shooting well, were turning the ball over, and appeared on the way to a loss to No. 14 Central Bucks South in a playback game in which the winner would qualify for the state playoffs while the loser would collect equipment Thursday and send its players off to their spring sports.

Junior Jordan Ireland and senior Haley Warden took charge in the final two periods for Garnet Valley, and their efforts helped the Jags to a 41-33 victory over Central Bucks South.

Garnet Valley celebrates after defeating Central Bucks South Wednesday.
Garnet Valley celebrates after defeating Central Bucks South Wednesday. (Robert J Gurecki)

The Jags (25-2) host Methacton Saturday, with the winner taking ninth place in the district and facing the District 12 champion in the opening round of the state tourney. The loser will be District One's 10th seed and will go on the road to face the District Three champion.

Garnet Valley and Methacton were in a similar position at this time last year, but the host Warriors beat the Jags to take ninth place and send Garnet Valley to Garden Spot High (Lancaster County) to face District Three champion Wilson.

Warden (10 points, including 6-for-6 at the foul line, six rebounds, two steals, one assist) seemed more concerned with a Spanish project that was due instead of worrying about whether Wednesday's game would be her last as a Garnet Valley basketball player.


"I was not feeling a loss tonight," said, the All-Delco soccer and lacrosse player who is headed to James Madison to play the spring sport. "And nobody else on this team was either."

Warden didn't have a field goal until 3:50 remained in the third period. But she hit both of her free throws in the second quarter, when she had three defensive rebounds, and was 4-for-4 at the line in the third.

Garnet Valley’s Haley Warden, left, and Central Bucks South’s Jordan Vitelli go up for an overthrown pass.
Garnet Valley's Haley Warden, left, and Central Bucks South's Jordan Vitelli go up for an overthrown pass. (Robert J Gurecki)

Ireland made only one shot in the opening half, when Garnet Valley went 5-for-20 from the floor. She didn't attempt a shot in the third period, then hit a pair of buckets and dropped in four foul shots in a row after missing two of three in the last eight minutes.

"I knew I wasn't playing a good game," said the junior who also chipped in with three rebounds, three assists and three steals.

"Something just clicked in the fourth period. I was getting open, and we had said at halftime that we had to go to the basket because if we did, they would foul us. Then we just had to make our foul shots."

The Jags, who struggled at the line earlier in the playoffs, were 14-for-19 Wednesday.

"We told the girls that they had to stick their foul shots, and Haley and Jordan really did that," Garnet Valley coach Joe Woods said. "We had talked at halftime about taking the ball to the basket and shooting with confidence.

"All season this team has played with tremendous character, and they just don't give up. They certainly didn't tonight."

Junior Macy Goldbach scored 11 points, pulled down six missed shots and added a steal for the Jags. With her team leading, 33-30, late in the fourth period, she made a perfect cut down the lane, accepted a pass from sophomore Sam Tomasetti, and dropped in a key two points.

"I was open, saw the lane and took advantage of it," Goldbach said. "Sam and I have done that before."

Senior Megan Blair gave Woods some key minutes off the bench when Madison Ireland picked up two early fouls, and hit her only shot in the first period.

"The games lately have been so close," said Blair, who is one of the top students in her class and plans to attend Saint Joseph's University to prepare for a career working with autistic children.

"You don't ever want your season to end, so you do anything you can to make sure it doesn't."