By Dennis Weller
Special to The Mercury
NORTH COVENTRY — Perkiomen School has had players out sick throughout the season and has already crammed a good portion of its schedule in before the holiday break. Despite that, the Panthers have gotten off to a hot start in the Tri-County League, which continued Monday afternoon with a 54-28 win at West-Mont Christian Academy.
Perkiomen’s one-two scoring punch of junior Nicole Pupillo and freshman Kristen Burdo came through again with 20 and 18 points, respectively, against the inexperienced, but improving Wings. Kylie Stimson led West-Mont with 11 points.
“We’re missing two players who are sick,” said Panther coach Randy Littlefield. “We’ve had about eight games in 10 days. We’ve already played a third of our schedule before Christmas. But that hasn’t seemed to hurt much so far.
“In the league, we’ve gotten a strong start to the season,” said Pupillo, who matched her scoring average for the year with Monday’s output.
“I think everybody is happy about how everything’s going,” added Burdo, who came in averaging 15 points per game. “When we play together, it works.”
The contest turned into an opportunity for both teams to work on some things after the score got out of hand fairly quickly, with Perkiomen (4-0, 5-3 overall) leading by nine points after a quarter and by 22 at the half. That included the Panthers trying to get more people involved in the offense and tightening up the defense while the Wings (2-4, 2-6) were concerned with more basic problems, like cutting down on turnovers.
That was after Perk School took advantage of the young West-Mont backcourt in the first half, forcing 18 miscues, including five steals by Pupillo.
“We graduated our starting backcourt,” said West-Mont coach Ron Heffelfinger. “That’s what we’re trying to work on, taking care of the ball. With a young backcourt, that’s a challenge. We have a freshman and a sophomore playing there.”
Pupillo opened the scoring for the day with a breakaway basket off a steal and West-Mont tied it on a jumper by Christy Chen (7 points). The visitors took the lead for good when Burdo scored off an inbounds pass from Mindi Gallagher and Pupillo followed with a three-point bomb from the left wing and scored off another steal for a 9-2 advantage.
Then Stimson scored her first basket on a baseline drive, but Burdo stole the ball and scored and Panther freshman Stephanie Falcone (8 points) hit two from the line to boost the lead to 13-4 after a quarter. Pupillo swished in two more three-point shots and two free throws in the second quarter and Burdo added a pair of baskets on the way to a 29-7 halftime difference.
After that, the Panthers slowed things down while working on finer points of the game.
“We wanted to work the ball around and get some open looks,” said Littlefield. “And we had other things we had to work on.”
“Find the open man, defensive slides on the help side, and executing plays,” Pupillo added.
And while the Panthers were doing that, West-Mont did manage to cut down on the mistakes and showed improvement in its shooting and rebounding, too.
“I was proud of the girls’ effort,” said Heffelfinger. “I’ve seen a lot of progress already. Some of the girls we had last year have improved. They’re working hard. Our goal is, after the Christmas break, to come back and work hard, beat teams we had close games against, and improve against some of the other teams.”
Littlefield thought the second half improvement by the Wings was a combination of their effort and some lax play by his team.
“I was disappointed in our defense,” said the first-year Panthers coach. “Their team is scrappy, and they were burning us on our laziness.”
There were only seven fouls in the entire game and just five free throws shot, four by Perkiomen and one following a basket by West-Mont, with all five being made. ... Stimson grabbed 11 rebounds, Burdo 10, West-Mont’s Julia Klenske had nine and Falcone contributed eight as the Panthers finished with a 44-31 margin on the boards. ... The Wings wound up with 26 turnovers after committing just eight in the second half and Perk School had 12 for the game.