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NEPA Flames Toomey making strides at Pre-Season Challenge

MANHEIM – Kaeli Romanowski and Avery McNulty each produced two straight baskets seconds apart when they separately made consecutive steals in the first half.

It was when NEPA Flames Toomey went from attacking to containing, however, with its defense Friday night that it took control on the way to a 46-39 victory over the NHB Ballers at Spooky Nook Sports.

The win allowed the Flames, a seventh-grade team out of Backcourt Hoops in Scranton, to even their record at 1-1 after the first of three days of play at the Blue Chip Pre-Season Challenge, powered by Under Armour.

The Flames held the Ballers to 0-for-10 shooting, including six missed 3-point attempts in the first 3 1/2 minutes of the second half. During that time, the Flames added six points to complete a 16-0 run to a 30-21 lead.

“To start the second half, we pulled our press off,” Flames coach Carrie Toomey said. “We went to a 1-2-2 and that’s what we played for the rest of the game.

“They can shoot and they were fast, so the press was kind of hurting us, trying to keep up with them.”

Flames pressure hurt both teams in the first half, turning it into a battle of streaks.

Romanowski took a steal the length of the court, then stole the in-bounds pass and made a tough, off-balance shot over a defender for an early, 6-2 lead.

The Ballers made three 3-pointers and beat the press three times during a 17-6 run to a 21-14 lead.

McNulty then provided the quick burst that started the 16-point streak. She made a steal, drove the length of the floor to score, then stole the ball right back, passed it off and scored on the putback.

“She works hard,” Toomey said. “I think that she’s really come along this year.

“On drives, she’s still a little out of control, but she’s finishing much more.”

The streak kept going, bridging halftime with the help of three more baskets off rebounds. On one of the rebounds, Romanowski jumped to save the ball from going out of bounds and managed to find Rowan Murray underneath for the score.

“Our offensive rebounding really helped us out,” Toomey said.

McNulty finished with a game-high 11 points and Murray had 10.

Romanowski chipped in with six points, five rebounds, four steals and three assists.

Ciera Toomey led the team in assists (four) and shared the lead in rebounds (six).

The Flames lost their opener, 54-53, in overtime to the Lady Running Rebels Wrice 2022.

McNulty had 13 points and Katherine Shepard had 12 in the loss.

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