by Tom Utescher
Last week, three wins in three nights resulted in a summer basketball championship for Mount St. Joseph Academy, which claimed its first title in the Lou Cappiella League in Roxborough.
In quarterfinal round games on Tuesday, the top-seeded Magic blew by number eight Little Flower, 44-19, while number four Springside squeezed past the fifth seed, Norristown High School, 30-28. The two local teams met head-to-head the following evening, with the Mount claiming the semifinal victory, 30-25. Sts. Neumann Goretti High School won the other semifinal over St. Hubert’s, 51-31, but then lost to Mount St. Joe in Thursday night’s championship game, 45-39.
The seedings proved accurate as the tournament got underway on Monday, as number two St. Hubert’s and number three Neumann Goretti knocked out lower-ranked teams in the first two quarterfinal contests.
The first round was completed in Tuesday’s twin bill, which opened with Mount St. Joe steamrolling Little Flower. Rising junior Meg Geatens and sophomore Gen Hagedorn notched 16 and 13 points, respectively, for the Magic. Norristown gave Springside a fierce battle in the nightcap, but the Lions prevailed by a deuce, getting nine points from senior Michelle Boggs and eight from junior Maddi Hinchey.
The following night, rain forced the action into the Kendrick Rec Center’s compact gym, where the sidelines came right up to the team benches and outside shots with too much of an arc glanced off ceiling beams. The cramped quarters made it easier for defenders, and Springside did not record a field goal for seven-and-a-half minutes. Finally, Boggs scored in transition off of a pass from sophomore point guard Julia Schumacher to make it 11-4, with the Mount’s Geatens already credited with six points.
The game threatened to get away from the Lions altogether as field goals by MSJ’s Hagedorn and freshman Emily Carpenter gave the Magic a 15-4 advantage. Offense from Springside’s Boggs, Schumacher, and junior Alyssa Isackman made the tally more respectable by halftime, as the scoreboard came to rest at 16-10.
The pattern was repeated in the second half, with a strong run by Mount St. Joe followed by a Springside rally. A pair of short jumpers by senior Bridget Higgins helped the Magic go up 24-12 with 11 minutes remaining, and the Mounties might have been up by 16 had they not missed all four of their free throws during this stretch.
Although Springside’s Hinchey had picked up her third personal foul at the start of the second stanza, she was able to lead the Lions’ late rally, when she scored all of her nine points in the game. She blended lay-ups and jumpers to spark the comeback, and with a little over two minutes to go a free throw by Schumacher brought the gap down to just three points, 28-25.
Neither team hit a field goal from there on in. The Magic were given three one-and-one opportunities at the foul line, and after the first two proved fruitless for the Mount, Hagedorn nailed both of her shots to lock in the final score at 30-25.
She finished with seven points, while Higgins had six and Geatens led all scorers with 10. The winners also received four points from Carpenter and three from junior Adrienne Cellucci. Hinchey’s nine points for Springside were complemented by seven apiece from Boggs and Schumacher, and two from Isackman.
In the finals the following night, the teams took turns producing little spurts of offense. Two lay-ups by Maureen Fiocca helped the Saints stake an early 8-2 lead, then Higgins (who had scored the Mount’s first basket and would go on to win the game MVP trophy) bagged a jumper from outside the foul line. Incoming freshman guard Mary Kate Ulasewicz fired from out on the right wing and two free throws by Geatens got the Magic even at 8-all.
The Magic continued on to a 12-8 lead as Ulasewicz and another ninth-grader, forward Emily Carpenter, each scored a bucket in transition. Later, Higgins hit a free throw and then assisted junior Rachel Dapper on yet another transition lay-up. Sophomore Regan Gallagher got into the act with back-to-back buckets, helping fashion a 19-12 MSJ advantage.
The offensive momentum shifted back to the Saints, as Tamira Laws lofted a three-pointer and then hit a shorter jumper from the left baseline. A late free throw had Neumann Goretti just a point behind the Magic at the intermission, 19-18. In the final seconds, Gallagher had blocked a lay-up to prevent the Saints from forging ahead.
Showing a good deal of poise and confidence for an incoming freshman, Ulasewicz led the MSJ offense as the second half began, hitting two lay-ups, a baseline jumper, and a free throw. With 11:27 left to play, Neumann Goretti called a time-out, down 29-22. The Saints profited from the pause, coming back to tie the Magic at 33-all with just over four minutes remaining in the game.
Already in the foul bonus, the Mount went four-for-six over the next two-and-a-half minutes and tightened up their defense, as well. With a successful drive down the lane by Higgins thrown into the mix, the Mounties went ahead, 39-33, but when an extra-long three-pointer by the Saints’ Fiocca cut their deficit in half, MSJ coach Kate Hagedorn (older sister of Gen) called time-out with 1:01 to go. Coming back out onto the court, the Magic protected the ball and let the foul situation (now a double-bonus asset) work in their favor as the game progressed into the final minute.
Sophomore forward Carly Monzo, who had arrived at halftime and bolstered the Mount’s efforts in the paint, went two-for-two, and Gen Hagedorn followed suit for a 43-36 tally. Fiocca hoisted another shot from a few steps beyond the three-point loop to make it 43-39 with 22 seconds remaining, but the Saints didn’t score again, and from the free throw line Monzo stuck the final two points on the board.
A dozen points from Ulasewicz and nine from Higgins paced the Magic, who received six apiece from Gallagher and Geatens, five from Monzo, three from Hagedorn, and two each from Carpenter and Dapper. Neumann Goretti’s Fiocca registered a game-high 14 points, while Laws and Amanda Vassallo each added seven.