by Tom Utescher
Without any of its three tallest girls on the court through much of the first half, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy was able to stay fairly close to host Shipley School last Thursday, trailing 20-14 at the intermission. However, when two of those front row players returned to the floor following foul problems early in the game, Shipley ran away from the Lions in the third quarter. The Gators went on to win, 56-36, improving to 5-2.
Despite this setback, SCH was able to close down shop for the holiday break with a winning overall record of 5-4, and that was after an 0-3 start to the season. The locals made a 2-0 start in the Girls Inter-Ac against some of the softer teams in the league, Agnes Irwin and Baldwin.
Last Thursday, the Lions were already without 5’11” senior Elana Roadcloud (away on vacation) when they arrived at Shipley, whose Gators start two players standing 6’2” and 6’4”. Before the first quarter was over, SCH’s six-foot Sydni Epps and 6’1” Michelle Boggs (both seniors) had been assessed three and two personal fouls, respectively. They retired to the bench as the Lions went from an early 5-2 lead to an 11-5 deficit at the end of the period.
Soldiering on with a considerably shorter line-up (the tallest was 5’9” sophomore Madi Sehn), SCH kept the gap from growing much larger, partly due to the fact that the Gators missed numerous lay-ups. Perhaps the hosts were a little nervous, with Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw in the house to observe the proceedings.
The visitors were only down 16-14 a little over two minutes before halftime, then Shipley put up the last four points of the second quarter as sophomore forward Aja Ellison went into the break with a dozen points. For scrappy SCH, junior guard Gianna Pownall had seven points in the book, and Sehn, four.
As round three got underway, Pownall traded field goals with Gators sophomore guard Sox Alexander (10 points total), then things went south for the Lions.
First-year SCH coach Steve Purcell said later, “If you told me with Sydni and Michelle on the bench we’d only be down six at the half, I would’ve thought we’d be in good shape, but the third quarter was awful. When we got those two back we got complacent and we didn’t check out on the boards, and when you don’t check out against that team, you’re in trouble.”
Trouble there was, as Ellison hit three lay-ups and a free throw, and 6’4” freshman Martine Fortune scored off a rebound in a two-minute, 9-0 run by Shipley. Epps broke the string with a pair of free throws, but the Gators came back with three more buckets in a row. That made it 37-18, and the Lions never really recovered.
The hosts’ Ellison turned an ankle and left the floor with 3:32 remaining in the game, having already registered the game-high totals in both points (27) and rebounds (17).
Epps ended up in double figures for SCH with 14 points, and Pownall (three assists) had 11, with Sehn and Boggs finishing with four points and three rebounds apiece. Sophomore guard Julia Schumacher added a three-pointer and passed out three assists.
Fortune furnished eight points and nine boards for the winners, and senior Jordyn Turner had four points, four steals, and three assists.
“We play a decent first half with a couple starters on the bench, and then we come out in the third quarter and throw the ball all over the gym,” Purcell remarked. “Our team has to play consistent defense. We don’t have the offensive power to get down by 10 and then pour it on and come back.”