by Tom Utescher
Mount St. Joseph Academy’s undefeated hoopsters began the new year by pushing their win streak into double figures, rising to 10-0 last Thursday evening with a 51-34 defeat of Villa Joseph Marie.
Seniors Cailin Schmeer and Bridget Higgins registered 15 and 14 points, respectively, for the host Magic, who achieved a 5-0 record within the Athletic Association of Catholic Academies. The Jems, fueled by 14 points from Courtney Shaw and nine from Melissa Poderis, leveled off at 5-5 overall and 3-3 in the league.
“It was great to come out of the holidays with a win,” said Schmeer, a 5’9” forward who has had to become a more of a force in the paint this year due to the graduation of 6’1” Steph Smith.
“I definitely had to step up because we don’t have that huge presence of Steph in the middle,” she affirmed. “I’ve had to work on my post moves a little bit more.”
Both Smith and guard Mary Jo Horgan (now playing at Loyola and Lehigh respectively) were multi-year starters, and Schmeer and fellow seniors Higgins and Maddie Kohler have had to adjust to leading the Magic.
“We sort of learned how to do it under Steph and Mary Jo, so I think Bridget and Maddie and I have been able to take on that role,” Schmeer said. “I like to talk to the younger girls and let them know that we went through the things they’re experiencing now. If someone has a problem, we’ll talk one-on-one and try to figure it out.”
Villa Joe, meanwhile, was figuring out how to play without absent center Mary Newell, and the Jems did a decent job of it through much of the game. Schmeer and sophomore Alex Louin sent the Magic out front, 4-0, then the visitors kept pace from there and only trailed 13-10 at the end of the first quarter. The Magic kept surging ahead, but Villa Joe would come back with enough offense to keep the Mount from breaking the game wide open.
When Higgins went coast-to-coast with two minutes left in the half to make it 25-12, the Jems were able to bring the lead back down into single figures for halftime (27-18). Mount St. Joe jumped out 34-20 in the first three minutes of the third round, but the visitors fought back to make the period a 10-10 draw.
The teams traded baskets at the start of the fourth round for a 39-30 tally, then over the next two minutes Higgins deposited a lay-up and a short jumper and Jones converted a pair of free throws. Villa Joe scored a lay-up to make it 45-32, but Poderis was hurt at the same time and had to leave the floor. Two drives by Schmeer and one by Higgins wrapped up the win with a 6-2 Mountie run for a final spread of 17 points.
In light of her plans to play college ball, high-scorer Schmeer revealed, “I’ve tried to improve my confidence, because I struggled with that a bit last year. I’m looking to be more aggressive and to improve my defense. I think my offense is fueled off my defense, like when I can get steals and push it up the court, and also when I get rebounds.”