by Tom Utescher
Last Tuesday at Episcopal Academy the Springside Chestnut Hill Academy basketball team was like one of those old cartoon characters with a little angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, encouraging contrasting responses to a dilemma.
In this case the devil and the angel might have been called “Old Lions” and “New Lions,” as SCH gained an early lead and then faced a determined rally by the host Churchwomen during a nerve-wracking second half.
Back during the first round of Girls Inter-Ac League contests, when the Lions saw a second-half lead disappearing they usually lost their composure, and the game.
With junior guard Gianna Pownall back in the line-up for the full second round of Inter-Ac bouts (following a concussion early in game three of six in the first set), SCH responded much better in a crisis, taking defending champ Germantown Academy into overtime and then avenging losses to Penn Charter and Notre Dame.
The “Old Lions” held sway early in the second half last Friday, as SCH failed to score for more than 11 minutes and watched their 32-17 halftime margin dwindle away, then the “New Lions” emerged just in time to avoid a catastrophic collapse, keeping control of the ball and shooting seven-for-10 at the foul line in the last 90 seconds to salvage a 41-36 victory.
Episcopal, which tied the game at 34-all with two minutes to go, could’ve clinched the Inter-Ac title outright if it had beaten SCH and then come
back on Friday to knock off GA, which lost on Tuesday at Penn Charter and slipped to a league record of 9-2. Instead, the Churchwomen’s record went from 8-2 at the start of the week to 8-4 with the loss to SCH on Tuesday and a subsequent setback dealt them by GA, which became the sole champion at 10-2.
Springside Chestnut Hill, which had been 2-4 after the first round of Inter-Ac play, topped Baldwin 48-19 last Wednesday to cap a six-game win streak and end the regular season back even at 13-13 overall. With a 7-5 league record, the Lions (13-13 overall) tied for fourth place with PC, which defeated Baldwin on Friday, 42-28.
On Tuesday at Episcopal the Churchwomen’s center, Megan Quinn (a 6’2” junior who has made a verbal commitment to Villanova University), rang up a game-high 19 points, but the Lions managed to spread out her scoring, with no more than six points in any one quarter. SCH senior Michelle Boggs focused on defending in the paint, coming away with three points and five rebounds.
Episcopal was missing one of its two seniors, starting forward Sarah McKay, who had torn an ACL two weeks earlier. The Lions were still without injured junior reserve Maddi Hinchey, while sophomore Madi Sehn, the first forward off the bench for SCH, was home sick.
The visitors got plenty of perimeter offense from senior Sydni Epps, who scored all of her 12 points on four rainbow three-pointers during the first 11 minutes of the contest. That helped the Lions to a 19-10 lead at the end of the opening period, and a 24-14 advantage in the middle of the second frame.
A third senior, forward Elana Roadcloud, scored three times from the paint in the first round and added a fourth field goal to make it 26-16. In addition, Pownall went to the hoop aggressively at the close of the first half, netting six points to contribute to a 32-17 bulge at the break.
As the second half dawned, Episcopal addressed the defensive rebounding problems it had had before the interlude, and also threw a press at the Lions.
Early in the third quarter, two buckets by EA’s Quinn were sandwiched around a third personal foul on SCH’s Epps, who retired to the bench. Episcopal also had a starter in foul trouble, but the player the Churchwomen subbed in, promising freshman guard Leah Becker, scored on a baseline drive and then hit a three-pointer to make it a six-point game at the three-quarter mark, 32-26.
Flustered by the EA press and anxiously throwing up bricks at the basket, the Lions saw the Churchwomen draw within two points before SCH ended a drought of more than 11 minutes. Roadcloud finally got the scoreboard moving again with a 12-footer from the right side, and the tally was now 34-30. A turnover and then an errant shot on two possessions by the Lions led to transition baskets by the home team, which pulled even at 34-all on junior Kristen Hinckley’s lay-up with 1:59 to go.
Epps fouled out of the game seven seconds later, but it was actually the Lions who were on the brink of the one-and-one bonus. At 1:33, Pownall made a pair of free throws to move the visitors ahead for good. The “New Lions” were emerging down the stretch, coping with ball pressure and getting some key defensive stops. Senior Alexis Giovinazzo and Roadcloud each sank one of two free throws, nudging the lead to 38-34 with 28 seconds remaining.
After a miss by the Churchwomen at the offensive end, another foul sent Pownall to the line and EA’s Hubley off the floor with her fifth personal. The SCH junior hit the first of two on the double-bonus opportunity, but Episcopal got two points back as Quinn completed her total from the free throw line.
It was now 39-36, but under nine seconds remained. Fouled once more, Pownall swished her first shot and rattled in the second, putting the final score on the board.
A rescheduled rematch with Baldwin School (0-12 Inter-Ac) took place at Springside Chestnut Hill the following afternoon. Senior Day recognition was extended to Boggs, Epps, Giovinazzo, Roadcloud, and team manager C.C. Conver. The first three have made their college choices; it’ll be basketball for Boggs at East Stroudsburg and Epps at Hofstra, while Giovinazzo plans to play softball at Muhlenberg College.
The game itself gave all the Lions’ reserves ample opportunity to play against the struggling Bears. The count was 20-5 at the quarter, and it kept on climbing, bringing the regular season to a stress-free conclusion for Springside Chestnut Hill.