by Tom Utescher
Last Saturday afternoon at Philadelphia University’s Gallagher Center, the postseason phase of the basketball season started with a bang for Mount St. Joseph Academy.
Holding fourth-seeded St. Basil scoreless during the second quarter while building their lead, the top-seeded Magic stormed to a 42-20 victory in the second semifinal game of the Athletic Association of Catholic Academies tournament. Second-seeded Villa Maria advanced to meet the Mount by winning the first of Saturday’s semifinal contests, letting a 19-15 halftime lead slip away but ultimately persevering against number three Villa Joseph Marie, 43-33.
Mount St. Joseph (20-3 overall) received strong performances from experienced players. Seniors Bridget Higgins (seven rebounds, three steals) and Cailin Schmeer (four assists) logged 12 and eight points, respectively, and the Magic also got eight points from junior Meg Geatens, starting for a second straight game in place of injured sophomore Carly Monzo.
Earlier in the week, the Mount had wrapped up the regular-season championship in the AACA, finishing 12-2 thanks with a win at Nazareth Academy. However, the final score of that game was 45-39, whereas the Magic had beaten the Pandas by more than 20 points in their first clash this winter. Also among their last five AACA bouts were losses at St. Basil and Villa Joseph Marie. Obviously, the Mounties got their mojo back in time for the playoffs last weekend.
“We had sort of the same thing last year, losing a couple league games late in the season and then coming back for playoffs,” explained Schmeer, whose buzzer-beater won the league tourney for the Magic in 2011. “I think that experience helped us this time to be confident that we could refocus and get back to the way we want to play.”
The loss at Basil’s had come in overtime in the Panthers’ quaint little gym, and by comparison, the court at Philly U. seemed as expansive as the African veldt.
“They know their gym, so they’re very good at trapping you and there’s nowhere to go,” Schmeer related. “It was much better for us playing here today where we could get out in the open floor.”
In round two, Schmeer stuck a pair of baseline shots, and Geatens hit from the foul line, both on a jumper and a pair of free throws. That eight-point effort actually put the Magic in control of the game, because the Panthers produced no points at all during the period. The Magic forced a 10-second half-court call in the middle of the quarter, and played hard-nosed defense all-round. The halftime count was 19-10.
“I’m not even sure what happened; I don’t think we realized they hadn’t scored for such a long time,” said Schmeer. “We just concentrated on playing really tight defense.”
St. Basil’s lead guard, senior Erin Fenningham, had scored six points in the first quarter, but the Mount held her to just four the rest of the afternoon.
After Schmeer broke the ice in the second half, guard Alex Louin scored all of her six points for the day in succession, making it 27-10. Throughout the game, the sophomore used her height (5’11”) and leaping ability to help the Mount make connecting passes up the floor.
Finally, a lone free throw by Molly Greenberg (three points total) ended a St. Basil scoring drought of more than 12 minutes. A field goal by Higgins was matched by the Panthers’ Fenningham, creating a 29-13 tally for the start of the fourth quarter. Six straight points pushed the lead to 22 points for the Magic, who could pretty much coast from there on in.
Kelsey Jones and Gen Hagedorn each scored two points in the winning cause, and Adrienne Cellucci contributed a free throw.