Mount players celebrate a win against Villa Maria. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

Veteran observers of Mount St. Joseph/Villa Maria Academy basketball games know that the ebb and flow on the scoreboard during the first half-hour or so is often meaningless. The outcome of these clashes between the fierce Catholic Academies rivals often isn’t decided until the final minutes of regulation play, and sometimes not even then.

Last Thursday, the visiting Mount Magic went into overtime against the Villa Hurricanes for the second time this season, and for a second time the Mounties emerged victorious, this time winning 45-42 after the teams were locked up at 39-all at the end of the fourth quarter.

In their December encounter, the host Magic had to come from 11 points down to send the contest into extra innings, and then secured a 41-33 victory. In the rematch, Villa made up a five-point shortfall over the last four minutes of regulation play to force overtime, where the Mount prevailed once again to stay unbeaten in Catholic Academies competition (9-0) while climbing to a 14-2 mark overall.

Scoring all six of the Magic’s points in overtime, junior guard Alex Louin led the winners in scoring (18 points), rebounds (10) and assists (five), with senior forward Meg Geatens (two steals) also reaching double digits with a dozen points on the day. Eight points from freshman guard Libby Tacka and seven from junior forward Carly Monzo (four rebounds, three assists) rounded out the total for MSJ.

Keeping a fairly effective defensive leash on the Hurricanes’ star guard, Lisa Mirarchi, the Mounties held the senior to 11 points. However, junior forward Jackie Carlin stepped up to fire a game-high 21 points for Villa Maria (7-2 league, 12-4 overall), which also received four points apiece from junior point guard Devon Tirney and junior forward Molly Namiotka, and two from its fifth starter, junior forward Mora Fetterolf.

Two days prior to their most recent overtime epic, each team won a home game in the league, the Mount dispatching Nazareth Academy, 60-25, while Villa vanquished Merion Mercy, 35-21.

Three-point field goals by Monzo and Tacka helped the visitors enjoy a 10-8 edge at the end of the first quarter on Thursday. Still up by two near the end of the second period, the Magic held the ball on offense and then had Louin drive to the hoop and draw a foul. With five seconds left she made both of her free throws, finishing the half with eight points while contributing to a 20-16 lead at the interlude.

Villa’s Carlin also had eight points in the book, and Geatens, with two lay-ups and a 15-footer, had six marked down.

A little past the midway point in the third quarter, Villa had pared one point off its deficit to make it 27-24. Fouled on a successful lay-up, the Mount’s Geatens completed the traditional three-point play, and when Monzo made good on another drive, the Magic owned the largest lead of the afternoon, an eight-point bulge at 32-24.

As the clocked dropped under the two-minute mark in the quarter, Carlin and Mirarchi each hit a lone free throw for Villa, then in the final minute Carlin brought the Hurricanes all the way back to 32-all with a pair of three-point field goals, the second one a buzzer-beater heaved up from well beyond the arc.

A Mirarchi lay-up off of a steal by Tirney moved the hosts ahead as the fourth quarter dawned, then a drive by Tacka and a free throw by Geatens nudged the Magic into the lead. Geatens scored in transition off a feed from Louin, who then popped in a jumper for a 39-34 tally.

Villa fans once again saw Carlin ride to the rescue at the three-point line, and after her triple rippled the net, a drive by Mirarchi made it 39-39, completing the score for regulation play with almost three minutes still on the clock. A strategic chess match between the squads yielded no points during the rest of the quarter, with a drive by Mirarchi in the final seconds foiled on a block by MSJ’s Louin.

Carlin produced her last point for the hosts on a free throw at the start of the four-minute overtime, and Louin got the Mount going with a put-back of her own shot. With less than a minute left, the ‘Canes caught the Magic unprepared on an inbounds play at the baseline, and a wide open Namiotka deposited a lay-up that gave Villa its last lead of the day. The hosts called a time-out with 45.3 seconds on the clock, up 42-41.

The Mount came down the floor, and from near the foul line, Louin shot a ball that came off the rim to the left side. It was headed out over the baseline, but Geatens saved it with a sidearm scoop that sent the ball back to Louin just outside the elbow. She drove into the lane and deposited the game-winning field goal with 18 seconds left.

The Hurricanes’ Carlin ran into an MSJ double-team as she tried to go in for a final shot, and the ball went out over the baseline off of Villa. Receiving the inbounds pass from Tacka, Louin was fouled, and she stuck the final score on the board from the free throw line with 5.5 ticks to go.