by Tom Utescher
It’s a good thing for the girls basketball team at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy that the old familiar saying doesn’t go “All’s well that begins well.”
On a snowy sojourn to Baldwin School last Tuesday for their second Inter-Ac League outing of the season, the Blue Devils dug themselves a double-digit hole in the early going.
Recovering in the middle of the second quarter, SCH was back within two points by halftime, and then went on to win 51-43.
Combined with a victory over Agnes Irwin the previous week, Tuesday’s outcome gave the Blue Devils a 2-0 mark in the league, and an overall record of 3-2. Baldwin leveled out at 3-3, but slipped to 0-2 in the Inter-Ac, having started league play with a loss to Germantown Academy.
SCH sophomore Lindsay Hiner was “on” from the outside, nailing five three-point shots for a team-high 15 points, and the winners received 11 apiece from senior guard Julia Schumacher (seven assists) and freshman forward Chloe Burns (13 rebounds, five blocks).
For the first 11 minutes at Baldwin, the Blue Devils almost looked like strangers to the game of basketball. Almost nothing seemed to be clicking at either end of the floor. Baldwin, with two big post players and a good-sized talented guard in Kejohna Hammond, had built up a 16-6 lead three minutes into the second quarter. Down in the paint, lay-ups were almost automatic for Baldwin’s big Devon Adams when the Bears got her the ball where she wanted it.
SCH head coach Joe Maguire related, “I told our girls on the perimeter that the reason they were scoring inside was that we let them throw the ball in there so easily. We weren’t suddenly going to have our post players grow a couple inches; we needed to put pressure on the passers.”
On offense, it was the three-ball that came to the Devils’ rescue. Sophomore Marissa Pownall bagged one from the top of the key with 4:49 left in the half to touch off an SCH rally, then Hiner hit two of her own. A lay-up by junior forward Olivia Byron was thrown into the mix, and by halftime the visitors were back in it, just two points down at 19-17.
The Bears spread the gap to half-a-dozen as Hammond and Kayla Watkins hit the first two field goals of the second half, but Hiner soon answered from the three-point line and Schumacher stole the ball back and scored. Another SCH steal eventually led to a midrange jumper made by junior Caroline Henry, nudging the Devils ahead, 24-23.
“We adjusted our press,” Maguire noted. “We let their big girls catch the ball in the middle of the floor and covered the other girls, and it led to their making mistakes and turnovers. We also took care of the ball better and limited our own turnovers.”
Pownall put in another “three” and Burns scored inside off a feed from Schumacher to solidify Springside Chestnut Hill’s lead. Schumacher would ring up nine of her 11 total points in the third period, but Baldwin’s Hammond had two triples and a total of 10 points in the quarter to help the hosts keep pace.
With the score knotted at 35-all, Schumacher squared up on the left wing and got off a three-point shot just before the buzzer. The ball dropped through and the Devils took a 38-35 lead into the final round.
An inside move by Burns tacked on another two points to the Devils’ advantage as the fourth quarter began. Henry drove for a lay-up, then stole the ball and fed Schumacher for a fast break basket. During this stretch, the Bears only managed to produce a lone free throw, slipping behind 44-36 in about two-and-a-half minutes.
“We didn’t give up a lot of offensive rebounds to them,” Maguire pointed out. “We also got a lot of offensive rebounds ourselves, so Baldwin had to spend a lot of time playing defense, and I think it wore on them.”
Imani Brown gave the home team its first field goal of the fourth quarter with more than three minutes gone, then a lay-up by Burns and Hiner’s fifth three-pointer of the day spread the score to 49-38 with three minutes remaining in the game.
Brown continued to play well for the Bears, sandwiching a pair of transition lay-ups around a free-throw by Hammond to bring Baldwin back within six points (49-43) with a minute-and-a-half to go. The home team wouldn’t score again, though, and with 27 seconds remaining the Blue Devils’ Burns put the final tally on the board by extracting both points from a one-and-one opportunity at the free throw line.
After the three double-digit scorers for the winners came Pownall, with six points, Henry, with four, and Byron (four rebounds) and senior Madi Sehn with two points apiece.
SCH athletic administrators recently learned that Schumacher will be honored by the Markward Basketball Club at its first luncheon of 2014. Coach Maguire feels the recognition is richly deserved for the Lafayette Hill native, who played grade school ball for St. Philip Neri.
“She is the definition of a point guard, and we ask a lot of her,” he explained. “She knows her main job is to handle and distribute the ball, and you almost have to yell at her to get her to shoot. The truth is she’s one of our best shooters, and when we’re getting that production from her we’re usually winning games. Last year, she was the high scorer in the game where we beat Germantown Academy for the first time in school history.”
As a senior this year, her experience has been particularly valuable for a relatively young SCH franchise.
“She does the things a leader should do,” Maguire said. “She’s talking to the girls before the games and in the huddles, and she motivates them and directs them out on the floor. Especially with my being a new head coach, she plays a very important role on our team.”