by Tom Utescher
In both of last weekend’s holiday tournament victories at Spring Ford High School, Penn Charter built a double-digit halftime lead. After that, the scenarios diverged, with fans who made the trip to Royersford feeling much more on edge in the final minutes of Friday’s contest than the one that followed on Saturday.
In the first game, the Quakers led Central Bucks South High School by 17 points early in the third quarter, but they saw their advantage dwindle to just three points with a minute left to play before they eventually prevailed by six, 69-63.
PC did a better job of playing with a lead the following night in a clash with Downingtown West. First the Quakers separated themselves from the Whippets in a strong second quarter, settling in with an 11-point cushion at halftime. In contrast to Friday’s outing, Charter then increased its margin during the third period, and after that PC could afford to simply trade points during an active fourth quarter en route to a 59-42 triumph.
With a young team that has four freshmen and sophomores on the court almost all the time, consistency is still an attribute for which the Quakers strive. Nevertheless, the two tournament wins last week allowed the ballclub to close out the 2013 portion of the season with an overall record of 8-2.
PC’s first opponent at Spring Ford, C.B. South, had started its season with a 13-point victory over the Academy Notre Dame, one of the two teams that have beaten Charter. The Titans held an 8-6 edge over the Quakers a few minutes in, then freshman forward Mireyah Davis drove to the hoop to tie the game and fellow ninth-grader Camryn Gold converted off of a rebound, moving PC ahead for good.
Sophomore guard Hannah Fox, who had scored Charter’s opening basket, now drained a three-pointer to solidify the lead, and at the end of the opening quarter the count was 17-11. C.B. South got back within three points (21-18) a little over three minutes into the second round, but the rest of the quarter belonged to the School House Lane lasses.
Heading into the final minute the score was 31-24, and the Quakers finished with a flourish. Junior forward Nicolette Napoleon bagged a three-pointer with 58 seconds left, then Fox stole the ball back and went in for a lay-up. PC’s press continued to produce turnovers in the final moments. Sophomore guard Ayanna Matthews picked off a ball and fed Fox for another lay-up, then Matthews was fouled and tacked on the final point of the half from the free throw line with four seconds showing.
Up 15 at the break, Charter spread the score to 41-24 at the start of the third stanza when Davis scored off a rebound. After that, though, C.B. South scooped the wind out of Penn Charter’s sails.
The Titans’ tallest starter, forward Lauren Mosher, ran the floor well and accumulated lay-ups and assists in transition. The increased pace of the South offense also drew fouls from the Quakers, and the Titans cashed in, making 13 of 16 free throws from the start of the third quarter to the midway point of the fourth period. PC’s offense didn’t dry up entirely, but South kept creeping closer.
With three minutes left to play, the Bucks County club was within eight points, at 62-54. Two fruitless one-and-one stints at the foul line for the Quakers were each followed by a Mosher lay-up for the Titans. Charter finally got some traction at the free throw stripe when Fox put in a pair, but at the other end South’s Alysha Lofton sank a three-pointer from the right corner with 1:01 on the clock, making it a three-point affair at 64-61.
The Quakers were now in the double bonus, though, and were putting their foul-shooting woes behind them. On the fourth and fifth personal fouls committed by the Titans’ Kaley Smith, Matthews made both her shots with 0:37 on the clock and Fox made the first of two at 0:22.
On the missed second shot, Davis tipped the ball to keep it away from South, and Fox scooped it up and drew another foul. She tacked the last two points on the board for the winners for an eight-point advantage, then the Titans rounded out their total on a converted rebound by Jordan Vitelli with five seconds to go.
Fox had a game-high 22 points and Davis came away with 17. Completing a balanced offensive effort for Charter were 10-point performances by Gold, Matthews, and Napoleon. The Titans received 21 and 17 points, respectively, from Mosher and Lofton.
On Saturday, PC broke out of the gate in a hurry but was reeled back in by Downingtown West, which erased most of an early 10-0 deficit to trail by just a single point at the quarter, 14-13. During the contest the Whippets would receive more than half of their points from junior guard Maggie Dew, who would emerged with a game high of 26.
Charter head coach David Bass noted, “She’s a very smart player, and she was able to work through our box-and-one [defense] and still score.”
However, PC would hold the rest of the Downingtown team to a combined total of just 16 points, while the Quakers themselves had three scorers in double figures. The Whippets only produced six points in each of the next two quarters, and at the start of the fourth frame, they were behind 42-25. There was a lot of scoring by both ballclubs in the final round, but Downingtown didn’t gain any ground in this 17-17 fusillade.
Fox compiled 18 points and was named MVP of the game, with Matthews ringing up 16 points and Gold getting 10. Six other PC players chipped in with two or three points apiece.
After their New Year’s revels, the Quakers will delve back into Inter-Ac League competition with a Friday foray to defending champion Episcopal Academy. One of two league bouts that had been scheduled before the holiday break had been snowed out, leaving the loss to Notre Dame as the team’s only Inter-Ac result to date.