by Tom Utescher
The varsity basketball teams at Wyncote’s Ancillae Assumpta Academy pulled off a sweep in Chestnut Hill last weekend, winning both the boys’ and girls’ championships at Norwood Fontbonne Academy’s 41st Annual Snowball Tournament.
The long-running local tournament opened – along with its renowned snack bar – on Wednesday and concluded with the finals on Sunday morning, when the Ancillae boys defeated Holy Cross of Mount Airy, 59-49, and the girls topped St. Genevieve’s of Flourtown, 22-17. The general festive atmosphere at the event kept fans of the NFA Bears in good humor, even though the home teams didn’t experience the success they’d hoped for.
With six teams each in the boys’ and girls’ brackets this year, two teams in each draw received first-round byes, including the two Norwood ballclubs. In first-round boys action, 10 points from Gabe Legido helped power Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) past Holy Rosary, 45-28, and Holy Cross notched a 63-41 win over St. Philip Neri as James Cherry, Eric Gunter, and Amir Saunders all scored in double figures.
The St. Genevieve girls began by beating St. Philip, 40-26, with a 13-point showing from Grace Barraclough, and eventual champ Ancillae got a battle from Holy Rosary, but prevailed 28-21 as Maura Conroy recorded 10 points for the victors.
The IHM boys advanced to the semifinals, where they lost a heartbreaker to Ancillae, 38-37. Dan Solecki led the Wyncote club with 15 points, and IHM’s Phil O’Connor put up 14 in a losing cause. Holy Cross moved into the other semifinal, and kept on going thanks to a 52-38 triumph over the Norwood Bears. Here, 18 points from Bernard Lightsley and 14 from Amir Shields fueled the Holy Cross crew, while NFA received 12 from Matt Quirk and 10 from Anthony Cossetti.
IHM met Holy Rosary in the consolation bracket, where IHM won 49-34, distributing its points between 11 different scorers. In the other game in this bracket, St. Philip handed Norwood its second loss, 30-19. This game, the last on the docket on Saturday, was actually ended early, called off in the fourth quarter due to the warm weather conditions. The humidity created inside the gym made the floor dangerously slippery, a problem that affected games at other locations on the same afternoon.
Quirk was on fire from the three-point line and scored a game-high 15 points in the shortened contest, but St. Philip prevailed with 10 points from Owen Leahy, six from Ronan Higgins, and five from Andrew Morris.
On the girls’ side, St. Gen’s secured a 49-43 win over IHM in the first semifinal, as both Maggie Mustin of St. Gen’s and IHM’s Kayla McTamney finished with 16 points. In the second semi, Ancillae knocked off host Norwood, 36-22, after opening up a 20-6 lead in the first quarter. As in the first round, Conroy logged 10 points to lead the winners, while NFA received almost all of its scoring from Alyssa Slovensky, with a game-high 15 points, and Kara Kniezewski, with five.
The Lady Bears went on to a consolation-bracket game against St. Philip, but once more a “W” eluded the tourney hosts. An 11-point effort from Carly Hemcher helped the Lafayette Hill franchise to a 30-21 win. The other game in this bracket ended with Holy Rosary getting past IHM, 40-36, thanks largely to a combined 34 points from twins Ashley and Emily Schools.
On Sunday morning, the boys’ championship game began well for Holy Cross (5-6 overall), as three-pointers by Bernard Lightsley and Jarron Flowers contributed to a 12-0 charge out of the gate. With less than two minutes left in the opening period, Ancillae finally got on the board with a pair of free throws by Brennan Daly, and a field goal near the end made it 12-4 at the quarter.
Starting the second frame with an effective press, Ancillae found the Achilles heel of Holy Cross and got all the way back to just a one-point deficit by halftime, 22-21. With the teams tied at 26-all a little over three minutes into the third quarter, Ancillae took the lead for good on a lay-up by Brian Basile. A fast-break bucket by Owen Pighini followed, and this formed the foundation for a decisive 16-0 run for the Wyncote club.
Lightsley put in a pair of free throws for Holy Cross to wrap up the third quarter, but Ancillae had won the quarter, 21-6. Three different players had bagged three-point shots during the period, which ended at 42-28. Lightsley battled valiantly for his ballclub in the final frame, hitting five three-pointers in that period alone, but Ancillae maintained at least a 12-point lead until the final minute of the game.
A balanced scoring effort for the winners produced four double-digit scorers; Pighini (15), Basile (12), Daly (11), and Solecki (10). Christopher Thomas was right behind with nine points, and Mac Costonis provided the other two. A game-high 26 points was marked down for Lightsley, and Holy Cross also received 14 points from Karrington Wallace, seven from Flowers, and two from Delonce Hines.
In the girls’ final the two teams went neck-and-neck through the first half, which ended with Ancillae enjoying a one-point edge, 14-13.
The leaders saw Conroy record five of her nine total points during the first two quarters, while teammate Natalie McNamara chalked up all of her six points for the day before halftime arrived. For St. Gen’s, Mustin had seven points at the break, and Julianna Kratz had four.
However, Ancillae held St. Gen’s offense in check after that, while reinforcing its lead in a 6-0 third quarter. St. Gen’s accounted for four of the six points scored in the fourth period, but still came up five points short in the final reckoning.
In addition to the firepower of Conroy and McNamara, the champions received four points from Alexa Silvestri, two from Carly Fadel and one from Ebony Scott. For St. Gen’s, Mustin and Kratz came away with nine and four points, respectively, and the other two came from Mary Campion.
At halftime of almost all of the tournament games, players competed in a three-point shooting contest and a foul-shooting contest. The foul shooters were each allowed to take 20 shots, and for the boys the overall winner was Norwood’s own Chris Maloney, who made 16 shots, and second was St. Philip’s Ronan Higgins, who converted 15 of his attempts. Maggie Mustin of St. Gen’s hit 17 shots from the charity stripe to become the girls’ champion, and the runner-up, with 11 “makes,” was Erin Mullen of St. Philip.
The three-point shooters were each allowed two minutes to make as many shots as they could. Amir Shields of Holy Cross hit 17 on the boys’ side, and Ancillae’s Chris Thomas was second, with 15. Kara Kniezewski came through for Norwood by hitting 15 shots from beyond the arc, and runner-up for the girls was Ancillae’s Maura Conroy, with 10.