by Tom Utescher
The Academy of Notre Dame beat Penn Charter by five points on January 30 and lost to Springside Chestnut Hill by five points the following day, but in a season where most teams are struggling for consistency, it would’ve been pointless to refer to those results to predict the outcome when Charter visited the SCH Blue Devils just a few days later.
When the two teams met for the first time this winter back on January 10, SCH led at halftime and then a huge third-quarter rally turned things around for host PC, which prevailed, 43-37.
About 13 minutes into last Tuesday’s rematch, the teams were locked up at 18-18, but in the remainder of the second quarter Penn Charter took off on a 12-2 tear to take a double-digit lead into the locker room at halftime. Tacking another nine points onto their lead in the third round, the Quakers cruised to a 55-39 final.
To those who match teams up on paper, it seemed strange that PC won so easily in light of the results the two teams had against Notre Dame the previous week.
“Notre Dame just has a blueprint that hurts us, and we’re still learning to come ready to play every day,” explained Quakers coach David Bass. “We’re a young team, and despite a few letdowns I’m still happy with how far we’ve come this season.”
Although PC freshman Camryn Gold didn’t begin to score until 14 minutes had gone by in the game at SCH, she was largely responsible for helping the visitors separate themselves from the home team before halftime arrived. She rang up eight points late in the second quarter and ended up with a team-high 14, followed on the scoresheet by sophomore guards Hannah Fox (12 points) and Ayanna Matthews (11).
Despite a game-high 16 points from senior guard Julia Schumacher and eight from sophomore guard/forward Lindsay Hiner, the Blue Devils dipped to 7-11 overall and 4-6 in the Inter-Ac League. Episcopal Academy, still unbeaten in league play, appears poised to repeat as champion, but Penn Charter, at 7-3 after Tuesday’s win (17-5 overall), was still in the hunt for the runner-up spot.
“We can’t win the Inter-Ac, but we want to shoot for second place and then see what we can do in States,” said Bass, referring to the Pa. Independent Schools Tournament. “Right now, though, we just need to focus on winning each game as it comes.”
Three minutes into Tuesday’s tilt, SCH sophomore Essence Walden (four points total) drove for the first field goal of the day to put the hosts ahead 4-1, but PC’s Fox quickly tied the game with a score in transition and a free throw. Matthews and freshman Alexis Hnatkowski (nine points total) joined in on the scoring for the Quakers while Hiner and freshman Chloe Burns (five points) got going for the home team, and the tally rose to 9-9 by the end of the first period.
Neither team could break away during the first five minutes of the second quarter. The team fouls were already nine-a-side when the Blue Devils’ Hiner tied the game for a final time at 18-all with a three-pointer from the top of the key.
Fox received a pass while cutting into the lane and scored a go-ahead lay-up, and with a free throw by Matthews and a three-point bucket from the left wing by Gold, Penn Charter was off and running.
The Quakers were up 30-20 at the half, and while they’d committed plenty of fouls, the violations were relatively well-distributed, with no individual owning more than two.
The Blue Devils had both Walden and junior forward Olivia Byron (two points) saddled with three infractions, and Burns had been forced to spend some time on the bench after committing two personals in a little over six minutes at the start of the game. All three are important rebounders for SCH, so these problems diminished the Devils’ effectiveness on the boards.
Gold scored on a drive to open the third-quarter scoring for Charter. Her lay-up was answered by one for SCH’s Walden, but that proved to be the Blue Devils’ only field goal of the period. They added five free throws later on, but were outpointed 16-7 during the third round.
After the early exchange of baskets, Fox fired a “three” for PC, and a free throw for freshman Mireyah Davis (four points) and a 15-footer by senior Kristina Kubach made it 38-22 with just over two minutes left in the period. In the last 50 seconds, Hnatkowsky hit a pair of three-point shots (one from four feet outside the arc), and the visitors rolled into the fourth quarter firmly in control of the affair, up 46-27.
Aiding in the rebounding effort for the winners were junior Nicolette Napoleon and sophomore Taylor Zahairagunn, who finished with one and two points, respectively. Springside Chestnut Hill received three points from junior Caroline Henry and one from senior Madi Sehn.