by Tom Utescher
After winning its opening game in the Pa. Independent Schools tournament, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy saw its 2013-14 basketball campaign come to an end in a quarterfinal contest last Tuesday.
Host Episcopal Academy, the defending champ and the top seed in this year’s draw, built a double-digit lead early in the game. The visiting Blue Devils battled back to within three points of the leaders by halftime, but a big third quarter launched the EA Churchwomen towards an eventual 49-34 victory.
Freshman forward Chloe Burns and sophomore guard Essence Walden led SCH with 10 and seven points, respectively, while senior point guard Julia Schumacher scored six points in her final appearance for the Devils. It was also the last go-round for forward Madi Sehn, a frequent starter, and for Katie Shields, a reserve forward.
Helping Episcopal (15-6 overall) pull away by scoring 13 of her 16 points in the second half (eight in the third quarter) was sophomore guard/forward Dylan Higgins. Senior Sarah Abbonizio and junior Maria Kilcullen rang up 13 points apiece for the winners.
Springside Chestnut Hill closed out the year with a 9-14 record overall. The Blue Devils finished fifth within the Inter-Ac League with a mark of 5-7, but they did manage to record wins against two teams that placed higher in the rankings, runner-up Germantown Academy and number four Notre Dame.
In their final game last Tuesday, the Devils led first thanks to a baseline drive by sophomore Lindsay Hiner, but EA charged back on a 10-0 run that included three-pointers by Abbonizio and Higgins. The hosts were on top 16-6 at the close of the quarter, then added a field goal at the start of the second frame to lead by an even dozen.
Burns scored inside for SCH, and after Walden made a pair of free throws, the sophomore scored on a breakaway off a pass from Schumacher. EA recouped one point on a free throw, then Blue Devils junior Caroline Henry hooped a three-point shot from the left wing to make it a four-point affair, 19-15.
Burns traded baskets with Episcopal’s Abbonizio and Kilcullen to keep the visitors within four points, and in the final minute a free throw by Walden fixed the halftime score at 23-20. The Blue Devils had made up nine points of their earlier 12-point shortfall.
The visitors’ offense sputtered in the third round, though, as Episcopal rebounded well and pushed the ball up the floor. The Churchwomen got six points in four minutes from Higgins, with two field goals and a pair from the foul line, while SCH managed two free throws from Schumacher.
In this 13-4 period, the only other points for the Devils came from Burns, who hit a lay-up with two minutes remaining.
With the score 39-26 two minutes into the fourth quarter, SCH made one final run at the lead. Schumacher started it with two foul shots, then Burns and sophomore guard Marissa Pownall each scored a basket off of an offensive rebound. With EA netting just one point during this three-minute span, SCH was still in contention, down 40-32.
After a trey by EA’s Abbonizio and a drive by Schumacher made it 43-34, SCH called time-out with 1:32 on the clock. The Blue Devils then had to commit several fouls to put the Churchwomen into the bonus and send them to the foul line, but Higgins and Abbonizio each went two-for-two at the stripe for the leaders. After one last SCH foul, Episcopal’s Meghan Pickell (six points) scored off the rebound of a missed free throw to put the final tally up in lights.
In addition to the scorers mentioned, Sehn and junior forward Olivia Byron each netted two points for the Blue Devils. With Schumacher the only full-time starter to graduate, SCH will be looking to improve its fortunes next season.