by Tom Utescher
Part of Team Maroon in the Philadelphia/Suburban Women’s NCAA Summer Basketball League, 2012 Springside Chestnut Hill Academy graduates Michelle Boggs (now playing for East Stroudsburg University) and Elana Roadcloud (Ursinus College) made it through the playoff semifinals and into the championship game last week.
On Tuesday, sixth-seeded Maroon staged a 48-42 semifinal victory over number five Team Black, the summer version of the Philadelphia University team that includes Germantown Academy grad Monica Schacker (‘11) and Mount St. Joseph Academy alumna Kelsey Jones (’13). Two nights later, the league ended its 2014 run with Maroon falling 66-57 in the finals to Team Gold, the top franchise in the league standings from start to finish.
Gold had gotten to the championship game with a 75-68 win over Kelly Green. Seventh-seeded Kelly was coached by Ted Hagedorn, the father of three former Mount St. Joe players. His line-up featured 2014 MSJ grad Alex Louin, who was the Markward Club High School Player of the Year for 2014 and who will carry on her career at Villanova University.
For the first of Tuesday’s semifinals, a fifth player arrived for Team Gold just a few minutes before the league leaders would’ve had to forfeit. Kelly Green had eight women on hand, but due to the absence of guards Mackenzie Rule (Cardinal O’Hara/St. Joseph’s) and Vicky Tumasz (North Penn/Shippensburg), they weren’t particularly well-equipped to try and wear down the short-staffed Gold group.
On the other hand, Gold was missing some size in 6’4” Delaware post player Stephanie Leon and in six-foot St. Joseph’s University guard Natasha Cloud, one of the top athletes in the league. With Meg Quinn (Episcopal/Villanova) having returned from shore leave, Kelly had its second 6’2” player back in the line-up to complement Maureen Leahy (Cardinal O’Hara/Bryant).
Along with Louin, another six-foot guard, the Green franchise had the advantage in size, but speed and perimeter shooting prowess favored the Gold.
Realizing this, Gold let fly from the outside as the contest got underway. Ashley Wood (Spring-Ford/Kutztown), Jasmine Elum (Bodine/Bethune Cookman) and Alex Smith (Peddie/Holy Cross) tossed ‘em up from the bonus loop, giving their ballclub seven three-pointers and a double-digit lead at 21-11 about seven-and-a-half minutes into the game.
Gold’s lone “big,” 6’2” Lauren Crisler (North Penn/American) hit a lay-up to create the largest lead of the evening, a dozen points at 23-11.
Working inside, Quinn and Leahy got Kelly Green back into contention; after Leahy hit four straight free throws, her team was just one point behind (27-26) with seven minutes left in the first half.
The fiery Wood spread the gap to six points, but with Lexi Scrivano (Central Bucks East/Millersville) and Alex Stam (Cardinal O’Hara/Millersville) joining in on the scoring for Kelly, the number seven seed pulled even at 35-all with two-and-a-half minutes to go. A trey and a free throw by Gold’s Smith helped place a seven-point wedge between the teams by halftime, at 44-37.
With a strong start in the second half, Kelly rang up the first eight points to briefly take the lead (45-44) for the only time throughout the evening. Louin, who had registered a pair of three-pointers and a total of 10 points in the first half, deposited a lay-up during this early second-half spurt, which also included two field goals by Leahy and one by forward Shelby Mueller (Spring-Ford/Lycoming).
Gold recaptured the lead on its next trip down the floor and never fell behind again. The score was tied for the last time at 49-all with 13 minutes left to play, and later Leahy’s last lay-up of the night still had Kelly within three points of the leaders (67-64) with 3:18 on the clock.
Gold held the ball for just over a minute, then added four points as Elum cashed in on a one-and-one and Wood scored in transition. A drive by Louin cut the lead to five points, but then Kelly had to foul and Gold’s Shira Newman (Upper Dublin/Millersville) followed Elum’s example and produced a perfect one-and-one at the line with a minute remaining.
Quinn converted a rebound to complete Kelly Green’s scoring, but Gold’s Wood had the final word, rebounding her own missed free throw and putting the ball back up and in.
She led all scorers with 31 points (a playoff high), and Smith and Elum added 19 and 17 points, respectively, for the victors. Louin led Kelly Green with 20 points, and close behind were Leahy with 19 and Quinn with 16. Ashley Wood’s father, Keith, was the coach of the eventual league champs; he had piloted the runner-up squads in 2012 and 2013.
In the second semifinal last Tuesday, the game narrative was fairly simple for Team Black. Their leading scorer, senior guard Najah Jacobs (Central High) was out of town, and the other players weren’t able to take up the slack at the offensive end.
Forward Mary Newell (Villa Joseph Marie) and GA grad Schacker gave the Philly U. summer squad a 4-0 lead, but Maroon roared back with 19 consecutive points and then remained in control. Maroon’s roster consists of a core of East Stroudsburg players, and an assortment of other athletes (most from Division III schools) who have learned to blend in effectively.
A lay-up by an incoming Philly U. freshman forward and a three-pointer by Mount alum Jones ended Maroon’s early run, but Team Black couldn’t get the lead down into single digits and its rival pulled away once more to enjoy a 38-16 halftime advantage.
The summer Rams had another opportunity to get back in the game in the opening stage of the second half, when Maroon went scoreless for nearly 10 minutes. However, Team Black only managed to put up seven points of its own during this stretch.
A too-little, too-late flurry by Black produced a final tally that made the game appear closer than it was for most of the evening. Down 48-34 with a little over half-a-minute remaining, Black had Schacker hit back-to-back three-pointers from opposite sides of the floor. Senior forward Tori Arnao scored off an inbounds pass to make it 48-42, and that’s where the game ended.
Schacker had a game-high 15 points and Newell finished with 10, while Jones contributed one three-point field goal. The winners received nine points apiece from East Stroudsburg’s Courtney Brown (Council Rock South) and Rachel Falkowski (Central Bucks South). Former Springsiders Boggs and Roadcloud had three and two points, respectively.
Maroon continued to perform well during the finals on Thursday, despite being a decided underdog. Although Natasha Cloud had not returned for Team Gold, the league leaders could still put four NCAA Division I players on the floor. Nonetheless, Maroon led the contest at halftime, and was still ahead almost four minutes into the second period.
Brown, Falkowski, Taylor Bryant (Upper Dublin) and Molly Rubin (Princeton Day/Kenyon) each connected from the three-point line, and Boggs hit two lay-ups and held her own with rebounds and blocks. Midway through the opening period, their squad led 20-11, and even after Gold came back to tie at 27-all, a late four-point play (a three-pointer and free throw by Rubin) helped send Maroon into the halftime huddle with a 32-29 edge.
Gold’s Wood, who had scorched the twine two nights earlier, scored two free throws in the first half, and added a lone lay-up in the second. One of the team’s younger players, Crisler, would step up to score a game-high 17 points, mixing in a few medium-range jumpers with her baskets from the paint.
As the second half got underway, a pair of three-point baskets by Falkowski helped Maroon increase its lead, which peaked at 40-34 two-and-a-half minutes into the new period.
Things changed significantly over the next nine minutes, when Team Gold runs of 11-0 and then 9-0 formed part of an overall 27-8 surge that had the number one seeds leading 61-48. There were points from six different players during this pivotal push, including seven apiece for Crisler and Smith and five for Newman.
After a time-out with 8:25 to go, Maroon rallied briefly as three-pointers by Bryant and Brown tightened the score to 61-54, but the sixth seeds didn’t score another field goal and were outpointed 5-3 by Gold as the scoreboard crawled to the final buzzer.
Joining Crisler in double figures for the champions were Smith, with 12 points, and Newman, with 11. Elum and Gibson each came away with nine while Leon and Wood chipped in with four points apiece. Maroon’s offense was also fairly well-balanced, starting with 11 points for Falkowski, 10 for Bryant, and nine each for Brown, Rubin, and Ryann Fiascki (Archbishop Carroll/E. Stroudsburg). Boggs and Roadcloud contributed six and two points respectively, and former Catholic Academies guard Melissa Poderis (Villa Joseph Marie/E. Stroudsburg) tacked on a free throw.