by Tom Utescher
Following a sobering defeat in their league opener at Episcopal Academy last Tuesday, it was important for the girls of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy to bounce back in their next basketball outing. The Blue Devils did that last Friday night, breaking open a close non-league game in the middle of the third quarter and going on to defeat visiting Westtown School, 44-33.
Eighth-grader Mo’ne Davis got SCH going on offense, chalking up nine of her 11 total points in the first half, and later on junior Lindsay Hiner led the scoring attack, recording nine of her team-high 15 points in the second half. SCH improved to 4-1 overall while remaining 0-1 in the Inter-Ac League, while Westtown, which had not yet officially opened its Friends School League season, slipped to 3-4 overall.
Following the Blue Devils’ setback in their league opener, first-year head coach Tony Tucker said that his goal in practice was “Getting everybody back to playing aggressively, playing smart, and playing with confidence. This whole season is a learning experience. I tell the kids that we’re playing to get better, and when we get better, the wins will come. When you just start chasing wins, you can start playing tight and getting away from the things you wanted to do.”
Last Friday, the visiting Westtown Moose took an early 4-0 lead while the Blue Devils appeared hesitant on offense at first. Eventually, about four minutes in, senior Caroline Henry showed the Devils what needed to be done, going straight to the hoop in a transition sequence to score a lay-up. After that, Davis scored Springside Chestnut Hill’s next nine points in a six-minute stretch that extended into the second quarter. She started out with a free throw, then displayed a deft shooting touch as she deposited one three-pointer from each side of the court and also hit a 15-footer.
Westtown, meanwhile, was powered by the Jimenez sisters, Naomi, a junior forward, and Eunice, a sophomore point guard. After the scoring run of SCH’s Davis, the Moose still led by a point, then two free throws by Naomi Jimenez made it 14-11 in the visitors’ favor with 4:48 remaining in the second quarter.
The Blue Devils took over the lead thanks to back-to-back three-point field goals by Hiner. As the clock worked through the final minute of the first half, the only points Westtown would receive from anyone outside of the Jimenez family came on a lay-up by Maggie Cottone, getting the Moose back within a point of the leaders. SCH would be up by three at the break, though, as eighth-grader Delaney Sweitzer drove for a lay-up with four seconds left, setting the score at 19-16.
Each team had come into the contest missing a regular starting guard. SCH junior Marissa Pownall was out of action due to a concussion, while Wesstown’s Dagny Davidsdottir was winging her way back to her native Iceland for the holidays.
In the halftime huddle, Tucker tried to get his charges to settle down and refocus, and it worked.
“In the first half, we executed some plays, and then missed some easy shots at the end,” he said. “In the second half, we played with a lot more composure on both ends of the floor. On offense, we were executing and then converting to score.”
Over the opening three minutes of the third quarter, the home team received lay-ups by Hiner and by sophomore Chloe Burns (a Norwood Fontbonne Academy alum), but each of the Jimenez girls hit a shot from the three-point loop, making it a one-point affair at 23-22.
Burns gave the Devils a little breathing room with a short baseline jumper, and after Hiner hit from just below the key-top, SCH called a time-out, leading 27-22 with 3:39 left in the third round. After the conference broke up, neither team scored for the rest of the period. The Devils missed two free throws during this stretch, but Westtown whiffed on six.
In the fourth quarter, the Moose faced a new threat, as SCH junior Essence Walden rang up the first four points on back-to-back lay-ups, and went on to score the rest of her seven total points during the stretch run. Almost everyone else joined in, with Hiner hitting a transition lay-up and a “three”, Davis driving the lane and finishing with a finger roll, and Sweitzer and sophomore Destini Curry getting to the foul line to add two points and one point, respectively.
With 53 seconds remaining in the game and a 44-26 lead, the Blue Devils called time-out, and then sent their reserve players out to finish the affair. In the last half-minute, Westtown’s Eunice Jimenez scored seven on her game-high 17 points against the SCH subs. Her sister, Naomi, finished with 14.
Supplementing the double-digit scoring of Hiner and Davis for the winners were Walden, with seven points, Burns and Sweitzer, with four apiece, Henry with two points, and Curry, with one.