With her 1000th career point already in the scorebook, Penn Charter junior Ayanna Matthews takes the ball to the hoop against Episcopal’s Maria Kilcullen. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

With her 1000th career point already in the scorebook, Penn Charter junior Ayanna Matthews takes the ball to the hoop against Episcopal’s Maria Kilcullen. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

Last Friday’s important Inter-Ac League basketball contest at Penn Charter became a win/win for the Quakers’ Ayanna Matthews. Not only did the junior guard record a game-high 19 points in a 54-40 victory over the two-time defending league champion Episcopal Academy, she also hit the 1000-point mark in career scoring with her first lay-up of the afternoon.

Ahead by a single point three minutes into the second half, the Quakers got some separation with a 7-0 spurt, and ended the third quarter up by 10 points, 42-32. Charter’s record rose to 2-1 in the league and 9-6 overall, while EA returned to Newtown Square at 2-1, 8-2.

“I knew I was getting close, but I didn’t know it was going to be today.” Matthews said of her approach to the scoring milestone. “It’s a great accomplishment, but the big thing today was that we beat Episcopal. It’s a big win for us in the league.”

Matthews and backcourt companion Hannah Fox have played on the PC varsity together since they both were in eighth grade. Fox put up 11 points in Friday’s win, and sophomore forward Mireyah Davis turned in a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. The scoring was completed by six points apiece from senior forward Nicolette Napoleon (seven rebounds) and sophomore guard Alexis Hnatkowsky.

Aware of Matthews’ impending achievement beforehand, her teammates were on tenterhooks near the end of the Quakers’ previous game on Monday. In that home court contest, PC cruised past Hill School, 55-37, as Matthews scored 14 points. If the issue had been pressed, she could easily have added another basket to reach four figures. As it turned out, it was even more satisfying to hit the mark while en route to a significant league victory.

Going into Friday’s game, Matthews said, “We wanted to take care of the little things, because good teams like Episcopal will prey on your mistakes.”

After a drive by PC’s Davis opened the scoring, EA gained its largest lead of the game with back-to-back three-pointers by junior Margaux Paolino and senior Maria Kilcullen. PC matched those shots with missiles by Fox and Napoleon, then next time down Matthews drove in from the left wing, curving in toward the baseline to hoist a lay-up. She had nailed 1000 points on the nose with 4:20 remaining in the first quarter, and after the fitting fanfare, play resumed with the Quakers up 10-6.

While the hosts were still giddy, the visitors outscored them 8-2 over the rest of the first quarter. Matthews converted on another drive, but EA received a second “three” from Paolino and a triple from junior Dylan Higgins. Higgins then got to the line near the end of the quarter to make two foul shots and give EA a 14-12 edge.

Foul-free in the opening period, Episcopal committed seven personals in the second round, and Charter cashed in by making eight of ten attempts from the line. There was only one field goal recorded for each side, a 15-footer by the Quakers’ Hnatkowsky, and a put-back by forward Lily Kuntz of Episcopal, which went three-for-four from the foul line. PC’s man-to-man defense was slowing down the EA attack, and the 10-5 quarter afforded the hosts a 22-19 edge at the intermission.

The 6’3” sophomore center for the Churchwomen, Elodie Furey, scored four of her five total points on two lay-ups early in the third round, helping the visitors pull within one, 26-25, three minutes into the period. Matthews bagged a pair of free throws for the Quakers, Davis scored from the paint, then Fox stole the ball back, making a lay-up and a resulting free throw to cap off a 7-0 run for Penn Charter. Kuntz countered with a three-pointer from the top of the key to make it 33-28 with just over three minutes left in the period, but after that the Churchwomen went eight minutes and 15 seconds without hitting a field goal.

Attacking the basket, Matthews posted eight points during the period, and with one second left Napoleon netted a short jumper from the lane to send Charter into the final quarter with a 42-32 lead.

“We were a little too anxious in the first half,” Matthews would say later. “We needed to slow it down and relax, and take care of business. On offense it helped us to think, make the right pass, and things like that. It also helped us on defense, because we had been getting a little confused, and calming down helped us a lot in the second half.”

During the first three minutes of the final frame, three EA fouls yielded three points on six shots for PC, and Fox and Davis each scored a field goal during that stretch, as well. EA managed just one free throw, and faced its biggest deficit of the day at 33-49.

From there, it was essentially a cruise to the finish line for the Quakers. The only field goal for either side in the last five minutes was a lay-up by EA freshman Luca Mamula, and the Churchwomen never came closer than a dozen points. Mamula, Furey and senior Meghan Pickell each ended up with five points for Episcopal, which had Higgins and Paolino share the team high of seven points.

UPDATE: Penn Charter reached double figures in the win column on Saturday, climbing to 10-6 with a non-league victory over Villa Maria Academy at the 2015 Scholastic Play-By-Play Classic at Philadelphia University. The Quakers broke out of a 21-21 halftime tie to lead 39-28 at the three-quarter mark, and went on to win 49-39. All scoring in double figures for the Quakers were Fox (17 points), Napoleon (13) and Matthews (10).