by Tom Utescher
The Mount St. Joseph Magic had their slowest week since the holiday break, with last Saturday’s snowstorm causing the postponement of all of the PIAA District 1 Class AAAA quarterfinal contests. Third-seeded MSJ reached that round of the tourney in its lone game of the week, a 69-49 Wednesday night win over number 19 Radnor High School.
The visiting Raiders got out to an 8-0 lead, but the Mount answered with a 19-0 countercharge that extended into the second quarter. Junior guard Libby Tacka collected nine points during the Magic’s early run and finished with a game-high 21. Also in double figures for the winners were two other juniors, Sarah Wills (12) and Caitlyn Cunningham (11).
Radnor received 10 points apiece from Kristin Hamill and Allison Lanzone, ending its season with a 17-8 record. Mount St. Joe continued onward with a 24-2 mark, but would have to wait a few extra days to tackle 11-seed Downingtown East in the quarterfinals. Becoming one of the last eight teams in the main draw, the Mount was assured of a spot in the PIAA state championships, without having to enter the play-in bracket in hopes of obtaining one of the last two berths allotted to District 1.
The Mount’s effort last Wednesday was inconsistent, to say the least. The Magic started horribly, then recovered with an impressive surge. They shot well from the field and the free throw line, and senior guard Mary Kate Ulasewicz, in particular, made some impressively adept passes in transition and in the set offense.
On the other hand, the Mounties turned the ball over 16 times, and they missed an opportunity to force turnovers by failing to pressure an opposing guard who quickly showed that she could not move and dribble without looking at the ball. The Magic had one player foul out and had two others finish with four personals in a game they had under control for much of the last three quarters.
There was an indication of things to come in the first 15 seconds off the tap, as players on both sides dove after the ball and batted it around on the floor before it was finally brought under control. It looked like a rugby match had broken out on the court.
No one scored for the first two minutes, then Radnor had Hamill convert a pair of offensive rebounds to start and finish an 8-0 run that included lay-ups by two other players. After Mount mentor John Miller called two time-outs in 91 seconds, the hosts got on the scoreboard with a drive and free throw by Tacka.
Mount St. Joe would score the next 16 points as well, leading 13-8 at the close of the quarter, and receiving back-to-back three-pointers from Tacka to start the second period. Radnor eventually marked down a transition basket for guard Katie Jordan, but the Raiders had gone without scoring for more than five-and-a-half minutes.
By halftime, the Magic had their guests doubled up at 36-18. Wills hit a ‘three’ with 46 seconds to go and went into the break with 11 points, while Tacka completed the half with an “and-one” play on a drive down the lane, and led all scorers with 14.
A pass by Ulasewicz set up a Tacka score in transition, and Cunningham added a short jumper to lift the lead over 20 points early in the third round. The Raiders had the lead down to 20 points in the final minute, but when a late outside shot by the Mount missed, senior forward Emily Carpenter grabbed the offensive rebound and went back up to score at the buzzer to make it 49-27.
The Raiders edged the Magic 16-14 in the final frame, netting 13 of the last 17 points of the night after the Mounties spread the score to 59-30 just over three minutes into the fourth quarter. Even with the contest well in hand Mounties just couldn’t stop fouling. Some credit must be given to the Raiders who, while overmatched, were persistent.
Following the top three Mounties in the scoring column were Carpenter, with six points, Ulasewicz, with two, junior Kristen Lucas, with seven, and sophomore Julie Hoover, with four points.
Contemplating the Mount’s match-up in the third round brought to mind several bouts that had taken place back in December. Downingtown East had advanced out of the District’s second round by beating Bayard Rustin High School, which back on December 13 had been responsible for Mount St. Joe’s first loss this winter (51-46).
The only other team to defeat the Magic, league rival Gwynedd Mercy, had beaten Downingtown East, 52-34, but that had been in the very first game of the season.