by Tom Utescher
Hoops players with area ties were scattered among various teams as the Philadelphia/Suburban Women’s NCAA Summer Basketball League got underway last Tuesday evening. This decades-old institution, which traces its origins back to Chestnut Hill’s Water Tower Recreation Center, features players from all three NCAA divisions, as well as some post-collegiate athletes who just can’t seem to give up the rock.
Members of NCAA Division II and III programs are allowed to play together, and one of the ball clubs engaged in last week’s debut was the Philadelphia University squad in its summer guise as Team Black. Monica Schacker, a perimeter shooter out of Germantown Academy, just graduated from Philly U. and has moved on, but in the starting line-up for the summer Rams on Tuesday was guard Kelsey Jones, a red-shirt sophomore from Mount St. Joseph Academy.
She and her colleagues faced Team Red, which included players from all NCAA levels and featured former Cheltenham High star guard Ciara Andrews, one of two current St. Joseph’s University players on the roster.
The Philly U. bunch had the advantage of having played together year-round, and in the new league format, where running-clock 10-minute quarters have replaced 20-minute halves, Team Black was up 19-9 at the end of the opening period. Early on, two field goals and a free throw by Jones had helped her squad bolt to an 11-2 advantage.
After the halftime break arrived with a 39-18 tally on the board, Team Red made a strong start on the second half and got its deficit down close to single figures at 42-30 in the middle of the third quarter. The warm weather Rams widened the gap once more and didn’t allow any more meaningful runs by the opposition, rolling to a 73-42 victory. A balanced Team Black attack was led by senior forward Tori Arnao, with 15 points, while Andrews marked down 14 for Red.
GA grad Kiernan McCloskey, a forward who is now halfway through her stay at Lehigh University, was playing in the second round of Tuesday games as a member of Team Forest Green. About half of her team’s roster consists of athletes from the strong Division II Holy Family University program.
They dropped their opener, 61-48, to Team Purple which is made up entirely of women who compete for the University of Sciences in Philadelphia (USciences) during the regular collegiate season.
McCloskey put up a game-high 16 points in the losing cause. She was playing against some rivals she’d faced frequently in high school, such as Episcopal Academy alum Sarah Abbonizio and Shipley School product Colleen Walsh. A former Mount St. Joe opponent, Molly Greenburg of St. Basil’s, is also on the USciences summer squad.
A pair of 2014 MSJ grads are on the roster for Team Neon Green, which is coached by three-time former Mount parent Ted Hagedorn, a longstanding mentor in the league. Forward Carly Monzo was still taking care of a few details down at Loyola University and didn’t make the opener, but Neon Green did have guard Alex Louin, who earned All-Big East Freshman Team honors as a member of the Villanova franchise last winter.
With 10 points, she was one of two double-digit scores for her summer team last Tuesday, and the other (with a game-high 19), was ‘Nova teammate Megan Quinn, a forward from Episcopal who was the 2013 Inter-Ac League MVP. Despite their efforts, Neon was knocked off, 66-52, by Team Pink, which made an impressive debut.
Most of this team is comprised of hoopsters from the University of Scranton, a very good Division III program. On the league’s draft night back in May, they received a personnel boost in the form of three talented Division I ladies. Sarah Fairbanks is a well-established senior forward from St. Joe’s, and her new teammate in both summer and winter ball is former Bonner-Prendergast sharpshooter Alyssa Monaghan. The other DI addition is Penn sophomore forward Lauren Whitlatch, a former first team all-state player from Indiana.
For their first time together, these three meshed together well with the Scranton girls, and that spelled trouble for the Neon contingent, which included newly-graduated Shipley guard Nia Holland (Lafayette College).
With some early scoring from Louin and Quinn and some outside buckets by Sarah Sherman (Methacton High/Juniata College), Neon Green was ahead by eight points (24-16) early in the second quarter. The situation changed when Monaghan began dropping three-bombs and her Pink pals rallied around her. The largely-Lady Royals squad surged to a 39-31 halftime lead, and was up 55-39 at the three-quarter mark.
Two treys by Quinn and a short jumper by Louin got their group back within 10 points of the leaders (57-47) early in the fourth frame, but Neon only added five points the rest of the way. Pink was ahead 66-48 before Holland and Louin scored the last four points of the game. After Quinn, Louin, and Sherman (eight points) no one on Neon scored more than four points, while Pink was paced by 14 points from Monaghan, 13 from Fairbanks, and 11 from Scranton’s own Jackie Gantz (Haverford High).