by Tom Utescher
Because July 4 fell on a Saturday this year, the NCAA women’s summer hoops league was able to maintain its usual Tuesday/Thursday schedule, although there was some attrition of personnel for the Thursday, July 2 contests.
The two ballclubs with Mount St. Joseph connections had very different results, with Neon Green going 2-0 thanks to a forfeit on Tuesday and a last-second victory on Thursday, while Team Black (Philadelphia University) suffered a pair of losses to powerful opponents.
Former Germantown Academy standout Kiernan McCloskey and Team Forest Green went 1-1 for the week, while Springside grad Michelle Boggs and Team Sapphire Blue lost to Forest Green and then fell to Team Ash Gray the next time out.
The Neon Green team appeared at the gym on Tuesday but couldn’t play ball, due to a forfeit by Team Ash. For the second game date in a row this squad, made up for the most part of Millersville University players, failed to turn up without notifying anyone.
Kelsey Jones, a 2013 Mount grad, was part of an encounter between two Division II summer squads on Tuesday, her own Philly U. Team Black, and the Maroon group made up of athletes from West Chester University. Maroon, which had come close to upsetting the defending league champion the previous week, proved just too strong for the Black bunch. They scored relentlessly in transition, often after rebounding rushed Philly U. shots.
The ladies from Henry Ave. actually stepped out to a 5-0 lead, but once Maroon got going, they outscored Team Black 21-8 in the remainder of the opening quarter. Philly U. senior forward Alex Heck scored six of her team-high nine points in the second quarter on a lay-up, a midrange jumper, and two free throws, but Team Maroon still increased its lead to create a 38-23 halftime tally.
For six minutes in the third quarter the teams essentially traded points as the count rose to 47-33, but Team Black then got back within single digits as Jones drove for a lay-up and her former Catholic Academies opponent, Valez Jackson of Merion Mercy, ran off six points. This helped tighten the score to 50-41 for the start of the final frame, but the West Chester women pulled away again after that, winning by almost 20 points.
Another former high school foe of Jones’, rising West Chester senior guard Brittany Sicinski, led Maroon with a game-high 18 points. While at Downingtown West High School, Sicinski scored 22 points in a District 1 playoff game to help the Whippets knock the Mount out of the 2012 tournament.
On another court, 2012 SCH grad Boggs (East Stroudsburg) and Sapphire Blue squared off against GA alum Kiernan McCloskey (Lehigh ’17) and Forest Green. Unfortunately, for Boggs’ bunch, a string of close losses was extended by a 60-54 setback against the McCloskey contingent.
Neither of the local players lit up the scoreboard in the first half, each managing two points as Forest gained a 24-17 advantage. The scoring pace picked up after halftime, and after McCloskey canned a “three” early on and Boggs converted two rebounds late in the third quarter, Forest took a 44-39 lead into the final frame.
It was still a five-point affair (now 52-47) with under four minutes remaining in the game. Boggs’ college teammate Noelle Powell hit a lay-up and then Albright College’s Emily O’Donnell drained one of two free throws, closing the gap to two points at 52-50. With under two minutes left a driving lay-up and accompanying free throw by Taylor Walker (Holy Family) gave Forest a little breathing room, and Sapphire never got back within two points again.
A late Boggs lay-up made it 58-54 before Walker tacked on the final two points of the night from the foul line. Boggs finished with eight points for Sapphire, which was led by a 14-point effort by O’Donnell, a product of William Tennent High School. Seven points from McCloskey helped victorious Forest Green, which got 11 points apiece from Alex Somers (Montco C.C.) and from Holy Family’s Erin Fenningham, a former Catholic Academies star at St. Basil’s.
Two nights later, Sapphire was missing O’Donnell when Team Ash decided to appear. The Blue band led 14-11 at the quarter and was up 21-18 in the middle of the second round right after Boggs put back her own shot for a deuce. However, the teams were locked up 28-all at the half, and Ash then went ahead by as many as 10 points in the third frame.
Boggs hit a lay-up right at the end of the quarter to make it 40-32 for the start of the fourth round. Ash accelerated again early in the final period, and led 52-37 when a time-out was called withy 5:34 left to play. Sapphire reduced its deficit in the late minutes, but still lost by seven. Boggs finished up with nine points and her East Stroudsburg team mate Rachel Falkowski (Central Bucks South) led all scorers with 14. Ash received 11 points apiece from three different players.
On the same night Team Black met Kelly Green, which has several experienced players who are recent college graduates and features a strong post presence in current St. Joseph’s forward Amanda Fioravanti, who came out of a highly-respected Maryland high school, Our Lady of Good Counsel. The Philly U. squad was just two points behind at the quarter, 15-17, then Kelly pulled away smartly to enjoy a 38-24 lead at the half. At this stage Fioravanti led all scorers with 10 points, while Team Black had five from Jackson.
The Kelly club was up 58-36 at the three-quarter mark, although Team Black managed to get a few points back in the final period, they still lost by 17 (68-51). MSJ’s Jones had four points and Jackson ended up with seven for Philly U., which received eight points apiece from senior forward Jackie McCarron and from incoming freshman Alynna Williams, a small, very quick guard out of Plymouth Whitemarsh.
In another Thursday night bout, the Forest Green team that includes McKloskey was edged by Team Pink, 60-56, despite a team-high 16-point output by the former GA standout. Former Basilian Fenningham added 11 points in the losing cause. Pink is mostly made up of Division III University of Scranton players, but they do have St. Joseph’s senior forward Sarah Fairbanks, who led them with a game-high 22.
There was an even closer game between Neon Green and Team Red. Former Mount parent Ted Hagedorn, the Neon coach, had only six players available for this clash. Red, which rosters erstwhile Cheltenham High star Ciara Andrews of St. Joseph’s and several other local Division I players, was a little better off, with four reserves.
Red held slim leads at the end of each of the first three quarters: 13-11, 35-34, 60-58. Carrying much of the offensive load for Neon were former Inter-Ac MVP Megan Quinn (Episcopal/Villanova), a 6’2 forward, and scrappy former Spring-Ford guard Sammy Stipa (Lafayette), and helping to keep the Red defense off-balance was Juniata College’s Sarah Sherman (Methacton), who hit four three-pointers en route to a 14-point evening.
As the only Neon player taller than 5’8” on hand, Quinn had to be the inside workhorse on both ends of the floor. On defense, late in the game a tired Neon outfit was simply trying to hold on. It was hard for them to counter the quick inside moves of Red’s Chelsea Woods (Freire Charter/St. Joseph’s) and they often weren’t able to stretch out to limit the outside production of Andrews and Devin Gold (Council Rock North/Caldwell U.).
In the fourth quarter, a pair of three-pointers by recent Shipley grad Nia Holland (Lafayette) helped Neon hold a 69-68 edge when time-out was called with 3:11 left in the game. Coming out of the chalktalk, Red’s Andrews sandwiched a “three” and a shorter jumper around a lone Neon free throw by Quinn, but Sherman lobbed a triple from the right corner to tie the game at 73 all with just over a minute to go.
Red couldn’t break the deadlock in its next offensive sequence, and Neon brought the ball back over half court and held it. Finally, Stipa drove the lane and was fouled, making both free throws with 3.9 seconds left to win the game, 75-73. She finished with 20 points and Quinn put up 25, while Red got a game-high 28 from Woods and had Andrews and Gold add 16 and 15 points, respectively.