by Tom Utescher
The 2015 NCAA women’s summer basketball league wrapped up last week, and a ball club that has had longstanding Mount St. Joseph Academy connections won the title for the fourth time in six seasons. Ted Hagedorn, the father of three former Mounties, has been a constant as coach, and with 2014 MSJ grads Alex Louin (now at Villanova University) and Carly Monzo (Loyola) on the roster, his third-seeded Neon Green team rolled to a 75-41 victory over number seven Team Purple in Thursday’s championship game.
With four three-point field goals and a total of 16 points, Louin, a six-foot guard, was one of four scorers in double figures for the winners. Neon Green got 15 points from her current Villanova teammate, Megan Quinn, who was the 2013 Inter-Ac League MVP as a senior at Episcopal Academy. Quinn is a 6’2” forward, as is Maureen Leahy (Cardinal O’Hara H.S./Bryant U.), who scored a game-high 19 points. Guard Sammy Stipa (Spring-Ford/Lafayette) tacked on 10 points for the champs.
The other finalist, Team Purple, is composed entirely of players from Division II University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. During the college season, USciences competes in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference along with three other schools in the city, Chestnut Hill College, Holy Family University, and Philadelphia University. Their summer roster includes three rising sophomores who were former league rivals of area players, Sarah Abbonnizio from Episcopal (Inter-Ac League), Molly Greenberg of St. Basil’s (Catholic Academies), and Colleen Walsh of Shipley (Friends Schools League)). Walsh’s former Shipley teammate Nia Holland played at guard for Neon Green this summer and will enter Lafayette College next month.
Philly U. is another college team which routinely plays together as a unit in the summer league. Known as Team Black this year, their line-up featured 2013 Mount grad Kelsey Jones and a 2015 product of Plymouth Whitemarsh High School, Alynna Williams.
Springside Chestnut Hill Academy was represented on Team Sapphire Blue by Michelle Boggs (’12), who was playing alongside seven of her current East Stroudsburg University teammates. Germantown Academy alum Kiernan McCloskey (’13), now halfway through her Lehigh University career, played summer ball for Team Forest Green, which finished one spot short of a playoff berth, in ninth place.
In the summer league quarterfinals and semifinals, Neon Green avenged two regular-season losses, first topping number six Black, 57-50, and then cruising past fifth-seeded Sapphire last Tuesday, 68-49. Team Purple pulled off upsets in its first two postseason contests, eliminating second-seeded Pink in a 57-56 quarterfinal nailbiter, and then fashioning a 54-42 win over Team Gold, the top seed and defending league champion.
With several Mount players of an earlier vintage on his teams, Coach Hagedorn had won the NCAA Summer League title in 2010, 2011, and 2012. The color-coding of the teams changes according to the passing fancy of the whimsical league commissioner, David Kessler; Hagedorn’s charges won two of those championships as Team Lime Green, and one as Kelly Green.
One of his former summer players, Katie Kuester (Academy of Notre Dame/St. Joseph’s), assembled her own Kelly Green franchise to win the league in 2013, and last year Team Gold, which included a number of Division I players (there can’t be more than two from the same school) captured the crown.
The Gold group emerged as the top seed for the 2015 playoffs, as well. They had beaten another team with an 11-1 regular-season record, Team Pink (mostly University of Scranton along with two St. Joe’s studs), but Gold had suffered a late-season loss to Neon Green.
Neon’s roll call featured seven players from five different Division I schools, and five athletes from five different Division III programs. Entering the playoffs as the third seed with a regular-season record of 9-3, Neon had not lost when at full strength. Monzo had not yet come up from Loyola when her team dropped its season opener to Pink, and later Louin was missing when Neon fell to Boggs’ Sapphire squad (70-67 in double overtime) and Jones’ Black bunch (66-65). Neon did not necessarily ravage every rival with fewer (or no) DI athletes. They went to overtime to beat Team Orange, nipped Team Red 75-73, and overcame Team Maroon (all West Chester University), 69-60.
Hagedorn’s team had most of its DI women around during the playoffs; Stipa skipped the quarterfinals, all seven were there for the semi’s, and all but Holland were on hand for the title bout.
Defending champ Team Gold had been missing its two primary post players for the quarterfinal round of the playoffs on July 30, and they were not in the house for Tuesday’s semifinals, either. Gold did have former Upper Dublin hoopsters Danielle Derr, Tuga Goff, and Shira Newman, among others. For USciences-fueled Team Purple, familiarity bred early success, as Purple popped out to a 10-point lead (19-9) by the end of the opening quarter.
Team Gold erased much of that margin during the second round, tightening the score to 25-23 by halftime. Just past the five-minute mark in the third quarter (the periods are 10 minutes long, following the new women’s collegiate format), Gold edged into the lead, 31-30, on a three-point shot by guard Ashley Wood (Spring-Ford H.S./Kutztown U.). Purple had regained the upper hand by the end of the segment, taking a 41-35 lead into the final quarter and then adding to it as Gold had to start fouling for possession down the stretch.
Incoming freshman Alex Thomas, a 1000-point scorer from St. Elizabeth’s High School in Wilmington, De., led the USciences squad with 14 points, and former Shipley Gator Walsh scored nine. Gold got a team-high 12 points from Newman.
Just a few minutes away from the gym, a stretch of the Pennsylvania Turnpike near Willow Grove had been the scene of a major accident just after midday, and traffic was snarled for miles around all through the evening rush. For that reason, the start of the Gold-Purple semifinal had been moved back about 20 minutes from its original time of 7:00 PM. Fortunately, the athletes from the Neon Green and Sapphire Blue teams didn’t have quite as much trouble getting there for the late game.
Former Catholic Academies guard Melissa Poderis (Villa Joseph Marie/E. Stroudsburg) scored one of the two opening field goals for Sapphire as they stepped out to a 4-0 lead. Neon got on the board with the first of two three-pointers in the game by Stipa, but about four minutes in, Sapphire still had a modest advantage, 7-5.
Neon went on a rampage over the last six minutes of the period, a 23-3 explosion fueled by 13 points from Quinn. Her personal barrage included three three-point field goals, and another two treys came from her current Villanova teammate, Louin. Stipa had a pair of lay-ups in the midst of the surge, and Sapphire Blue would never recover from being on the short end of a 28-10 tally at the close of the quarter.
Quinn kept going in the second period by making a fourth “three” and two shorter shots, amassing 20 of her game-high 22 points before halftime. The tally was 43-20 at the break, when Stipa had a dozen points in the book and forward Emily O’Donnell (William Tennant/Albright) was leading Sapphire with six points.
Poderis completed her team-high 10-point night with a pair of three-point field goals in the third quarter. Overall, her team trimmed two points off of its deficit by the end of the third frame, when the score was 55-34. One of Poderis’ East Sroudsburg teammates, guard Courtney Brown (Council Rock South), sandwiched a trey and a 15-foot jumper around a lay-up by O’Donnell (eight points total) as Sapphire got off to a 7-0 start in round four.
Neon’s first point of the period came on a free throw by Holland and Louin soon added a transition lay-up. Sapphire continued to battle, as another Stroudsburger, Rachel Falkowkski (Central Bucks South), came on for two buckets, and former Springsider Boggs bagged a lay-up to complete a seven-point evening.
When Neon called a time-out with 3:30 remaining, Sapphire was just 13 points back (62-49), 10 points closer than they’d been at halftime. Neon paid more attention to how it handled the basketball when play resumed, and Louin expanded the gap with a successful drive down the lane and a pair of free throws. Sapphire didn’t score again after their rivals’ time-out, and two made foul shots by Neon’s Mackenzie Rule (Cardinal O’Hara/St. Joseph’s) put the 68-49 final on the board more than a minute-and-a-half before the final buzzer.
As the championship game got underway two nights later, Team Purple sandwiched two standard field goals around a three-pointer by Neon’s Stipa. The 4-3 edge would be Purple’s last lead; Neon took control with a bucket off an inside move by Leahy and three-point lobs by Vicky Tumasz (North Penn/Shippensburg) and Quinn.
Seven minutes in, though, Purple was just two points back at 13-11.
Louin popped in a trey from the left corner with 2:55 on the clock, and in the remainder of the period two Stipa free throws and three-pointers from Quinn and Louin boosted Neon’s lead to 24-11.
Already, four different players had struck from the three-point loop for Neon, and Purple didn’t have the same firepower. The USciences squad would end up with a team high of eight points shared by Shannon Evans and Amber Reilly. Evans had four of her points in the first quarter and Reilly had five of hers in the final round. No one else for Purple scored more than three in a given period. Topping out at 5’10” on the measuring tape, the Purple players faced a height mismatch against Neon, with Monzo at 5’10” and Louin, Leahy and Quinn all six feet or taller.
With the latter two furnishing five field goals from the paint in the second period and Louin draining two more treys, Neon rolled on to lead by two-dozen points at halftime, 46-22. Although the scoring pace slowed a bit after the intermission, the Neon scorers still got the better of their opponents in each of the last two quarters.
In addition to the four double-digit performances, the victors received eight points from Tumasz, five from Rule, and two from Sarah Sherman (Methacton/Juniata). In addition to Holland, Neon’s roster also included Brynne Brous (Washington College ’18) and Larissa Leyes (Gwynedd Mercy ’18), and Eliza Polli (Swarthmore ’13).