Jordyn Thomas of St. Philip Neri (right) keeps the ball out of reach of Penn Charter’s Ava Coyle on opening day of the NFA Snowball Tournament. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

Everyone’s favorite grade school basketball tournament was staged in Chestnut Hill last week, or at least most of it was.

A few days after Norwood Fontbonne Academy’s 44th Annual Snowball Tournament got underway last Wednesday, falling temperatures and snow outside helped cause slippery conditions indoors on the court. For the safety of the players, there were changes made to the schedule late on Saturday, and when the problem arose again during the first few contests on Sunday morning, the girls’ and boys’ championship games on the agenda for that afternoon were postponed to a later date.

The hoopsters from host Norwood Fontbonne took on both the boys’ and girls’ teams from Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, with the NFA Bears prevailing in each contest. However, St. Philip Neri came right up Germantown Pike from Lafayette Hill to knock off both Norwood teams in the semifinal round and establish themselves as finalists, the girls winning 38-16 while the Saints boys slipped past the Bears, 44-42.

When a new date is set for the two championship games, the St. Philip girls will face a team from St. Genevieve’s that had a close win against Holy Rosary and a double-digit victory over SCH, while the Saints boys will have to deal with a Penn Charter ball club that steamrolled its first two rivals en route to the title bout.

The Norwood “Blue” squad, the less formidable of the two NFA teams that appeared in the boys’ bracket, launched the tourney on Wednesday evening as the renowned Snowball concession stand opened for business. Norwood Blue was overpowered by Andorra’s IHM (Immaculate Heart of Mary), 39-6, with Henry Davis dropping 14 points for the victors and the Bears receiving four points from Kevin Comerford.

The girls’ game that followed was entirely different, as St. Philip Neri bolted to an 11-0 lead but then Penn Charter worked its way back behind a 24-point performance by Kelsey Bess, who scored inside and out. After the contest went into overtime, Bess scored the second of two PC field goals in the extra session, but SPN’s Kaylie Griffin came on to complete a 21-point night with a three-pointer, a shorter jumper and five-for six free throw shooting. St. Philip advanced with a 46-40 victory.

In a girls’ first-round game on Thursday afternoon, a 25-point performance by Shannon Archbold could not keep Holy Rosary from a 41-34 loss to St. Gen’s, which received 12 points from Anna McTamney and nine from Lauren Slovensky, who plays CYO ball for St. Gen’s but attends Norwood Fontbonne.

In the first of two boys’ games that evening, Penn Charter opened with 26 unanswered points on the way to a 56-15 decision over Holy Rosary. Marvin Harrison scored all of his game-high 16 points in the first half and Aaron Maione had nine points for the winners, while Eric Dinofa and Jeffrey McQuaid put up five apiece in the losing cause. In the nightcap, 20 points from Luke DiCianno fueled St. Philip’s 52-40 win over Springfield Township, which marked down 11 points for Ian Short.

In addition to a show by the Norwood Fontbonne cheerleaders, an appearance by the La Salle University women’s basketball team, and an NFA alumni game at the end of the evening, Friday’s schedule featured a pair of all-Chestnut Hill showdowns pitting the varsity boys’ and girls’ teams from Norwood against their counterparts from Springside Chestnut Hill Academy.

First up, the NFA girls prevailed in a relatively close contest with the Blue Devils, 22-15. In balanced offensive efforts on both sides, there were five points deposited by Elise Smigiel for the victors and four apiece for fellow Bears Ryan Hendrzak and Clare Moxey, and five points by Abby Fitzmaurice of SCH and four by her teammate Alexa Rhoads.

Next, the Norwood “Gold” boys got off to a quick start and led the whole game, maintaining a double-digit lead much of the time despite several runs made by the Blue Devils. Helping fuel a 65-51 NFA victory were 22 points from Michael Marable and 17 from Josh Hohenleitner. The Blue Devils were led by Bobby Markey (12 points) and Joe Jaconski (11).

Due to only a six-team bracket for the varsity girls, the young ladies of Springside Chestnut Hill were able to play in a Saturday morning semifinal game despite losing their first-round contest. They faced St. Gen’s and were unable to take advantage of their second chance in the tourney, falling to their Flourtown foes, 40-19.

McTamney furnished half of the winners’ points and Jenna Nolan and Emily Smith each added six as St. Gen’s moved on into the finals. In the losing cause, Fitzmaurice scored 10 points and Louise McIntyre had nine for Springside Chestnut Hill.

The rest of the early varsity schedule on Saturday featured three consolation contests. There wasn’t a regular four-team feed-in bracket for the girls, but Penn Charter and Holy Rosary got in a second tournament game as they squared off against one another. Driven by eight points from Bess and 10 from Kaylee Dyer, the Quakers charged to a 28-8 halftime lead and ultimately a 40-17 triumph over Holy Rosary, which was paced by Archbold’s seven-point effort.

The two boys’ consolation semifinal games followed. A dozen points from Justin Kormos paced Holy Rosary in a 36-18 win against the Norwood Blue team, which got a team-high 10 points from Quinn Egan. Next, SCH topped Springfield Township, 54-34. Jaconski’s game-high 25-point performance was supplemented with eight points apiece from fellow Blue Devils Markey and Braden Attanasio, while Andrew Yi’s 13 points and Charles Ireland’s 11 fueled Springfield.

The second girls’ semifinal in the main draw tipped off later in the afternoon, and here St. Philip was ahead 14-0 a minute into the second quarter before a Smigiel free throw got the Bears on the scoreboard. After the half ended at 20-3, Norwood made a little headway in the second half with several of the St. Philip starters now over on the bench.

The Lafayette Hill ladies still won easily, 38-16, led by a 10-point performance by Griffin and seven from forward Jordyn Thomas. Charlotte DiLello and Maddie Shoup each added six points for the winners, while Smigiel and Hendrzak gave the Bears four points apiece and Emma Gelone scored three.

A problem that had emerged during this girls’ contest came to a head in the first of the two boys’ semifinal that were to follow on Saturday evening. The snow that had fallen earlier in the day led to moisture being tracked into the gym by teams and spectators. After a number of players lost their footing and numerous stoppages to try and towel off the hardwood, the officials in the first boys’ game decided to halt play for the evening.

This game would not be resumed, as the potent Penn Charter team was already leading IHM 30-6 when the contest was stopped with 3:37 still to go in the first half. At this juncture Harrison already had 10 points in the book for the Quakers, along with eight points for Aaron Maione and six for Cameron Pygatt. The other side of the scorebook showed one field goal each for Davis, Patrick Grady, and Tommy Tarpy as IHM bid farewell to the Snowball.

Penn Charter became a finalist, and the Norwood – St. Philip Neri semifinal was postponed until Sunday morning, taking the time slot originally intended for the boys’ finals. Since the teams for the girls’ finals were already set, their championship game would proceed at midday as planned, with the boys’ title bout to follow.

Early on Sunday, the boys’ consolation final between SCH and Holy Rosary proceeded in a relatively normal manner, and the Blue Devils finished on a high note with a 56-41 win. Jaconski (18 points) and Brian Henesey (15) paved the way for Springside Chestnut Hill, and for Holy Rosary Kormas produced 15 points while Dinofa delivered 13.

In the middle of the morning St. Philip and Norwood squared off in the boys’ semifinal contest that had been postponed on Saturday evening. The game was completed, but moisture was now making the floor slick and there were a number of falls. Despite this, the Saints and Bears battled down to the wire, rarely separated by more than a basket or two.

Norwood ended the first quarter with an 11-10 edge, but also had Hohenleitner in foul trouble with three quick personals. The Bears found themselves with six team fouls in short order, but cleaned up their defense in the second period. The foul situation had pretty much evened out by halftime, and early in the third frame one of SPN’s best players, DiCianno, picked up his third.

Still, by scoring the last basket in both the second and third periods, the Saints led 21-20 at halftime and 30-28 at the three-quarter mark.

Midway through the fourth round the teams were tied at 38-all, then a three-pointer by Nick Artillio and a lay-up by Ryan Coscia put SPN up by five with just under two-and-a-half minutes to go. Marable knocked down one of two free throws and then scored on a drive to pull the Bears back within two points of the leaders.

As the encounter progressed into the final minute, each team had a possession end with a miss from the floor, then Artillio was fouled on a shooting attempt and made both free throws with 25.7 seconds showing to make it 45-41. After an NFA foul on the open floor, St. Philip inbounded the ball but had it stolen by Norwood’s Michael Quirk.

The Bears guard was then fouled, and he made the first of two shots from the stripe with seven seconds to go. Having to foul several times to put SPN in the bonus, Norwood lost Marable in the process with a fifth personal, but by the time St. Philip’s Artillio missed the first shot of a one-and-one, only 3.7 seconds remained and the SPN still led 45-42.

After Norwood inbounded the ball and got it across half-court, a desperate three-point attempt by the Bears missed its mark. Artillio finished with 17 points and Coscio collected 13 to help the Saints advance to the finals, while Norwood received double-digit scoring from Marable (16 points), Quirk (11), and Hohenleitner (10).

With the final match-ups now set and the court becoming increasingly hazardous, tournament officials wisely decided to shut down for the day.

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