Springside Chestnut Hill’s high-scoring forward, Nya Searight (right) is guarded by Notre Dame senior Kara Celano, a Norwood Fontbonne Academy graduate. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

For visiting Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, an offensive drought that was accompanied by a defensive letdown set the tone for last Tuesday’s Inter-Ac League basketball contest at the Academy of Notre Dame.

The Blue Devils held a one-point edge in the middle of the opening quarter, but then the host Irish bridged the first and second periods with an 18-0 run from which SCH never recovered.

Down 39-18 at the half, the visitors climbed back within 14 points (45-31) of the leaders five minutes into the third quarter, but got no closer. A three-pointer by SCH junior Joelle Bridges at the very end of the game locked in a 69-52 final score.

The Blue Devils recrossed the Schuylkill with an overall record of 10-14 and an Inter-Ac mark of 4-7 with only a rematch with Penn Charter remaining on the schedule. Notre Dame improved to 13-11, 7-4.

The contest reunited two former Norwood Fontbonne Academy teammates who are now both seniors and team captains, SCH forward Chloe Burns and Notre Dame guard Kara Celano. Each would score nine points in the game.

Notre Dame has always relied on strong guard play, and this was even more true for the Irish last Tuesday, when 6’1″ freshman center Riley Shaak was home sick.

One of the back court players, senior Jill Kane, was playing in front of her older sister Devon, a former First Team All-Big East guard for Villanova University who was back home visiting from her new home on the West Coast. The younger Kane did not disappoint her sibling, setting the scoreboard in motion with a three-pointer in the opening minute, and then netting three more triples and posting a total of 14 points before the first half ended.

After sophomore guard Mandy McGurk scored the first of her four first-half field goals on a drive to make it 5-0, junior guard Emily McNesby got the Blue Devils on the board with 5:15 to go in the first period. Following a lay-up by Kane, SCH had Burns hit two free throws and a lay-up, and junior forward Nya Searight scored from the paint as well. This moved the visitors ahead, 8-7, with two-and-a-half minutes left in the first quarter.

Celano and 5’11” senior Tess Phillips each put in a pair of free throws for the Irish, setting the stage for an 18-0 surge. Three-point buckets by freshman Allie Lynch and senior Casey Walsh made it 17-8 at the quarter. Walsh has been her team’s high scorer in many games and the Blue Devils would limit her to five points, but the SCH defense gave up a lot of points elsewhere.

As the second quarter began, McGurk hit from near the foul line and Kane lobbed in two more treys, putting the hosts up 25-8 two minutes into the new period. SCH sophomore guard Kara Kniezewski (another Norwood grad) hit a “three” from the right corner to end the Irish streak.

McNesby then scored off a steal to get the guests back within a dozen (25-13), but then Notre Dame was off on another run, this one an 11-2 burst as the Irish moved the ball around in clinical fashion on offense.

Kniezewski and Notre Dame guard Charlotte Bradley exchanged three-point field goals at the end of the half, and the tally was 39-18 at the break.

SCH’s Seawright scored 10 of her 12 total points after the interlude to lead all second-half scorers, but Phillips had eight of her 10 in the second half to hold up Notre Dame’s end in the paint. Kane added another “three” to her haul, giving her a game-high 17 points.

Notre Dame was leading 54-32 late in the third quarter, but McNesby supplied SCH with the last five points of the period. First she made a pair of free throws, then in the final seconds she found the ball in her hands after the Blue Devils put it in play from their own baseline. She made it just a few steps over half-court on the right wing before heaving up a desperation shot that found the hoop.

Still, the Irish had a comfortable 54-37 advantage at the three-quarter mark, and were able to use their full bench in a 15-15 fourth period.

McNesby ended up with a team-high 13 points for Springside Chestnut Hill, matching McGurk’s output for the victors.

Following McNesby, Searight, and Burns in the SCH scoring were Kniezewski with six points, Bridges and sophomore Caroline Clark with four apiece, and junior Destiny Rogers and sophomore Savannah Sweitzer with two points each.

For Notre Dame, the output of Kane, McGurk, Phillips (eight rebounds) and Celano was supplemented by Bradley and Walsh (five points each), junior Marissa Mycek (four), Lynch (three), sophomore Caitlyn Mullen (two), and sophomore Emma Kichula (one).

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