by Tom Utescher
“Three quarters of that game was awesome,” summed up first-year Mount St. Joseph Academy Claire Perry following the Magic’s first-round contest in the Class 5A state tournament last weekend.
The Magic, the second seed out of PIAA District 1, scored 30 points and Archbishop Carroll, number three in District 12, scored 31 in the last 24 minutes of Saturday’s clash at Cheltenham High School. Unfortunately for Mount fans, the Carroll Patriots had sprinted out to a 22-5 lead during the first quarter, so for the rest of the game they could be content to maintain the status quo.
Rising to an overall record of 19-6 with its 53-35 victory, Carroll moved on to face another district runner-up, Harrisburg High School out of District 3. The Mounties turned in their uniforms with a mark of 13-15, having wrapped up what was supposed to be purely a rebuilding year with an exciting postseason surge.
“We were proud of the way we fought back today and of how our defense helped us do that,” Perry said. “That’s what we’re going to focus on and use that as a platform for next year.”
Perry, a former Magic player (Class of ’03) who became team captain at Cornell, returned last summer to take charge of the Mount franchise with a staff consisting of former Mounties Rebecca (Naab) Kaslow and Ryann Gallagher and Villa Joseph Marie Academy grad Marie Levins.
After finishing third within the Athletic Association of Catholic Academies and appearing in the semifinal round of the league tournament, Mount St. Joe began the District 1 tourney as the seventh seed.
Staging two upsets in their first three District outings, the Magic finally succumbed to top-seeded Springfield (Delco) High School, 37-28, in the March 4 championship game in the Pavilion at Villanova University.
The Mounties were now lined up against Archbishop Carroll for the second time this winter. Back in one of the January showcase events, the Magic had lost to the Patriots, 43-33.
At Cheltenham, the starters introduced for Mount St. Joseph were the same as they’ve been all season, seniors Grace Gelone, Kieran Glowacki, Julie Hoover, Sarah Rothenberg, and Ashley Smith. This was something that the coaches had agreed upon from the get-go.
“We made a conscious decision to start our seniors,” Perry explained. “They’re our leaders, the girls were already looking up to them, and it was our first year.”
The Magic had a chance to make the first mark on the scoreboard, but missed a pair of free throws with four seconds elapsed. Instead, over the initial three minutes Carroll deposited three three-point field goals and a put-back, forcing the Mount to call a time-out with an 11-0 deficit.
The Mounties returned to the floor and Gelone (a Norwood Fontbonne Academy alum) hit a lay-up to finally break the ice nearly halfway through the period. Things didn’t get better for Mount St. Joe in the last four minutes of the quarter, as Carroll rang up two more treys and a total of 11 more points while the Magic managed one free throw by Rothenberg and then two by Gelone right at the buzzer for a 22-5 tally.
Mount St. Joe had given its rival a lot of additional time with the ball through turnovers and poor rebounding. Carroll’s ability to cash in on almost every one of its steals proved lethal for the Mount.
“It’s hard to come back from a start like that against a seasoned team like Carroll,” Perry pointed out. “They were solid and they were confident. They knew exactly what to do; they forced us to be uncomfortable and they turned around and shot the ball great. They made us look like we didn’t have a game plan, and we did.”
Carroll had three different players find the net from three-point range during the first quarter, getting two apiece from junior guard Maggie Pina, who had nine points in the period, and senior forward Bella Sorrentino, who had eight. Pina and freshman starter Erin Sweeney spread the score to 26-5 early in the second round, but then the Magic began to battle back.
Gelone hit a lay-up and also made a free throw tacked onto the play, and reserve junior forward Megan Dodaro scored on a drive down the lane. Two more free throws by Gelone (who would go six-for-six from the line in the period and nine-for-nine for the half) followed.
After Sorrentino scored on a drive for Carroll, DODAro made a free throw for the Magic and Gelone scored off a move in the paint, getting Mount St. Joe back within 13 points (28-15) and causing Carroll to call time out with 3:22 left in the half.
This would prove to be the high-water mark of the Mount’s comeback effort. Carroll stretched the lead back out again with a 6-0 run as Pina penetrated to score and two steals led to two transition lay-ups for junior Molly Rose Masciantonio.
Following four straight Gelone free throws for the Mount, the Patriots’ Sorrentino stuck a “three” from the left wing with 20 seconds remaining in the first half. With six seconds left, MSJ freshman guard Lauren Vesey knocked down a trey from near the top of the key, sending the teams into their locker rooms with the score at 37-22.
Gelone led all scorers at this stage, chalking up all of her 15 points for the day prior to the intermission.
“She wanted it, and she’s shown that desire on a more consistent basis as the season’s gone on,” Perry commented.
After its 17-point outburst in the second quarter, Perry’s pack was held to four points in a low-scoring third period, which ended with the tally at 45-26. Junior guard Grace DiGiovanni paced the MSJ offense in the second half, when she scored all of her eight points. The Magic ended up with a 9-8 edge in the final frame when a lay-up by Mount junior Liana Alcaro stamped the final score on the board with 11 seconds to go.
Following Gelone and DiGiovanni on the Mount St. Joseph scoresheet, Dodaro, Vesey, and Smith each contributed three points, while Alcaro ended up with two and Rothenberg with one.
Carroll received a game high of 21 points from Sorrentino, whose primary sport is actually soccer. She has signed with Temple University, and in the past she’s played club soccer for the PA Rush organization under Maria Kosmin, the head coach at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy.
Also in double figures for the Patriots were Pina (13 points) and Masciantonio (10), and rounding it out for Carroll were Sweeney, with six points, and Theresa Kearney, with three.
For the Mount, the large rotation employed by the team all season long means that all seven returning players have already seen a good deal of varsity action.
“They worked very hard,” Perry said. “We’re focusing on where we came from; it’s about the journey.”