by Tom Utescher
At the start of the basketball season, the Springside Lions challenged themselves by taking on two of the best teams in the Washington D.C. area. The result was a pair of losses, but those early confrontations apparently toughened up the local hoopsters for the contests lay ahead, because Springside has now recorded five wins in a row.

The two latest victories were a 53-13 romp in the Lions’ Girls Inter-Ac League opener at Baldwin on Thursday, and a 44-30 home court win over Burlington, New Jersey’s Life Center Academy two days later.

First, Springside engaged in a productive six-period scrimmage with a visiting pride of “Lions” – the ones from Cardinal O’Hara High School. The Tuesday afternoon work-out between the two feline franchises was a pretty even match, and a good tune-up for Springside against a longtime Catholic League power. It was a relatively late date for a scrimmage, but O’Hara had already scheduled official games up to the limit specified by the PIAA.

Springside’s league opener on Thursday was not the subject of much fanfare, as expectations of a lopsided session were quickly borne out in a 26-1 first quarter. At the interlude it was 37-1 and the Lions sleepwalked through the second half against the woebegone Bears.

Junior forward Elana Roadcloud registered a game-high 12 points along with eight rebounds, five assists and three steals. The winners received 11 points from another 11th-grader, forward Sydni Epps, nine from senior point guard Shea Crotty, and eight from junior power forward Michelle Boggs.

Junior Aly Markey and sophomore Gianna Pownall (both guards) put up four points apiece, with freshman center Erin Garner adding three and senior guard Brenna Coll contributing a deuce. Baldwin senior Sloan Warren, who’s headed to the University of Virginia to play lacrosse, scored all but two of the Bears’ points in the game.

For Saturday’s more competitive non-league match-up, neither the Lions nor the visiting Life Center Warriors were at full strength. Springside’s Coll was sidelined with a relatively minor ankle injury, and just 26 seconds into the game the Lions’ only other upperclassman, Crotty, collapsed to the floor beyond the baseline after trying to prevent a fast break bucket by the visitors. She was helped off the court, appearing to have suffered a severe injury to her left knee.

Life Center was missing one of its two 6’3” post players, Sandra Udobi, a member of the Nigerian junior national team. The other skyscraper, senior Nicole Maticka, would score a game-high 16 points during the contest. Just a day earlier, she had signed a scholarship agreement to play Division I basketball at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark.

The Warriors’ diverse line-up also featured two players from Slovakia, six-foot juniors Noema Bradnanska and Sara Janackova, who scored eight and two points, respectively, in the Springside game. Four points from junior guard Elizabeth Harrison rounded out the scoring for Life Center.

After Springside’s Crotty (a native of New Zealand) was injured in the opening minute, the reins of the offense were handed over to junior Alexis Giovinazzo, whose main sport is softball.

“We have all the confidence in the world in Alexis,” said head coach Brian Morris, “and we weren’t surprised to see her step in there and handle the ball the way she did.”

Giovinazzo also hit two early jumpers for the hosts, leveling the score at 4-4 after the Warriors went ahead at the outset. Life Center’s first field goal was a three-pointer by Maticka, who also displayed a soft touch in the paint as she led her team out to an 11-9 lead at the quarter.

The Lions’ Epps opened the second period with a mid-range jumper and then assisted Garner on a transition lay-up. Epps proceeded to steal the ball back and score again, affording Springside a 15-11 edge. Life Center caught up at 19-all, but lay-ups by Garner and Epps put their squad back up by four entering the final minute of the half. A baseline drive by Maticka made it a two-point affair at the intermission, with the count 23-21.

In the third round, Springside dialed up the defense and outscored its guests, 11-2.

Praising Roadcloud and others for their efforts in curtailing the Warriors’ offense, Coach Morris explained, “At halftime we talked about defensive intensity and that we had to do a better job off cutting off the baseline, which is where number 10 [Maticka] liked to drive.”

A persistent shortcoming for Springside was the team’s free-throw shooting; the Lions were just five-for-14 in the first half, and six-for 18 overall.

On the other end of the floor, the Springside defense limited Maticka to just two points in the second half. In the second minute of the fourth quarter, Life Center’s Bradnanska and Springside’s Garner each picked up a fourth personal foul, but both remained in the game.

In fact, Garner (six rebounds) would score six of her 11 total points in the final frame, while Boggs (seven rebounds) registered seven of her team-high 12 points in the second half. Epps finished with a team-high nine rebounds and with 10 points. She was followed in the scoring column by Giovinazzo and Roadcloud, with four points apiece, and Pownall, with three.

“We’re a work in progress,” Morris remarked, “but all the kids are working hard and that’s paying off.”

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