by Tom Utescher

Last weekend’s snowfall provided an appropriate setting for the annual Snowball Tournament at Norwood Fontbonne Academy, but it wasn’t serious enough to disrupt the schedule for area grade school hoops teams.

The champion in the girls’ bracket was Ancillae Assumpta Academy. The Wyncote ballclub finished the final game with a 10-0 run to secure a 34-28 victory over Lafayette Hill’s St. Philip Neri, which repeated as the tournament runner-up. St. Alphonsus, of Maple Glen, successfully defended its 2010 boys’ title, making a decisive move in the third quarter and going on to defeat Andorra’s Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM), 44-29.

The boys’ team for host Norwood pulled off a dramatic 48-44 win against Holy Martyrs in the opening round, then ran into foul trouble in the semifinals and succumbed to IHM, 47-33. The NFA girls hung close to St. Genevieve’s through much of their first-round clash, but ended up losing, 24-18. The Bears also went down in the consolation round, where they were defeated by the IHM girls, 31-11.

Norwood’s own Eva McGrath won the girls’ foul-shooting contest at the Snowball, and Springside’s Olivia Byron prevailed in the three-point shot competition. St. Gen’s Patrick Meenan proved best of the boys from the foul line, and the top three-point shooter was Gavin Brody of St. Philip.

The tournament opened on Thursday afternoon with girls action that produced a 36-20 victory by the Springside middle school team over St. Luke’s, and Ancillae’s 32-6 win over Conshohocken/Epiphany. On the boys’ side, St. Alphonsus got by St. Gen’s, 41-34, while Epiphany (a standalone team not allied with Conshohocken Catholic) defeated St. Philip, 28-17.

First-round games continued on Friday, and in addition to performances by both Norwood teams, the IHM boys team eked out a 39-38 victory over Holy Cross, and the IHM girls were dispatched by St. Philip, 39-19.

On Saturday, a 12-hour slate of games included the semifinal bouts in the main draw of the tournament, and consolation-round contests for both boys and girls.

The Norwood boys were coming off their big win against Holy Martyrs in their tournament debut. Martyrs led 41-38 with just over three minutes remaining in that game, but the Bears put together an 8-0 rally consisting of two lay-ups by Tyler Clark and field goals by Peter O’Malley and Evan Morgan. Martyrs’ Chris Binet bagged a three-pointer from the top of the key to make it a two-point affair (46-44) with nine seconds left, but Norwood’s Jack Quirk was fouled with five-and-a-half ticks to go, and converted both free throws to ice the Bears’ victory.

Midway through the second quarter of their Saturday semifinal, the Bears only trailed IHM 23-21, but Clark picked up his third, fourth, and fifth personal fouls in just a 23-second span. Cameron Stephenson, another mainstay, was hit with his fourth foul just after that, and the depleted NFA squad went on to lose by 14 points. Clark and Quirk scored eight points apiece and Stephenson had five, while IHM was powered by 16 points from Connor McKenna and eight from Mike Melady.

A day earlier, Eva McGrath had carried the Norwood girls team in its tourney opener with a game-high 12 points. She hit two transition lay-ups and two free-throws in the fourth quarter as a 10-point St. Gen’s lead shrank to four (22-18). The Bears couldn’t score again, though, and a successful drive by St. Gen’s Bailey Krewson (nine points total) tacked the final score on the board.

The NFA ladies were only down 12-8 at halftime in the consolation game on Saturday, but IHM pulled away smartly in the second half, taking a 24-11 lead by the three-quarter mark. The Bears were held scoreless in a 7-0 fourth round. Molly Creamer recorded five points to pace Norwood, which got three points apiece from McGrath and Anna Feinschil and two from Colleen Clark. Brigit McDermott and Julia Moriarty paced IHM with 10 and seven points, respectively.

In the other consolation game for the girls, St. Luke beat Conshy/Epiphany, 35-17, and the boys consolation winners were St. Gen’s (46-27 over St. Philip) and Holy Cross (61-38 against Holy Martyrs). The most prolific scorers for the three winners were Casey Carrigan for St. Luke (12 points), Brendan Dugan and Conall Mulligan of St. Gen’s (15 apeice), and Alston Harriot of Holy Cross (18).

With its semifinal victory over the Norwood boys, IHM advanced to Sunday’s championship game to meet St. Alphonsus, which cruised past Epiphany in the other semifinal, 52-21. On the girls’ side, St. Philip made the finals thanks to a 42-37 outing against St. Gen’s, while Ancillae survived Springside, 31-25, in another girls semifinal bout.

Strong efforts in a losing cause included those of St. Gen’s Krewson, with a game-high 23 points, and Springside’s Byron and Epiphany’s Joseph Carluccio, who led their teams with eight points apiece.

In each of Sunday’s championship games, the teams raced neck-and-neck through the first two quarters. After a slow start, the St. Philip girls held a 14-13 edge at halftime, but Ancillae pulled even at the three-quarter mark, 24-24.

A lay-up by Alison Spinelli and a jumper by Emily Hall moved St. Philip ahead by four points at the start of the final round. Christie Mischler sparked a decisive rally for Ancillae with a three-pointer from the right wing, then Allison Sloan scored off a rebound and hit one of two free throws to move the Wyncote club ahead, 30-28, with two minutes to go.

Denying St. Philip the rest of the way, Ancillae added a short jumper by Ashley Stefanowicz (seven points total) and two foul shots by Mischler, who finished with a game-high 10 points. The victors also received six points each from Sloan and Hazel Skarbek, three from Caitlin Morrissey, and two from Caroline Bown. Hall had a team-high nine points for the runner-up Saints, who got eight points from Gianna DeBellis.

The boys’ tournament finalists were also separated by a single point at the intermission, with St. Alphonsus up 20-19. When play resumed, a lay-up by Fletcher Grady and a baseline shot by Ryan McTemney (four points total) gave a three-point lead to IHM, which then went cold from the floor.

Hitting lay-ups and short jump shots, Brian Dennin (14 points total) deposited four out of five field goals for St. Alph’s in the remainder of the third period. A three-pointer by top scorer Aidan Kerrigan (19 points) figured into the outburst as St. Alph’s took a 31-23 advantage into the fourth quarter.

Once the leaders opened the final frame with a short jumper by Jimmy Gallagher and a lay-up and free throw by Kerrigan (making it 36-23), IHM never got back into contention. John Barrett and Ned Tanner added five and two points, respectively, for the tourney champs, while IHM was led by Connor McKenna, with seven points, Melady, with six, and Pat McKenna, with five.

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