by Tom Utescher

SENIORS SQUABLE. Kendall Stokes of Penn Charter (left) tries to wrestle the ball away from another upperclassman, Springside’s Brenna Coll. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

If Springside School hadn’t pulled some athletes up from its JV basketball team for its last few varsity games, the Lions would’ve had almost as many players out of uniform as ones who dressed for competition. Nevertheless, the injury-riddled franchise held its own in the first half of last Friday’s Girls Inter-Ac League contest at Penn Charter, and led the Quakers 22-16 at the intermission.

Charter regrouped at halftime and came back with a vengeance, as senior point guard Aleesha Powell posted 11 of her game-high 15 points during a 16-0 third quarter. Springside rallied, but got no closer than six points in the final frame, and PC pulled away again to win 45-33, reaching a record of 8-1 in the Inter-Ac and 18-3 overall.

“It’s unbelievable to me how hard these kids play every single day,” Coach Brian Morris said of his Lions, “except we forgot how to play basketball in the third quarter.”

Powell’s performance for PC was complemented by 10 points from Brianna Butler (four assists), nine from fellow junior Dianna Thomas-Palmer, seven from senior Kendall Stokes, and four from junior Danielle Sienko. Thomas-Palmer was the overall leader on the glass with nine rebounds, including some grabs at key junctures in the second half.

Led by junior Michelle Boggs’ 14 points and senior Brenna Coll’s 11, Springside also logged four points from junior Alexis Giovinazzo and two apiece from sophomore Gianna Pownall and freshman Julia Schumacher.

The game began as many people expected, with PC zipping to an 8-0 lead as Stokes sank a three-pointer and a free throw. The Lions got on the board with a Boggs lay-up five minutes into the action, then back-to-back buckets by Giovinazzo closed the gap to 8-6 for the end of the quarter.

Butler opened the second round with a successful drive, but the Quakers only hit one more field goal before halftime. For Springside, Boggs nailed three lay-ups and Coll lofted a “three,” and at the end Schumacher and Pownall scored from the lane to give the guests a 22-16 advantage at the interlude.

The Quakers had a lot to talk about in the locker room, particularly with representatives from Penn State and Louisville among the college coaches observing the game.

“We were rushing our shots,” Butler explained. “When we set up we should’ve run our plays through and worked for better shots. We also needed to play tougher defense and not let them have easy baskets like they had in the first half.”

Powell ignited on offense as the second half got underway, blazing to the hoop for two lay-ups and then knocking down a three-pointer that put PC ahead, 23-22. A free throw by Sienko and a put-back by Thomas-Palmer raised the count to 26-22 with 2:50 remaining in the third quarter.

“Our kids stopped running down the floor,” observed Springside’s Morris. “We still need to play smarter in some ways, and we made some mistakes with the ball. You’re not going to beat a Penn Charter when you don’t use your heads and you allow second and third shot opportunities.”

Powell continued to be the catalyst as Charter added another six points to its lead in the final 44 seconds of the period. The Iona College recruit stuck a pair of free throws and then stole the ball back, converting off the turnover with 24 ticks to go. Springside lost the handle on the ball once more, and it skittered over midcourt towards the right baseline at the other end. Powell saved it before it went out of bounds, and after a missed shot by the Quakers, Thomas-Palmer was there for the follow at the buzzer, sending the hosts into the concluding stanza with a 32-22 lead.

Applying pressure on the Springside ballhandlers was a key to the turnaround for Penn Charter.

Butler remarked, “That way, we could get our steals, and get out and get our transition going, which is how we usually play.”

The score spread out to 35-22 early in the fourth round, then the Lions put together a 9-2 run punctuated by two three-point shots by Coll from opposite sides of the floor. After the score seesawed from 37-31 to 39-33, Charter called time-out with 2:06 on the clock, and the Quakers didn’t give up any more points the rest of the way.

Two flawless foul shots completed a six-for-six night at the line for Butler, and the last four PC points came on a lay-up by Thomas Palmer and single free throws by Stokes and Sienko.

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