by Tom Utescher

A STAR IS AIRBORNE. Freshman guard Alex Louin is coming on strong for Mount St. Joe’s at playoff time. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

The field of teams is larger in the District 1 AAAA tournament than at Mount St. Joseph Academy’s former triple-A classification, but in the Mount’s first quad-A tournament in eight years the Magic aren’t finding it all that tough to get through the extra brackets.

Easily winning its opener in Districts back on February 19, second-seeded Mount St. Joe rumbled through to the semifinals last week, bouncing number 15 Bayard Rustin High School, 67-31, in the round of 16 on Wednesday, and then overpowering number seven Upper Dublin in a Saturday afternoon quarterfinal, 50-30.

In this Wednesday’s semifinal round (6:00 PM at Norristown High School) the Magic will face the third seed, Downingtown East, a 36-34 winner over number six Boyertown last Saturday night.

One aspect of last week’s lopsided contests caught the fancy of MSJ fans, and that was senior guard Mary Jo Horgan’s approach to the 1000-point mark in career scoring. An 11-point effort against Rustin got her within 15 points of quadruple digits, then she passed that mark in the third quarter against Upper Dublin, en route to a game-high 20-point outing.

In the midweek match-up against Rustin, it took the Mount a little while to get its field goal shooting dialed in. The hosts trailed 2-1 before they finally found the hoop on their eighth shot from the floor, a baseline jumper by senior Steph Smith with 3:44 remaining in the opening period.

West Chester’s Emily Burke had rung up the first field goal of the game, but after that the Golden Knights didn’t hit from the floor for another ten minutes. Taking a 9-4 advantage out of the first quarter, the Magic opened the second with buckets by Smith, juniors Bridget Higgins and Cailin Schmeer, and freshman Alex Louin to go up 17-4.

The visitors never got back in the game, as the Mounties went on to lead 31-8 at the half and 51-16 at the end of three quarters. Schmeer scored 13 points to head up a balanced attack that included 11 from Horgan and Higgins and 10 each from Smith and Louin. A highly-regarded rookie, Louin now appears to have become a fully confident varsity player.

Junior starting guard Maddie Kohler collected six points against Rustin on a pair of three-pointers, and sophomore Meg McCabe and Regan Gallagher each scored a field goal late in the game.

Saturday’s game followed a similar scenario, with Upper Dublin down by five points at the quarter, and the Magic stepping away smartly in the second period. Once again, the Mount started slowly on offense, and trailed 7-5 in the middle of the opening frame before taking a 14-9 lead later on. Horgan hit three jumpers, a lay-up off a steal, and a free throw in the first eight minutes, climbing to 994 career points.

“Coach [John] Miller said to just kind of put that on the back burner,” the Lehigh recruit said of the milestone. “The most important thing was to win the game, and the 1000 points would come. I tried to play in our normal style and it came in this game, and I’m happy it was at home.”

The Cardinals’ Tori Waters scored on a put-back at the beginning of the second period to make it 14-11, then two field goals apiece by Smith and Louin led the hosts on a 14-0 tear, and the halftime tally was 29-12.

With Upper Dublin just 10 minutes away and with MSJ fans turning out in force to see the Magic’s last home game of the district tourney, the Mount gym was filled to capacity and beyond. It clearly wasn’t a suitable venue for a contest that was destined to draw a large crowd. Perhaps the District could start holding games at neutral sites one round earlier.

MSJ’s Horgan scored off a steal in the second quarter, and began the third round needing just four points to hit 1000.

“I kind of knew it was coming because the girls on the bench kept telling me,” she said.

She stuck a baseline jumper which was matched by a bucket for the Cardinals, and on the next Mount possession Horgan moved towards the hoop to follow a teammate’s shot. When the ball missed she grabbed the rebound and went right back up to score, hitting 1000 points on the nose with 5:40 to go in the third period.

After a short ceremony recognizing the achievement, play resumed and the Magic proceeded to a 43-19 lead at the end of three quarters. In the fourth round the home crowd was able to honor Horgan, Smith, and fellow senior Meg Black. The MSJ reserves were showcased late in the game, and on the final basket Gallagher assisted fellow freshman Carly Monzo.

Kohler also finished with two points, and there were four apiece for Schmeer and Louin, and six for Higgins. Horgan, with her 20, was joined in double figures by Smith, with an even dozen. The only Upper Dublin players with more than three points were sophomore Curtrena Goff, with 10, and junior Taylor Bryant, with nine.

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