Mount St. Joe basketball senior tri-captains (from left) Maddie Kohler, Cailin Schmeer, and Bridget Higgins. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

Defending Catholic Academies and PIAA District 1 champion Mount St. Joseph Academy graduated three seniors from last year’s hoops squad, but two of them were mainstays of the Magic program for three seasons. Dubbed Southeastern Pa. player of the year in one all-star survey, guard Mary Jo Horgan has gone on to play for Lehigh University, and Steph Smith, a 6’1” forward who was named league MVP, is now at Loyola in Baltimore.

One of the major questions for sixth-year coach John Miller’s team this winter will be how quickly a very talented sophomore class matures into everyday performers alongside the three current seniors.

Upperclassman Maddie Kohler is a compact guard who can be tenacious defense and has a knack for hitting outside shots at key junctures, and her classmate Cailin Schmeer is a versatile forward who can drive, hit the jumper, and rebound. The third senior is defensive ace Bridget Higgins (from St. Philip Neri in Lafayette Hill), a point guard who made a great leap forward in her outside shooting during summer league play.

Another point guard, junior Kelsey Jones, spent much of last season on crutches following a knee injury.

“Kelsey’s back, and she appears to be 100 percent physically,” Coach Miller said. “I haven’t noticed her favoring the one leg at all.”

Sophomore guard Alex Louin – now nearing the six-foot mark – was the first of last year’s freshman to see significant varsity action. She showed everyone she was ready for prime time, including college coaches who had her on their radar since she was in middle school.

While there’s no one of Smith’s stature in the front court this year, the team has good overall size, with a number of players in the upper reaches of the five-foot range. So who will take over some of the chores down in the paint?

“We have Cailin back,” Miller noted, “and the other forwards we have challenging for playing time are Meg Geatens, a junior who’s gotten spot duty the past couple years, and Carly Monzo and Regan Gallagher, who are sophomores.”

Another forward, sophomore Colleen Steinmetz, has come up from the junior varsity, as have a pair of guards, junior Adrienne Cellucci and sophomore Gen Hagedorn. Hagedorn had two older sisters play for the Magic and one of them, Elle (now a junior on the team at Harvard), was a league MVP.

Jones, a St. Philip grad, also has strong family ties to the program. Her older sister Courtney was a 1000-point scorer who went on to play for Boston University.

Little has changed on the Mount’s schedule. Once again the Magic will open the season in the tip-off tournament at Cedar Crest High School near Lebanon, Pa., and they’ll make their annual appearance at the Fellowship House holiday tourney in Conshohocken. In regular-season non-league action, familiar opponent Engineering & Science High School has been replaced by St. Hubert’s of the Catholic League’s northern division.

Last Wednesday another northern division club, two-time defending state champ Archbishop Wood, visited Mount St. Joe for a scrimmage. Wood graduated a strong senior class last spring, but the Vikings still played in the same tough, scrappy manner.

“We had a very physical scrimmage with them,” Miller related. “They’re a very talented program and it was a good eye-opener for us, and showed us some things that we probably need to improve on.

“Wood plays a very aggressive man-to-man defense the whole game,” he continued, “and we didn’t handle that as well as we wanted to. I’m sure the girls are disappointed with the number of turnovers we had, because we take a lot of pride in taking care of the basketball.”

The veteran coach added that, as usual, there’s not a lot of practice time to prepare before the official games begin.

“We haven’t had time to tinker or experiment with anything,” he said. “All we’re doing now is a lot of the things that we did last year, because the girls are familiar with it. A few days after the tip-off tournament we open our league with Villa Maria [always a formidable rival], and we have three more league games before Christmas.”

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