by Tom Utescher

SCH senior Alexis Giovinazzo (right) brings the ball upcourt against Kathleen Fitzpatrick of Notre Dame. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

On January 6, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy lost a basketball bout at the Academy of Notre Dame by a single point, thanks to a last-second free throw by the Irish.

There were no such theatrics in the rematch between the teams last Tuesday, and that was a credit to the SCH Lions, who led by as many as 18 points before the scoreboard came to rest at 52-39. The outcome balanced the Lions’ Girls Inter-Ac League record at 5-5 with rematches against Baldwin School and Episcopal Academy remaining on the schedule.

It was the second time in three days that the local ballclub had avenged a loss from the first round of league games; on Sunday, January 29, the Lions had knocked off Penn Charter, 47-40. In two non-league tilts that followed the Notre Dame clash last week, the Lions won New Jersey road games against Lawrenceville School, 59-43, and Paul VI High School, 55-35, coming away with an overall record of 11-13.

Back in the middle of January, SCH had been 2-4 in the Inter-Ac and 6-11 overall.

“I told the girls that it was a credit to them that they kept working hard in practice and kept believing in themselves,” said first-year coach Steve Purcell. “I’m glad it eventually paid off for them.”

Even during a rough first round of Inter-Ac contests, Springside Chestnut Hill had a second-half lead in every outing.

Recently, Purcell said, the difference has been “Consistency. We didn’t let up, and that was key.”

Notre Dame (10-11, 5-4 after Tuesday) doesn’t really have anyone who matches up well with the Lions’ 6’1” Michelle Boggs, and the senior rang up 22 points in the game over at Notre Dame. This time, she pulled down 16 rebounds and had a more modest point total of 10, but the team didn’t need for her to shoulder as much of the scoring load.

“We had Gianna back,” said Purcell, referring to junior guard Gianna Pownall, who had been sidelined with an injury for the first Notre Dame game. “She gives us another dimension, another player who can hit the jumper and also go to the hoop. Also, Sydni [Epps, a six-foot senior guard] has been playing some of her best ball these last couple games.”

Epps scored a game-high 22 points and grabbed five rebounds against the Irish, while Pownall put in a dozen points and distributed four assists. Sophomore point guard Julia Schumacher and senior forward Elana Roadcloud contributed four points apiece. Roadcloud had a fairly quiet afternoon after big games against Germantown Academy and Penn Charter, and it’s actually a positive sign for SCH that a variety of different players have been stepping up when the team needs them.

On Tuesday, three-point field goals by Epps and Pownall helped power the hosts to an 11-9 first-quarter lead over the Irish, who got seven early points from junior Megan McGurk. In round two Epps added another trey and Boggs scored twice in the paint, and at the intermission the Lions owned a double-digit advantage, 25-14.

In the third round SCH extracted seven points from the foul line (where they shot a passable 21-for-32 as a whole) and gained more separation from the visitors, taking a 38-20 lead into the final quarter. A late run by the Irish narrowed the gap to 10 points in the final minute before the Lions tacked on the last three points of the game.

Two days later at Lawrenceville the Lions doubled up the Lady Larries in the first quarter, 24-12. The score tightened up to 32-26 by halftime, but after the break SCH pulled away again to win by 16 behind 20 points and four rebounds from Epps. Boggs (10 rebounds) and Roadcloud (four rebounds) each scored 10 points, and Pownall (three assists) had nine.

Instead of watching countless hours of football pre-game shows on Sunday, the Lions crossed the Ben Franklin Bridge for an early afternoon outing at a Hammonton, N.J. showcase called the Hoop Mountain Classic. Their opponent, Paul VI from Haddonfield, didn’t have to travel far, but the Eagles found they’ve got a long way to go if they want to stay with SCH on the basketball court.

Ahead 19-10 after the opening quarter, the Lions more than doubled their lead in a 12-2 second round. The lead peaked at 30 points before Paul VI made up some ground in the fourth period for a final spread of 20. Boggs led the charge with 19 points, followed by Epps, with 13, and Roadcloud, with 12.

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