by Tom Utescher

Against a visiting Peddie School squad that certainly looked imposing in warm-ups, a relatively small Springside Chestnut Hill Academy ballclub hustled to a 7-4 lead in the first six minutes.

SCH sophomore Olivia Byron (left) struggles to get off a shot against Peddie School’s Chizi Onyekwere, a 6’3” senior. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

The Lions still led by that figure at the close of the first quarter in last Wednesday’s non-league encounter, but after that the Falcons stepped up their game and the home team couldn’t respond. From late in the opening frame until the third period was almost over, SCH scored just three points in a span of 17 minutes, and ultimately Peddie prevailed, 40-24.

On their home court a day earlier, the Lions had made a late run at Engineering & Science High School. A number of fourth-quarter free throws helped the home team almost erase a double-digit deficit entirely, but the visitors pulled out a 47-44 victory. Senior guard Gianna Pownall netted a game-high 23 points and backcourt companion Julia Schumacher, a junior, added nine.

That setback, coupled with Wednesday’s outcome, gave the Lions an overall mark of 1-5, while Peddie improved to 3-2. The Hightstown, NJ boarding school arrived in Chestnut Hill with an international cast; among the starters were 6’3” Chizi Onyekwere, who grew up in Nigeria, and guard Maggie Wu, from Kunming, China.

After several misses by each squad, a lay-up by Peddie’s Madison Skerritt opened the scoring almost two minutes in, but SCH senior Maddi Hinchey knocked down a three-pointer from the left wing and Pownall scored off of a steal for the Lions. Skerritt bagged a pair of free throws for the Falcons, then the scoring for the quarter concluded with a breakaway bucket by Schumacher that put the hosts up 7-4.

Peddie regrouped between periods. Onyekwere, who had let herself get trapped directly under the basket several times in the first quarter, positioned herself better and was able to use her size in the paint more effectively. The guards were more alert in handling the basketball, and two field goals moved the Falcons ahead for good, 8-7, with six-and-a-half minutes still to play before halftime.

After SCH called time-out with 4:01 left and the score 15-7, sophomore Olivia Byron made one of two free throws and Pownall drove for a transition lay-up, but this was all the scoring the Lions would do until late in the third quarter. Up 17-10 at the intermission, Peddie tacked on another 10 consecutive points as the second half unfolded.

The SCH offense finally showed signs of life with just over a minute remaining in the third period, when a rebound was converted into a lay-up by Pownall’s freshman sister, Marissa. Big sister Gianna followed her example and hit a three-pointer and a transition lay-up.

With Peddie’s Angela Glaser nailing a jumper at the buzzer, the Falcons took a 29-17 lead into the final round. The Lions got within 10 points at 31-21, but Peddie pulled away again after that as Skerritt finished with 14 points and Onyekwere put up 11. Gianna Pownall led SCH with nine points for the afternoon.

UPDATE: Arriving late at Friends Central for a Friday contest, Pownall scored 20 of her 24 points in the second half as SCH burned the host Phoenix, 57-46. Schumacher scored 12 points and freshman forward Lindsay Hiner had nine for the Lions.

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