Tamesha “Sox” Alexander of Shipley School (left) takes the ball out of reach of Mount St. Joe’s Alex Louin. The two juniors play AAU basketball together. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

The Mount St. Joseph Academy Magic continued to keep their fans perched right on the edge of their bleacher seats, following up come-from-behind victories over Villa Maria and Gwynedd Mercy with a non-league 36-35 win over visiting Shipley School last Saturday afternoon.

The two teams not only play in different leagues, but under different governing bodies. The Mount belongs to the Pa. Interscholastic Athletic Association and reached the second round of the 2012 state tournament, while the Shipley Gators, members of the Friends Schools League, are the defending PA. Independent Schools Athletic Association champions.

The link between the two is the Magic’s star junior guard, Alex Louin, a longtime member of a Philadelphia Belles AAU team that is piloted by Shipley coach Sean Costello and includes a number of Gators players.

Although Shipley guarded Louin well last Saturday and held her to three free throws during the game (with six rebounds and five steals), it was her final “make” from the foul line with five seconds to go that won the game for the Magic, who spent much of the afternoon recovering from a 6-14 shortfall in the first quarter. In earlier contests, the Mount had trailed Villa by 11 points in the third period and had lagged behind Gwynedd by four points in the final two minutes before rallying to win.

“It shows the girls have the character to win games like that,” noted MSJ coach John Miller. “On the other hand, we want to try and be ahead and not dig ourselves a hole like we did in those games.”

Over last summer Shipley lost talented forward Aja Ellison (daughter of the NBA’s Purvis Ellison) when she decided to transfer, and the Gators’ current line-up had been diminished by illness and injury when they arrived at the Mount last weekend.

Junior starting guard Asia Baker was knocked out by a flu bug that had swept the Bryn Mawr school, and freshman Courtney Redcross, a freshman forward who’d quickly earned sixth-man status, was sidelined with an ankle injury. Point guard Tamesha “Sox” Alexander was just getting over the flu and did not start, but played the rest of the game after she entered towards the end of the first quarter.

Shipley still brought a lot of talent to the court, and many times when a team is dealing with adversity there is a temporary adrenalin boost for the players that can carry them at least through a game or two.

Coach Costello, who’d been out sick himself, remarked “A lot of people stepped up. Anna Scutt [a sophomore guard] did a good job defending Alex, denying the initial look until we got help in behind her. Liz Denbigh [a junior guard] and Emily Talluto [a freshman guard] are girls who hadn’t been getting a lot of minutes and who gave us a lot of energy today.”

Players other than the usual standouts came through for the Mount, too.

Senior guard Courtney Jones, in her second game back following knee surgery, posted six points with a pair of three-pointers in the second half, and junior forward Colleen Steinmetz, called on to give the Magic a little more height on the floor, scored her half-a-dozen on inside shots.

“There are a lot of things with Shipley you need to guard and defend,” MSJ’s Miller pointed out. “Their two guards [Alexander and sophomore Nia Holland] take the ball to the basket very well, and obviously the 6’4” girl [sophomore Martine Fortune] presents problems.

Their shooting guard, [junior Colleen] Walsh, can hit the “three” from anywhere.”

Walsh gave the Gators their first six points of the day on a pair of treys, but quickly picked up two fouls as well. In the third quarter, Shipley’s Fortune and the Mount’s 5’10” “big girl”, junior Carly Monzo, picked up their fourth personal fouls less than 20 seconds apart. This opened the door for other performers, such as the Magic’s Jones and Steinmetz, and for Shipley’s Holland, who netted 10 of her game-high 14 points in the second half.

Over the course of the second quarter, Mount St. Joe trimmed an eight-point deficit down to four by halftime (18-14), and the visitors clung to a 27-25 edge at the end of the third quarter. Three-pointers by Jones and freshman Libby Tacka (five points total) helped the hosts pull even at 31-all, then Steinmetz scored inside for the first MSJ lead of the day.

Shipley edged ahead again, 35-33, but Tacka rebounded a teammate’s miss and scored for a 35-all tie with 1:20 remaining. After a Shipley time-out with 43 seconds left, the Gators turned the ball over with a walk on the inbounds play, and the Magic prepared for a final shot.

Firing from the left baseline, Louin was fouled and made the first of her two tosses with five ticks to go. Shipley only had time for one final fling by Alexander (five points total) from above the foul line, and the shot missed.

Senior forward Meg Geatens, only 5’7” and always encountering larger rivals, led the winners in both points (nine), and rebounds (seven). The Magic also got four points from Monzo, two from junior guard Gen Hagedorn, and one from sophomore guard Mary Kate Ulasewicz.

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