Norwood center Chloe Burns (left) goes up for a rebound over Springside Chestnut Hill’s Morgan Bender. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

Grade school basketball squads from around the area were in the spotlight most of last week at Norwood Fontbonne Academy, as the school presented its 40th annual Snowball Tournament on January 2-6. It’s no wonder the event has stayed around so long; from the awards ceremonies to the concession stand, the NFA community runs this 16-team competition much better than most high schools manage a four-team tourney.

Norwood’s own girls team made it to the championship game on Sunday, when they fell to Lafayette Hill’s St. Philip Neri School, 31-28. The boys from St. Philip defeated NFA in the semifinals to earn an appearance in the other title bout, but here St. Luke’s, from Glenside, came out on top by a score of 55-38.

Installments of a shooting contest were held at halftime of every game, as well. In the foul shooting competition, St. Philip’s Laurel Suchsland was the girls champion and the winner for the boys was Noel Franczyk of St. Genevieve’s in Flourtown. The top three-point shooter among the girls was Erin Moran of St. Philip’s, while the boys’ contest ended in a tie between Justin Anderson of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy and yet another St. Philip’s athlete, Sean Simon.

On Wednesday, the day after New Year’s, the Snowball started rolling with the first two games in the boys’ bracket. On Norwood’s brand new gym floor, Andorra’s Immacuate Heart of Mary School (IHM) overcame St. Gen’s, 56-46, and St. Luke’s rolled to a 56-11 victory over Holy Rosary School, from Plymouth Meeting.

The boys from Springside Chestnut Hill went into action the following evening, losing a nailbiter to St. Philip’s, 57-55. It was the first loss for SCH, but it was only the fourth outing for the Blue Devils, who were a little short on game experience compared to many of their rivals.

St. Philip came back from a 45-40 deficit with five minutes left to play, led by a 28-point performance by Sean Simon, while Cole McCabe finished with 18 for SCH.

Next up was the first girls contest of the 2013 Snowball, and here St. Philip romped to a 25-5 halftime lead before putting up a 41-17 final score against IHM. The roster for St. Philip, a CYO team, includes a pair of eighth-graders who also play for Norwood, Cara Celano and Audrey Hinchey. Laurel Suchsland scored a game-high 13 points in the team’s opening victory.

The next game was a seesaw battle, with the St. Gen’s girls overcoming an early deficit to lead 20-15 at the half, but then ultimately losing to resilient Conshohocken Catholic, 45-43. Conshy’s Maddie Ramin, who scored the winning lay-up with half-a-minute to go, rang up 28 points for the victors, and St. Gen’s got 19 from Molly Dugan.

Kicking off Friday’s schedule, the Holy Rosary girls got past St. Luke’s, 29-24. Shannon Sabia, sister of former Mount St. Joseph hoops and hockey standout Jen Sabia, scored 10 points for the winners.

After this the two Norwood teams swung into action, both winning easily. The girls started out against neighborhood rival SCH, bolting to a 17-4 lead in the first quarter on the way to a 53-28 triumph. Norwood center Chloe Burns poured in 27 points and Celano added 11 for the Bears, while the Lions were led by a 22-point effort by guard Mo’ne Davis, only a sixth-grader.

Against the Conshy Catholic boys, Norwood amassed a 26-4 advantage by the end of the opening period, and continued on to a final reckoning of 63-24. A well-balanced performance on offense by the tourney hosts included 13 points by Joseph Buzad, 10 by Matthew Quirk (a seventh-grader), and eight apiece from Michael Kelly and Cole Storm.

The teams that came out on the short end of first-round contests each got to play a second time in consolation games scheduled for Saturday. In the two boys’ games in this bracket, St. Gen’s jolted Holy Rosary, 66-21, and SCH conquered Conshohocken Catholic, 64-33. On the girls’ side, it was St. Gen over IHM, 37-19, and SCH shading St. Luke’s, 30-28.

The extensive agenda for Saturday also encompassed the semifinal bouts in the main draw, starting with a 55-42 victory for the St. Luke boys against IHM. Colin Flach ponied up 18 points for the winners, who got another 18 from Aidan Rich, while IHM’s Tyler Zwicharowski scored 13 in a losing cause. Advancing to face St. Luke in the finals were the lads of St. Philip, who got out to a 20-4 lead in the first quarter against the NFA Bears, and won the contest 54-38.

St. Philip had the gap up to 19 points several times before Norwood made some modest rallies, but the lead stayed in double figures the rest of the way for the Saints. Ronan Higgins, whose older brother Tom is a senior at Springside Chestnut Hill (’13), had a dozen points for the winners, and right behind was Luca Amoroso with 11. The Bears were led by Storm, with 12 points, and by Kelly, who netted his six points with a pair of three-point field goals.

The St. Philip girls also won in their semifinal match-up. Celano had 16 points and Alison Nowak scored nine for the victorious Saints as they prevailed 45-31 against Conshy Catholic, who received 11 points from Ramin.

Doing double-duty, Celano posted 11 points for the Norwood team in the other semifinal. Burns collected 10 points and eighth-grade classmate Grace Gelone had eight for the Bears, who scored the first 23 points of the affair and then coasted to a 36-16 win over Holy Rosary. Sabrina Forti, who got Holy Rosary on the board with 80 seconds remaining in the first half, finished with a dozen points.

In the girls’ championship game on Sunday morning, Celano and Hinchey were playing for Norwood, and not St. Philip’s. This gave other players for the Saints a chance to step up, and they did. Not scoring a field goal until almost 11 minutes had gone by, the Bears were fortunate to only be down 8-5 at halftime.

Norwood came out smoking in the second half, with transition lay-ups by Celano and Georgia Powell, and then a three-pointer by Celano that had the hosts ahead 12-8. St. Philip recaptured the lead thanks to their point guard Angela Gervasi and shooting guard Sophie Kolkka, who didn’t score in the first half but then netted 12 and nine points, respectively, after the break.

Norwood’s Gelone also came on after the intermission, when she chalked up all of her seven points in the game. St. Philip’s appeared to have the victory on ice with a 29-25 lead inside of 10 seconds remaining, but Gelone heaved up a successful three-pointer from just a few steps past midcourt. The Bears had to foul right away through, and Gervasi made good on a pair of free throws for a 31-28 win.

Celano had 10 points, Burns and Powell each finished with five, and Hinchey had one for Norwood, while St. Philip’s backed up Gervasi and Kolkka with three points apiece from Nowak and Cate McCreavy, and two each from Moran and Suchsland.

As the boys’ final got underway, St. Luke’s rode nine points from Flach (a guard) and seven points from center Aidan Rich (a formidable post player) to a 23-8 advantage at the quarter. St. Philip’s, which had won an earlier duel between the teams, never really got back in contention, missing a number of foul shots that could’ve helped that happen.

The Saints were back within 11 in the middle of the second period, but St. Luke’s pulled away again to go up 42-19 early in the third quarter. St. Philip’s made up some ground in the final period, when both teams had their reserves on the floor.

Flach and Rich deposited 20 and 12 points, respectively, for the winners, who also marked down eight points for Christian Surdykowski, seven for Owen Pighini, and six for Charlie Alcorn. Shane Flaherty posted St. Philip’s team high of 13 points, and the Saints received seven from Amoroso and four from Higgins. The runner-up team also got three points apiece from Simon and Owen Rocks, and two points each from Owen Leahy, Vincent Martina, Andrew Morris, and Joe Stoberl.