by Tom Utescher

The Lions of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy and the Magic of Mount St. Joseph were among the many girls basketball teams that went to work on Sunday at the Kobe Bryant Gymnasium in Ardmore, where Lower Merion High School staged its seventh annual Hoops for Hope Classic for the benefit of the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

Near the end of the morning’s agenda, SCH succumbed to a fourth-quarter rally by Archbishop Ryan, losing 33-26, and at the end of the afternoon the Mount won the Hoops for Hope finale, beating Bonner/Prendergast High School by a score of 55-45.

A number of college coaches were on hand to observe potential recruits, including Chestnut Hill College mentor Laura Pruitt, and former Germantown Academy superstar Laura Kurz, now in her first year as assistant coach at Lehigh University.

Springside (9-10 overall) gave a creditworthy performance, particularly when one considers the results that the Lions and Archbishop Ryan each produced against St. Hubert’s earlier in the season. Ryan beat the Bambies of St. Hubert’s, who in turn gave SCH a 64-32 thumping.

Of course, Lions head coach Steve Purcell knows many of the Ryan players pretty well; he’d been an assistant coach for the Ragdolls immediately prior to becoming the SCH skipper in 2011.

Purcell’s pride of Lions played a slow-paced, methodical game that resulted in a modest 14-14 halftime score. Freshman Lindsay Hiner got the scoreboard rolling by converting on a pair of offensive rebounds, and both she and senior Maddi Hinchey hoisted three pointers later on.

The Magic held Ryan’s senior sharpshooter, Kalene Coffey, to just two points over the first 20 minutes of action, but when she hooked up from the three-point line with 3:25 left in the third quarter, it would prove to be a bad omen. That bucket tied the game again, this time at 17-17, and the Ragdolls edged ahead, 20-19 by the conclusion of the period.

In the first minute of the final frame, the Lions went in front one last time when Hiner hit a trey from the right corner, but after that Ryan responded with two triples by Coffey and one by teammate Alison Szyszko. The Ragdolls fouled a good deal and SCH got into the double bonus with almost five minutes still remaining in the game, but the Lions only shot two-for-seven in the fourth quarter.

Ryan’s team depth began to show in the final stages, when most of SCH’s shortcomings were simply the product of fatigue. Coffey, whose list of possible college choices includes Chestnut Hill, finished with a game-high 13 points in the Ragdolls’ seven-point victory, and Szyszko added six.

Hiner led the Lions with 11 points and six rebounds, and five blocks were recorded for sophomore forward Olivia Byron, who scored two points. Senior guard Gianna Pownall, who was not quite herself following a hard first-quarter collision, finished with four points, as did junior forward Madi Sehn.

Prior to the SCH-Ryan game, the Classic had opened with a contest in which event host Lower Merion edged out Engineering & Science High School, 37-34. Right after the Lions played, fellow Girls Inter-Ac member Academy of Notre Dame, the league leader, squared off against defending PIAA Class AAAA champion Archbishop Carroll.

Notre Dame led much of the game, but left Drexel University signee Sarah Curran open for a shot in the final seconds. She tied the game for Carroll with a three-pointer, and the Patriots went on to defeat the Irish, 51-46.

Next up was an Episcopal Academy squad that had knocked off Springside Chestnut Hill earlier in the week. Facing 2012 Class AAA state champ Archbishop Wood, the Churchwomen had a much tougher time, especially when Villanova-bound center Megan Quinn got into foul trouble. They were only down a point at halftime (15-14), but their offense dried up in the third quarter and Wood won, 38-27.

After that, Friends Schools League leader Shipley School, the reigning Pa. Independent Schools champion, nipped North Penn High School, 38-36.

The Gators won on a buzzer-beating jumper by junior guard Tamesha “Sox” Alexander, a St. John’s recruit who is an AAU basketball teammate of the Mount’s Alex Louin.

North Penn, second to Central Bucks West in the Suburban One League Continental Division, is coached by Maggie deMarteleire, mother of former Chestnut Hill College coach Jackie deMarteleire.

Finally, Louin and the MSJ Magic took the court against Bonner/Prendergast. This is a combination school concocted from the old Monsignor Bonner boys’ school and all-female Archbishop Prendergast, and traditionalists still view the girls basketball squad as the Prendie Pandas. Small, quick, and deadly from the three-point line, the Pandas had pounded St. Hubert, 74-52, earlier last week, while at the beginning of January the Mount had a much closer five-point win over the Bambies.

A former faculty member at the old Bonner, MSJ coach John Miller told his team about Prendie’s long balls, but it still took his charges time to adapt to just how quickly the Pandas could speed to their spots on the arc and release the ball.

Starting out with an old-time three-point play from senior guard Adrienne Cellucci, the Mounties had Louin, junior forward Carly Monzo, and freshman guard Libby Tacka join in the scoring as they opened up a 10-2 lead in a little over four minutes. Prendie sophomore Alyssa Monaghan then plunked in the first of the Pandas’ eight three-pointers in the game. The Drexel Hill ballclub caught up quickly, and at halftime the teams were locked up at 25-25.

Monaghan’s sister Sarah, a junior who shares the three-point gene, struck from the loop to launch the second-half scoring, and two free throws from her sister made it 30-25 in favor of the Pandas. However, the Magic would limit Prendie to just two more treys the rest of the game, and the second one came with only 20 seconds to play – too late to matter.

With Louin penetrating and senior forward Meg Geatens scoring inside, the Magic ran off 11 straight points and led the rest of the way. A lay-up and free throw by Alyssa Monaghan got the Pandas back within three points (39-36) in the first minute of the fourth quarter, but Geatens, Louin, and Monzo widened the gap again. The Magic got into the foul bonus with 3:38 remaining, and proceeded to shoot eight-for-12 from the from the free throw line.

Guards Louin (six rebounds) and Tacka put up 20 and 11 points respectively. Exploiting a relatively rare height advantage down low, Monzo (four rebounds, four assists) and Geatens produced 10 points apiece for the 15-2 Magic. Aylssa Monaghan piled up a game-high 21 points for Prendie (10-4), and sister Sarah scored 11.

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