by Tom Utescher
Last week the playoffs proceeded right in line with the seedings in the Lou Cappiella Summer Basketball League, as number two Mount St. Joseph Academy won its Monday night semifinal, and then fell to undefeated top seed Neumann Goretti High School in the championship game on Thursday.
In the semi’s the Magic eased past third-seeded Norristown High, 39-20, but three nights later the Saints were just too much for the Mount to handle, and they turned a 28-12 halftime advantage into a 43-26 victory.
Mount St. Joe was the two-time defending champion in the league, going undefeated both in 2011 and 2012.
Back in the final regular-season game of the 2013 campaign, the Mount had to go into overtime in order to defeat Norristown High School. When the two teams met again in last Monday’s semifinals it was a different story, as the Magic bolted to an early double-digit lead and Norristown never recovered. The Mount led 20-7 at the half and cruised in from there.
A baseline jumper by sophomore Sarah Wills opened the scoring for the evening, then three straight field goals by junior Emily Carpenter were followed by a three-pointer from the left wing by sophomore Libby Tacka. A successful drive down the lane by junior Mary Kate Ulasewicz gave the Mounties a 13-0 advantage before Norristown senior Briana Hedgepeth hit a lay-up to put the Eagles on the board with under eight minutes remaining in the first half.
With two minutes left, Norristown was back within eight points of the leaders at 15-7, but Mount St. Joe put together a 9-0 run that bridged the first and second periods. During this stretch sophomore Caitlin Morrissey contributed a free throw, and the other eight points were all down to Ulasewicz, who hit a three-pointer, a baseline shot, a lay-up, and a free throw.
With Tacka bagging two more three-point field goals, the Magic had little trouble maintaining a comfortable lead the rest of the way.
She finished with nine points, while Carpenter and Ulasewicz each totaled 10. Wills wound up with six points, and fellow sophomore Kristen Lucas had three points for the night. Hedgepeth had a game-high 15 for the Eagles.
In the other semifinal, Neumann Goretti routed fourth-seeded Radnor High School, 53-16, and the Saints advanced to Thursday’s championship game looking to record their third win of the season over MSJ.
In one of the regular-season meetings, Neumann Goretti had overcome the Magic even when the locals had all three of their returning starters at the game. That wasn’t the case for last week’s final, when the only one of the three who turned out was Tacka.
She would lead the Magic with 10 points on the night, but Mount St. Joe was never really in this game once the Saints scored the first seven points and proceeded to a 19-4 lead in a little over six minutes. Two Tacka free throws got the Magic on the board three minutes into the action and the sophomore hit a lay-up soon after that, but the Mounties didn’t score another field goal until just over two minutes remained in the opening period.
Big, strong, and fast, Neumann Goretti led 28-12 at the half and then opened the second stanza with an 11-2 surge. The rest of the way the Magic picked things up a bit on the offensive end and did a better job of resisting the Saints’ defensive pressure. Still, Neumann Goretti was up 43-18 before the Mount chalked up the final eight points of the game.
Tacka’s output was supplemented with four points apiece from Carpenter, Lucas, and senior Gen Hagedorn, and two apiece from Morrissey and senior Jenny Geatens.
Leading the champions with 18 points was 5’9” junior guard Sianni Martin, whose effort was backed up by seven points apiece from seniors Ella Awobajo and Tanesha Sutton, and six from Alicia Kebbe.
During this rainy summer, the majority of the league contests were played in the small gymnasium at Roxborough’s Kendrick Rec Center, instead of on an outdoor court, as intended. League commissioner Brian Morris, former coach for both Springside School and Chestnut Hill College, announced to the crowd at the championship game that two entirely new outdoor courts are to be built at Kendrick, and should be ready for use next summer.