by Tom Utescher
Mount St. Joseph Academy parent Ted Hagedorn, who has coached the last three championship teams in the Philadelphia/Suburban Women’s NCAA Summer Basketball League, is back among the final four in the playoffs again this year.
Hagedorn’s Team Gold, with almost an entirely different roster from his Lime Green squad that took the 2012 title, posted a 57-46 victory in last Thursday’s quarterfinal round of games, knocking out a sixth-seeded Purple squad that includes 2013 Germantown Academy graduate Kiernan McCloskey.
The only returning player from the group guided by Hagedorn in 2012 is his daughter, Elle, a Mount alum who graduated from Harvard University in May. This summer she’s playing alongside a pair of 2012 Mount St. Joe grads, Bridget Higgins and Maddie Kohler. Both are currently playing college ball, Higgins at the University of Pittsburgh and Kohler at St. Mary’s College in Indiana.
Seeded third for the eight-team summer league tournament, Team Gold got through the first stage but won’t find it easy to make it back to the finals this week. Their semifinal opponent is the White team, which is seeded one spot higher and which defeated Gold head-to-head, 67-51, back on July 9.
The most significant feather in the Gold girls’ cap is a 68-61 regular-season victory over top-seeded Hunter Green. Hunter is lined up in the other semifinal against Team Maroon, staffed mainly by players from the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. UScienes is a Division II program that is a member of the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference along with Chestnut Hill College and two other Philly schools, Philadelphia University and Holy Family University.
Prior to the start of the league tournament with last Thursday’s quarterfinals, Team Gold stumbled in its final regular-season outing on Tuesday evening, falling by a count of 55-49 to Team Red, the fifth seed for the playoffs. For teams that ended up ranked in the last five places in the 13-team league, Tuesday was the end of the line.
That proved to be the case for Team Black, which is driven by a band of Philly U. players that includes 2011 GA grad Monica Schacker. Another former Patriot, Fran Sweeney (2013), played for a Royal Blue team that also missed the cut for the postseason in the NCAA League.
The first result from the last night of regular-season play was known well beforehand, since the Royal Blue team that includes GA’s Sweeney (who is going on to Emory University) phoned in a forfeit to Hunter Green. Hunter, which features two former Girls Inter-Ac stars from the Academy of Notre Dame, entered the playoffs ranked first with an 11-1 record.
Team White was also 11-1, but they had lost to Hunter, 66-60, back on July 10. The league’s first tiebreaker between teams with identical records is the result of their head-to-head meeting.
Going into their regular-season finale on Tuesday, neither Team Gold nor their Team Red rivals could move up or down in the standings, regardless of the outcome. Even if third-place Gold had won and number two White had lost to give both franchises records of 10-2, White would get the higher seed because of its aforementioned victory over Gold. Likewise, even with the loss that produced a 9-3 record on Tuesday, Gold was still ahead of number four Maroon, which had a bye that evening and was already locked in with a mark of 8-4.
Red’s victory also made them 8-4, but they could not move up out of fifth because they had lost to Maroon earlier in the season. If both Red and sixth-place Purple had each ended up at 7-5, which was a possibility, Red still would’ve been fifth because it owned the tiebreaker over Purple.
Composed mostly of athletes from Division III University of Scranton, Red received some much-needed height in the league draft when it was dealt a pair of Lafayette College players, six-foot Kelly Loughney and 6’3” Emily Homan.
Both of them had played for Coach Hagedorn’s league championship team back in 2011, as had Team Red point guard Lindsay Fluehr. Fluehr, now halfway through her tenure at Scranton, is an old Mount St. Joe adversary from Nazareth Academy.
Five early points from Homan staked Red to a 7-3 lead three minutes into the game, but Gold charged back with six straight points from 5’11” guard Natasha Cloud (Cardinal O’Hara/St. Joseph’s U.), who hit a lay-up and a free throw, followed by a three-pointer. She would emerge as Gold’s leading scorer, even though all of her 11 points came in the first half. The period ended with her squad ahead, 25-21.
With St. Joseph’s post player Sarah Fairbanks starting to score inside and with a three-pointer and a shorter jumper from Swarthmore’s Jessica “Rowdy” Jowdy, Gold spread the score to 34-26 four minutes into the second period. Led by Homan and Fluehr, Red began chipping away at its deficit until the margin was down to just a single point (39-38) and Gold called a time-out with 5:08 left in the game.
A traditional three-point play crafted by Homan moved Red ahead for the first time since the opening phase of the contest, and subsequently the teams were tied at 43 and 45-all. Team Red took the lead for good with a lay-up by Homan, and Fluehr backed that up with two made free throws with 29 ticks on the clock.
Gold got one point back on a foul shot by Fairbanks to make it 49-46, then two perfect one-and-one performances by Homan boosted the lead to seven points with 11 seconds left. Gold appeared to have one last gasp remaining when Elle Hagedorn hooped a three-point shot from the right flank with six seconds to go, but then a flawless one-and-one by Scranton sharpshooter Jaclyn Gantz sealed the victory for Red.
Gantz had made three treys earlier in the evening and finished with 11 points, while Homan led all scorers with 18 points and Fluehr put up 13.
Close behind Cloud in scoring for Gold, Fairbanks finished with 10 points and Hagedorn had nine. Jowdy came away with seven points and MSJ grad Kohler contributed five.
On the courts to either side of the Red-Gold encounter, Team Black and Team Kelly Green were playing different opponents while vying with each other for the last berth in the eight-team playoff bracket. Black had a tough task in facing Team White, but even with a loss, they could join the postseason party as long as Kelly Green also went down to defeat. Following that scenario, both teams would’ve had 4-8 records and Black would’ve gotten the nod thanks to its win over Kelly exactly a week earlier.
Black indeed ran into trouble in what proved to be its final game, as confident, second-ranked White quickly separated themselves by double digits and kept on rolling. In the 82-52 victory, the winners marked down 22 points for Jasmine Elum (Bodine H.S./Bethune-Cookman) and 20 for former Holy Family star Catherine Carr. GA grad Schacker ended her summer season with a team high 11 points, and 10 points were added by a former Catholic Academies athlete, Villa Joseph Marie’s Mary Newell.
Meanwhile, three more products of the Academies League were helping Kelly Green (mostly Holy Family players) dash the playoff hopes of Team Black. In a 62-54 win over Orange (2-10), Kelly Green received 16 points from Erin Fenningham and nine from Mary Ellen McCollum, both from St. Basil’s, and 14 points from Villa Joe alum Carolyne Heston.
In the quarterfinal round two nights later, number six Team Purple found it tough to stop the 6’2” Fairbanks from the Gold team. She led all scorers with 21 points while Cloud came away with 10. Former Mounties Hagedorn (five points) and Higgins (three points) each canned a three-point field goal in the winning cause.
GA alum McCloskey ended her summer season with an 11-point effort for the Purple pack. That allowed her to share team-high honors with guard Megan Gallagher, a former St. Basil’s player who now has one more year with the team at DeSales University.
In other quarterfinals action, Hunter Green rolled past Kelly Green, 85-64, as Notre Dame grad Kathleen Fitzpatrick and former Archbishop Carroll standout Erin Shields each booked five three–point field goals and a total of 19 points. Shields has one more year left at St. Joseph’s University, while Fitzpatrick will be a new arrival on Hawk Hill next month. St. Basil alums McCollum and Fenningham scored 19 and 16 points, respectively, in Kelly Green’s swansong.
White whipped number seven Sky Blue (chiefly West Chester University athletes), 61-39, as Carr collected 16 points and a team-high 17 was credited to Abington High alum Emily Lear, who is halfway through her tenure at Villanova. White’s defense contained one of the league’s top scorers, Sky’s Brittany Sicinski (Downingtown West), holding her to just eight points.
In the tussle involving the fourth and fifth seeds, Maroon recorded its second win of the summer over Team Red, this time prevailing by an even dozen, 60-48. The winners were led by Brianne Traub, a USciences guard who regularly beats up on Chestnut Hill College in collegiate competition. Forward Sarah Payonk, who is entering the University of Scranton after helping Spring Ford High School win the Class AAAA state championship, scored 16 points in the final appearance for Red.