by Tom Utescher
Near the end of the first half of the Penn Charter’s hard court clash with Archbishop Ryan last Friday, Quakers junior point guard Hannah Fox couldn’t figure out why the contest was suddenly stopped. Neither PC nor the Ryan Ragdolls had called a time-out, and there was no injured player down on the court.
She was quickly let in on a secret that everyone around her had been keeping for some time; she’d been closing in on the 1000-point mark in career scoring, and now she had arrived. There was an uplifting celebration to mark the occasion, although at the end of the game it would be the Ragdolls who rejoiced after pulling out a 52-49 victory.
Three days earlier, Fox had been 16 points away from four figures when PC hosted an Inter-Ac League game against Germantown Academy, but a stingy GA defense only allowed her nine points all afternoon. After that, seven points were needed to reach the milestone – it seemed like a cinch as Charter took the floor against Ryan on a neutral court as part of GA’s Make-A-Wish Showcase last weekend.
Fox’s supporters grew a little worried when the first quarter expired without any scoring from the junior, who had begun to play varsity hoops while still in eighth-grade. Fox and just one spectator, her grandfather, Leon H. Fox, Jr., still didn’t know about the impending achievement. Just how much longer could they be kept in the dark?
Hope revived when Fox immediately drove for a lay-up at the start of the second quarter to give the Quakers an 8-7 edge. As the period progressed, she dribbled in to score two more field goals, brining her total to 999. When Ryan missed a shot at the other end, Fox was on the move in transition once more, going straight down the lane to deposit the lay-up that broke the 1000-point barrier. The clock showed one minute and 14 seconds remaining in the first half as she trotted back to midcourt and started to realize something out of the ordinary was happening.
She was surprised as the hoopla began, but others were well-prepared. Three of Fox’s longtime club basketball teammates, GA players Kendall Grasela, Erin Lindahl, and Lauren Oeth, proceeded onto the court to present her with flowers, commemorative cupcakes and hugs. Another former club colleague offering her congratulations was Archbishop Ryan’s Shannon Glenn.
Would the accomplishment have come harder, or more easily, if she had known about it beforehand?
“I don’t think it would’ve made a difference,” Fox responded. “I just come out to try to win every game. It was nice to have it as a surprise, though, because it was pretty exciting.”
She recalled a similar moment during her eighth-grade season, when Charter teammate Dee Thomas-Palmer (now a junior playing at Hosftra University) hit the 1000-point mark.
“That was memorable for me because she was just so happy and excited,” the Quakers guard said. “I thought, maybe one day I’ll be lucky enough to have that experience.”
After her eventful lay-up, Fox’s classmate and varsity teammate since eighth-grade, Ayanna Matthews, hit a free throw that put PC up 22-19. Nine seconds before the intermission, Ryan tied the game with its third three-pointer of the first half.
After scoring from the paint during the opening quarter, the Ragdolls were heating up on the perimeter, and this would be PC’s downfall. Ryan would toss in four more three-balls in the third quarter, and another three in the final period. A number of times, these long-distance shots erased small, hard-earned leads for the Quakers.
The second trey of the day by the Ragdolls’ Shayna Rodriguez tied the bout at 46-all with 4:21 remaining in the game. Another “three” for Ryan, this by Danielle Skedzielewski, was answered in kind by Charter senior Nicolette Napoleon, sending the game into its final two minutes knotted up at 49 apiece. From a little left of the top of the key, Rodriguez struck again, and the 52-49 final score was on the board with 1:42 still to go.
After a missed three-point attempt by PC and a time-out for Ryan with 52 seconds left, there were some miscues by the amped-up ball clubs. A Ragdoll stepped on the sideline with the ball to loose possession. Charter turned it over with an offensive foul, but then got it back through a steal by sophomore Alexis Hnatkowski. The Quakers had the ball poked loose by Ryan, and two girls from each side dove on the floor after it with eight seconds to go.
On the tie-up, the possession arrow pointed to Penn Charter. Napoleon tried another trey from the top of the key, but the shot didn’t fall, and the Ragdoll’s Skedzielewski was fouled as she grabbed the rebound with 3.9 seconds remaining. She would miss the first shot of the resulting one-and-one, but a final half-court heave by PC’s Fox missed the mark.
She finished with a game-high 17 points for the Quakers, who got 12 from Napoleon and nine from Matthews. Six points from sophomore Mireyah Davis and five from Hnatkowski rounded out PC’s total, while Ryan received 15 points from Rodriguez and 13 from Skedzielewski.
UPDATE: The Quakers got back in the win column the following day at the Make-A-Wish event. Taking a 34-29 lead into the fourth quarter, Charter pulled away smartly, beating Lower Moreland High School 50-31 to enter the holiday break with an overall record of 5-4.