Norwood’s Zahir Booker (right) is guarded by another high-scoring player, Shane Dooley of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

Norwood’s Zahir Booker (right) is guarded by another high-scoring player, Shane Dooley of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

The boys of Holy Cross and the girls of St. Genevieve’s had each finished second in the Norwood Fontbonne Academy Snowball Tournament last year, and in the 2015 edition of the grade school gathering, each of those teams was able to take the final step needed to emerge as champions.

The 42nd annual Snowball tourney ran from Wednesday to Sunday last week, and followed tradition by being a very-well orchestrated event, featuring an appearance by the Phillie Phanatic, a mini-clinic conducted by the Philadelphia University women’s basketball team, and Norwood’s renowned top-drawer concession stand.

A Holy Cross squad featuring impressive size and speed powered through the boys’ bracket, knocking off the middle school varsity team from Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, 51-36, in Sunday’s championship game. The big man for Holy Cross, Cherif Knox, dominated the paint to score 24 points, and guard Jacor Smith added 10 points for the winners. Shane Dooley, SCH’s high scorer overall this season, had 13 points in Sunday’s final.

St. Gen’s worked its way through to face the host Lady Bears of Norwood in the girls championship bout, and got by NFA in a tight battle, 46-40. All reaching double figures for the champions were Julianna Kratz (14 points), Caitlin Iadonisi (12) and Grace Barraclough (10). Maddie Burns had 15 points and Kara Kniezewski scored 14 for NFA.

The tournament opener on Wednesday afternoon was a bit of a mismatch, with Springside Chestnut Hill rolling over the boys of Visitation BVM, 45-5. The Blue Devils spread the scoring around, with Dooley and Patrick Elliott leading the bunch with eight points apiece, while Mason Banks added five.

The next game was not quite as lopsided, but the Penn Charter middle school boys still won comfortably, 63-38, over St. Gen’s. Dylan Topaz led all scorers with 16 points, netting a pair of three-point field goals along the way, while Titus Beard included three three-pointers in his 13-point total. Pat Gabor led St. Gen’s with 12 points on the night.

A girls’ game rounded out the first day of Snowball competition, and here the Immaculate Heart of Mary squad (IHM) ran past the “B” team from St. Philip Neri, 44-9. Abigail Schuster led a list of eight scorers for the winning side, netting 13 points, while Jessica Paladino accounted for all of St. Philip’s points in the contest.

Our Mother of Consolation took to the court at the start of Thursday’s schedule, downing the boys’ team from Holy Rosary, 55-37. Brandon Campbell’s game-high 18-point showing was supported by 10-point performances from both Kahlil Diarrah and Darryl Vaughn, while a dozen points by Rocco Mazzei topped the list for the losing team.

Holy Cross handled the IHM boys in the next game, 64-30, thanks in part to Knox (17 points), Smith (11), and Cameron Walker (10). IHM received eight points apiece from three players, Anthony Straface, Christian Argentieri, and Brian Grady.

In the girls’ nightcap on Thursday the St. Philip “A” team made little runs at St. Gen’s throughout the contest, but the Flourtown team never relinquished the lead it acquired in the early minutes, winning 44-31. Kratz guided the St. Gen’s offense and posted a game-high 17 points, and Rileigh Serroni added a dozen points for the victors. St. Philip “A” was paced by a 15-point effort from Sarah Dilello.

Friday evening’s action commenced with Penn Charter receiving 11 points from Beard and 10 from Jack Forrest in a 54-34 triumph against St. Philip. Leading the Lafayette Hill squad was Justin LaBrusiano, with eight points.

Next up, tournament host Norwood tackled nearby rival SCH, which was on fire from the perimeter and seized a 16-5 lead in the first quarter. The NFA Bears recovered to keep pace with the Blue Devils in an 8-8 second period, but they never made up for their early shortfall. SCH took a 48-31 decision thanks in part to 15-point efforts from both Dooley and Cole McNeil. Norwood’s Zahir Booker led all scorers with 19.

Once again, a girls’ game wrapped up the day’s proceedings. Norwood got an outstanding effort from Kniezewski, who popped in three three-point shot and amassed a game-high 23 points. Burns added 11 points as the Lady Bears turned a 22-16 halftime lead into a 40-25 win. For the second straight game Schuster was IHM’s leading scorer, with six points on the night.

Penn Charter’s run in the boys’ main draw ended on Saturday morning, when the Quakers couldn’t quite keep up with Holy Cross in a semifinal contest. Holy Cross got 17 points from Smith, 14 from Knox, and 15 from Keshaun Hammonds in its 59-52 win. Charter really spread things around on offense, with Forrest emerging as team high scorer with eight points.

Just before that game, St. Gen’s won 54-17 in a boys’ consolation contest with Visitation. A rollcall of eight St. Genevieve scorers was headed by David Kratz and Griffin Caulfield, with 11 and 10 points, respectively, while Matt Sergio summoned up six points for Visitation.

After PC and Holy Cross clashed, another boys’ consolation game had IHM following Brian Grady’s 16-point performance to a 41-30 victory over Holy Rosary, which was paced by 10 points from Mark Martinelli.

Due to the lack of a full draw of girls’ teams, the St. Philip “A” team ladies played in two consolation-round bouts on Saturday. In the morning, they defeated their own “B” squad, 50-17. Dilello posted 15 points and Meghan DiGiacomo had 13, while Kate Moran led the B’s with six points. Dilello also scored a game-high 15 points that afternoon, when St. Philip won a much closer encounter with IHM, 31-26. Lexi Petrakis added eight points for the winners, and IHM was fueled by 10 points from Ceara Grady and nine from Schuster.

Advancing to meet Holy Cross in the boys’ final on Sunday morning would be Springside Chestnut Hill, which took a 64-47 decision over OMC on Saturday night. Breaking out of a 7-7 tie in the middle of the first quarter, the Blue Devils rolled to a 42-18 halftime lead behind 20 points from Dooley. Coming out pressing and trapping in the third quarter, OMC got back within a dozen points of the leaders, then SCH drew away again as the Consolation crew became weighed down by foul trouble. Dooley’s scoring pace slowed but he still came away with 25 points, and Keshawn Williams chipped in with 12. Campbell would register a game-high 26 points on behalf of OMC.

Norwood seventh grader Maddie Burns (right) brings the ball upcourt against Julianna Kratz of St. Gen’s.  (Photo by Tom Utescher)

Norwood seventh grader Maddie Burns (right) brings the ball upcourt against Julianna Kratz of St. Gen’s. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

The last item on Saturday’s schedule was the boys third-place game between Norwood and St. Philip. NFA eked out a 15-13 halftime lead, with Booker scoring seven points for the Bears. By the three-quarter mark Norwood was in a stronger position, leading 32-22, but St. Philip chipped away in the fourth period and tied the game at the buzzer, 41-41, on a three-pointer that was banked in by Justin LaBrusiano from the left wing.

The Bears reasserted themselves in the three-minute overtime session that followed, when Booker bagged three field goals and one free throw. Two foul shots by Clark Style and one by Dominic Patete rounded out the 10-0 OT for Norwood, which prevailed 51-41.

Booker rang up a game-high 20 points and Style came on to score all of his nine points after halftime. In the losing cause, St. Philip marked down 11 points apiece for LaBrusiano and Matt Ashenfelter, and nine for Jack Myers.

The next morning brought a boys’ final featuring Holy Cross, which came in with a record of 23-4, and Springside Chestnut Hill, which was 7-2. Ultimately, there was just too much of Holy Cross’s 6’4” Knox for the Blue Devils to handle, as the big post player rebounded relentlessly and chalked up a game-high 24 points.

The Devils’ Dooley recorded the first field goal of the game, but Holy Cross quickly took over the lead with a 6-0 run that sandwiched two Knox baskets around one by Smith. Seeing the floor well and doing most of its scoring in transition, Holy Cross led 14-5 by the end of the first quarter, then the teams exchanged points in the second period to arrive at a 24-15 halftime tally.

SCH’s Dooley had committed two personal fouls in the first period, and picked up a third about two minutes before halftime. The Blue Devils never went away entirely, but they were unable to bring their deficit down any lower than 10 points in the second half.

Knox had scored 16 points over the first two quarters, and after the intermission Holy Cross got more players involved in the offense. Smith joined Knox in double figures with 10 points on the day, while Delonce Hines had seven. Hammonds and Travis Coleman added four points each, and Jarod Thompson scored two.

Dooley led the losing cause with 13 points, and SCH got five points apiece from Elliott and McNeil, and four each from Jack McDonald and Marvin Harrison. Jahli Hendricks furnished three points for SCH and Banks had two.

The Norwood girls’ win against IHM two nights earlier had been the Lady Bears’ first victory in seven outings up to that point. A better-tested St. Gen’s group carried a 16-4 mark into the Snowball girls championship game. The Flourtown team went out to an early lead, but an eight-point outburst from Burns helped create a 14-10 lead at the quarter for the Bears, who received two field goals from Aidin McPhilemy.

St. Gen’s came back to go ahead by a point late in the second quarter, but Kniezewski deposited a short jumper for the hosts and Norwood had a 19-18 edge at halftime. The teams’ situation was reversed at the end of the third round, when the last shot was a 15-footer by Kratz that sent St. Gen’s into the fourth quarter with a one-point lead, 31-30.

Kratz canned a three-pointer at the start of the final period, and when forward Grace Barraclough added a lay-up, Norwood had to call a time-out, trailing 30-36 with 5:35 left to play. However, over the next three minutes the Bears’ situation worsened, as they fell behind by eight points, 33-41.

Mary Kate Ciolko touched off an NFA rally by making a short bank shot and then a three-pointer. After a St. Gen’s time-out with 1:10 remaining, Norwood’s Burns matched a field goal by St. Gen’s Serroni to make it 43-40 with half-a-minute to play. The visitors failed to find the net on three straight free throws, but on the last miss in the series Barraclough grabbed the rebound and went back up to score. The tally was now 45-40, and St. Gen’s Iadonisi would score the last point of the day from the foul line with 2.8 seconds on the clock.

For the winners, the output of the three double-digit scorers Kratz, Iadonisi and Barraclough was supplemented by eight points from Serroni and two from Sydney Hannings. In addition to Burns and Kniezewski’s combined 29 points for the Bears, Norwood had Ciolko and McPhilemy chip in with seven and four points, respectively.