by Tom Utescher

On one day of its five-day run, Norwood Fontbonne Academy’s Snowball Tournament was suspended due to snowflakes, but after last Thursday’s storm the action resumed with some changes in the schedule.

Although the champions were determined by different means than in years past, the winners in 2018 were the same as in 2017, the boys of Penn Charter and the girls of St. Philip Neri School in Lafayette Hill.

The inclement weather caused the tournament bracket to be eliminated, and instead all of the games were prescheduled, with boys’ and girls’ titles decided by the teams’ win/loss records and tiebreakers, if necessary.

A 3-0 Snowball performance earned St. Philip the girls’ crown for the third year in a row. When Norwood’s own boys lost in the very last game of the tournament, PC and Our Mother of Consolation School (OMC) were left as the two undefeated squads, with records of 2-0. Point differential was the tiebreaker, and the Quakers’ 41-point combined margin of victory gave them the nod.

This was the 45th annual Snowball at Norwood, and it remains one of the best-run events of its kind. A professional announcer and DJ provided the sound, and there was a three-point shooting contest that ran throughout the event as well as a mini-clinic conducted by college players. There was also the Snowball’s rightly famous concession stand, operated by the tireless magnificent Moms of Norwood.

On Wednesday evening, the opening game of the tourney featured the defending girls’ champions from St. Philip Neri. The middle-school varsity from Springside Chestnut Hill Academy hung right with the Saints for one quarter, then SPN pulled away to win 34-18. Hannah Griffin led the winners with 10 points, while SCH received eight points from a fellow seventh-grader, Louie McIntyre.

Next, the boys of Andorra’s Immaculate Heart of Mary School (IHM) put up a 41-7 victory over the Norwood “Blue” team, essentially a varsity “B” team for NFA. Norwood got all its points from Thiago Casado Creamer, while Lucas Burns scored seven for IHM.

In Wednesday’s nightcap, Justin’s Moore’s 26-point performance helped power OMC’s 55-38 win over Holy Rosary (Plymouth Meeting), which received 20 points from Raymond Tomasetti.

All area schools were shut down on Thursday, and although many continued to be closed on Friday, the Snowball tourney was back open for business. In the afternoon, the girls from the host school made their debut against Germantown Friends’ middle school varsity.

Norwood had a 10-7 edge at halftime, and the Bears reinforced their lead after that to prevail 24-15. Alexa Hanson and Cadence Kelly of the GFS Tigers shared game-high scoring honors with five points apiece, while in NFA’s balanced offense, Katie Convey, Campbell Donovan, Emma Gelone, Ava Rossi and Alexis Ventresca each chipped in with four points.

After this contest, the grade school athletes on hand were instructed in a mini-clinic presented by the players and coaches of Division II Chestnut Hill College, located just down the road. The CHC Griffins routinely engage in numerous community service projects.

The game that followed was a barnburner involving the boys of Norwood and of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. Each squad was led by an eighth-grade stand-out, post player Sam Brown of the Bears, and guard Taye Edwards of the SCH Blue Devils.

From a 33-33 tie in the middle of the third quarter, Norwood appeared to take control and entered the fourth period with a 40-33 lead. A few minutes later SCH had trimmed its deficit to a single point, and then Edwards scored on a drive and a put-back to move the Blue Devils ahead, 48-45.

On two trips to the foul line, Norwood’s Brown hit one of his two shots each time, making it a one-point affair with eight-and-a-half seconds remaining. The Blue Devils tried to bring the ball upcourt, but the Bears created a tie-up and the possession arrow pointed Norwood’s way.

Now with four seconds left, NFA got the ball to eighth-grade guard Michael Quirk for a jumper from down near the left corner of the court.

The shot didn’t fall, but when the ball took a relatively short hop off the rim, Brown rose up from in front of the basket for a game-winning put-back right at the buzzer.

Brown led the Bears with 24 points in the 49-48 victory, while SCH’s Edwards recorded a game-high 28.

The action resumed on Saturday morning with a pair of boys’ contests.

Led by an 18-point effort by Mark Butler, Penn Charter logged a 56-39 win against St. Eleanor’s, of Collegeville. St. Eleanor’s received a dozen points each from Tomas Torres and Justin Klauder. In a closer contest, Keith Gee’s 32 point outburst led OMC over SPN, 51-46, with the Saints getting 14 points from Pat Flynn and 11 from Nick Artillio.

The girls of St. Philip fared much better in the following game, with a 37-8 victory over GFS featuring nine points from Erin Daley and seven from Angelina Balcer. Penn Charter’s girls were also convincing victors as 10 points from Kelsey Bess and eight from Kayla Bradby helped them to a 42-7 decision over Holy Rosary, which had Samantha Klug do all of its scoring.

In a male match-up, a dozen points from Tom Shelinsky and 10 from Taye Edwards helped fuel SCH’s 54-20 win over GFS, which had Julian Reese and Henry Zabierek put up seven and five points, respectively.

In a late afternoon boys’ bout, IHM hung in pretty well in the first half, trailing host Norwood 18-21 at the break. The Bears then pulled away behind a 39-point performance by Brown, who had little to check him once IHM’s tallest player, Henry Davis, fouled out late in the game with a team-high 13 points. Quirk collected nine points for NFA, and IHM picked up eight markers from Burns.

As on Friday, the competition on Saturday concluded with an all-Chestnut Hill battle between Norwood and SCH – this time the girls’ edition. SCH stayed close but the Lady Bears led at the end of each of the first three quarters, taking an 18-16 edge into the final period.

The Blue Devils’ Tatyana Hall tied the game at 20-all with 90 seconds remaining, then Alexa Rhodes deposited a back door lay-up off a great pass from Ava Chavez. Norwood had to foul three times to put SCH in the bonus, and although the Blue Devils could not add any more points on two one-and-one trips to the foul line, NFA also was unable to score again.

Springside Chestnut Hill won 22-20 with nine points from McIntyre and five from Chavez, while Norwood marked down seven points for Convey and six for Gelone.

While the tournament champion on the boys’ side couldn’t be determined until the last of Sunday’s five varsity games (and by that time, Penn Charter had already departed), St. Philip wrapped up the girls’ title in the first game of the day.

Going up by four points in the opening quarter and then doubling that lead by halftime, the Saints went on to defeat the PC girls, 41-29. SPN spread the points around; nine for Jordan Thomas, eight each for Daley and Chloe McGrotty and six apiece for Griffin and Maddie Shoup. Nyah Legette led the Quakers with a game-high 12 points, and Bess added seven.

Next came the swansong for the Norwood girls, who broke out to an 18-0 lead en route to a 28-12 victory against Holy Rosary. Recording six points apiece for the Bears were Convey, Donovan, Ventresca and Olivia Forti, while Klug collected half-a-dozen for the other side.

A bout between the boys of Holy Rosary and GFS proved competitive. Ahead 15-11 at the half, Holy Rosary added to its lead after that, but the final margin was still in single figures, 32-24. The offensive effort for the winners was spearheaded by Keith Gallagher, with 10 points, while the Tigers received seven apiece from Ben Goldberg and Jaden Palmer-Waldron.

Next, the eventual boys’ champs from Penn Charter charged to a 12-2 lead in their opening quarter against St. Philip Neri. The tally was 39-12 at the three-quarter mark, and with both teams employing their reserves, SPN made up a few points in the fourth frame for a 49-25 final.

Bryce Butler and Mark Butler each deposited 10 points for PC (which had 13 players score), and Tom Convey paced the Saints with eight.

In the concluding contest of the 2018 Snowball Tournament, NFA’s male Bears had a chance to finish with a 3-0 record and the title, but it was not to be. St. Eleanor’s scored the first seven points of the game, and although Norwood got back in it, the locals always seemed just a step behind their rivals and had trouble getting defensive stops when trying to rally.

It was 32-27 at halftime, then the Collegeville crew opened it up to 50-37 for the start of the fourth quarter. Brown led an NFA rally, and by the middle of the final period the Bears were back within six, 52-46. A little later, a three-pointer from the top of the key by Kevin Doerzbacher had the Bears within three points of the leaders, 54-51.

Two made free throws and a lay-up gave St. Eleanor’s some breathing room, and the gap was still seven points heading into the last minute (now 60-53). Brown put in a free throw to make it a six-point game, but the Bears had already started fouling themselves to keep their rivals from running out the clock.

Sandwiched around Michael Ciolko’s three-point bucket for NFA were two flawless one-and-one’s executed by St. Eleanor’s Kevin Green. This widened the gap to seven points once more (64-57), now with 17 ticks to go. Even when NFA’s Brown drove for the final field goal of the game, St. Eleanor emerged with a 64-59 decision that helped Penn Charter win the Snowball championship for 2018.

Brown rolled up a game-high 36 points for the Bears, and St. Eleanor’s had three players in double figures; Green (19), Klauder (11) and Brad Zielinski (10).