SCH senior Nya Searight (right) goes up to grab a rebound against Notre Dame’s Maggie Pina. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

Leading much of the way in last Friday’s home game, the girls of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy chalked up an Inter-Ac victory over the second-place team in the league standings. Two juniors, Caroline Clark and Mo’ne Davis, scored 16 points apiece as the Blue Devils downed the Irish of the Academy of Notre Dame, 50-44.

Drawing a lot of foul calls against the visitors and already reaching the double bonus late in the third quarter, SCH scored its final five points from the free throw line as it improved to 6-5 in the league (12-10 overall).

Notre Dame had been the last league squad with a chance of catching undefeated Germantown Academy, but the outcome at Springside Chestnut Hill knocked the Irish out of the running. With a 78-48 win over visiting SCH on Tuesday of last week, GA attained a 10-0 record in the league with two games remaining. With that, the Patriots could not possibly finish with more than two Inter-Ac losses, while SCH handed the Irish (8-3) their third league defeat on Friday.

“I’m proud of these ladies – we needed this,” said SCH head coach Flo Hagains, whose team had fallen to the Irish on the road in January. “When we played at Notre Dame, it was a day when we couldn’t hit the backboard. Our Achilles heel this season has been the third quarter, but today we didn’t let it get away from us in the third quarter when they started to come back.”

With their victory, the Devils gave themselves a chance to tie for third place in the final standings with Episcopal Academy, which ended last week at 6-4 with two games remaining. One of the games EA has left is a rematch against GA (which won the first meeting by 26 points at Episcopal), while the final opponent for the Blue Devils is struggling Baldwin School.

Barring any major upsets, SCH and Episcopal would both finish 7-5, while even a loss to GA in their final contest would assure the Notre Dame Irish of a second-place finish at 8-4. The Patriots topped the Irish 57-35 in January, and the third league team which has defeated Notre Dame thus far is Penn Charter, which completed its Inter-Ac League campaign last week with a 5-7 mark.

Before Friday’s contest, the host Blue Devils gave a ceremonial send-off to 12th-graders Joelle Bridges, Destiny Rogers and Nya Searight. Rogers had decided to attend Towson University next year, while her two classmates are still mulling over their college choices.

Coach Hagains remarked, “I was very happy to see our seniors play hard on their Senior Night.”

Notre Dame had problems getting its offense in gear, and midway through the first quarter SCH owned a 5-0 advantage resulting from a lay-up and a three-point field goal by Clark. The Irish pulled even at 5-5, then Bridges hit a “three” from the left wing and Rogers and Searight each scored from the paint to help the hosts take a 12-5 lead into the second quarter.

Notre Dame, which likes to shoot the three-ball, wasn’t having success from the perimeter. The Blue Devils were getting out to obstruct some of these attempts, but the Irish simply missed some other shots on open looks.

Junior Caroline Clark of the Blue Devils (right guards) Emma Kichula of Notre Dame. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

In the second stanza, Notre Dame junior Maggie Pina did get dialed in for a pair of three-pointers, and Notre Dame led midway through the period, 15-14. SCH would score the last seven points of the half, though, starting with two made free throws by Searight and one by Clark. In the final minute, a series of SCH shots and rebounds in the paint ended with Davis making good on a lay-up from under the rim.

It looked like the visitors might have the last shot of the half, but they turned the ball over out of bounds with eight seconds to go. The Blue Devils inbounded to Davis, who drove in to deposit a runner and set her team up with a 21-15 halftime lead.

Springside Chestnut Hill didn’t score a field goal in the third quarter until near the end of the period, but the Devils drew fouls that allowed them to remain ahead. It got close a few minutes in, after the score seesawed up to 23-17. Notre Dame junior guard Mandy McGurk hit a lay-up and then immediately stole the ball back and scored again.

That made it 23-21 and forced an SCH time-out two minutes into the new half. After Clark netted the second of two free throws, Davis went four-for-five and Searight went two-for-three at the foul line to keep the home team just a step ahead.

The second of the trips to the line for Davis resulted from a 10th Notre Dame team foul, putting the Blue Devils into the double bonus with two minutes still remaining in the third quarter. After this, a short jumper by Irish junior forward Emma Kichula made it a one-point affair at 30-29, but SCH went into the final round with a little breathing room after Davis drained a trey from the top of the key to make it 33-29.

That advantage disappeared before the fourth quarter was two minutes old, as Notre Dame’s Pina put in two free throws and then scored in transition off of a steal to tie things up at 33-all.

A little later, the score was knotted up at 35-35, and then at 39-39 with three-and-a-half minutes left to play. However, Kichula had fouled out of the game, and without her Notre Dame was at even more of a disadvantage in the paint against the Blue Devils’ strong seniors, Searight and Rogers.

Although SCH would lose Bridges to a fifth foul and Allie Lynch of the Irish made two free throws because of it, this came during a 6-2 spurt for the Blue Devils that consisted of a trey by Clark, a Searight free throw and a converted offensive rebound by Rogers.

Just before entering the final minute with a 45-41 edge, Springside Chestnut Hill’s Hagains called a time-out.

“I wanted to let them get some wind and get some water,” she said. “We needed to deal with the screens and double-screens Notre Dame setting, to fight through them instead of going around them. I also told them that we were in control of the game, and it was up to them if they were going to keep control, or give it away.”

On an SCH miss, the ball ended up going out of bounds off of an Irish player, and then Clark was fouled and made both free throws for a 47-41 tally with 44 seconds remaining. With half-a-minute left, the visitors tightened the score to 47-44 with a three-ball that rattled in after McGurk launched it from the right flank.

Coach Hagains related, “We opened up the floor and let Mo’ne find people, because we still had the lead and had them in foul trouble.”

The Irish would not score again, missing several three-point shots, and on three double-bonus trips to the free throw line, sophomore Katie Reagan, Searight and Davis each went one-for-one to stamp the 50-44 final in the book.

Following Davis and Clark in the SCH scoring column were Searight (nine points), Rogers (five), Bridges (three) and Reagan (one). Pina and McGurk gave the visitors 19 and 13 points, respectively, while Kichula contributed six points, Lynch scored four and Riley Gillin added two.