Mount St. Joe sophomore Lauren Vesey (right) drives against Henderson’s Erin Thompson. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

Two weeks ago, late free throws by senior Deirdre Regan helped Mount St. Joseph Academy exact revenge against the team that beat the Magic in the 2017 District 1 Class 5A championship game, Springfield High School of Delaware County. That 41-40 quarterfinal victory guaranteed the Mounties a spot in the PIAA state Class 5A tournament, where the top six teams from District 1 will appear.

The win also moved the Mount into a semifinal match-up last Tuesday, when fifth-seeded MSJ lost 61-42 to the top seed, undefeated Henderson High School of West Chester. With that outcome, Henderson got payback for an upset loss at the hands of Mount St. Joseph in the 2017 tourney.

The Magic (16-10 overall) filtered into the playoff game for the third and fourth PIAA tournament seeding spots coming out of District 1. There, Mount St. Joe was going to play Bayard Rustin High School last Friday, but that meeting was postponed due to the Nor’easter at week’s end.

Just before Mount St. Joseph played its semifinal game last Tuesday night at the neutral venue of Harriton High School, its own Catholic Academies colleague, third-seeded Villa Maria, won the other semifinal contest over number-two Rustin, 69-58. Villa would then succumb to Henderson in Saturday’s district championship game, 41-32.

Mount freshman Grace Niekelski (left) and sophomore Kelly Rothenberg (right) try to wrest control of the ball from the Warriors’ Grace Ferguson. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

As a number seven seed last year, the Mount had shocked Henderson by winning in overtime against the second-seeded Warriors in the quarterfinal round. Last Tuesday it was the Magic who seemed stunned in the early going, as vengeful Henderson jumped out to a 6-0 lead in less than 40 seconds and went on to attain a 27-10 advantage by the end of the opening period.

Sophomore Lauren Vesey and senior Megan Dodaro provided most of the offense for the Magic in the first round, while the Warriors had five different players score, proving effective down in the paint and out on the three-point arc.

The scoring pace slowed considerably in the second quarter, but Henderson still added another three points to its lead, fixing the halftime score at 39-17. The second-half scoring favored the Mount slightly, 25-22, because the Magic played much better while Henderson could afford to operate in maintenance mode.

Accumulating most of her points after halftime, MSJ freshman Grace Niekelski reached double figures with 10 points, while Dodaro, sophomore Kelly Rothenberg and Vesey finished with nine, eight and seven points, respectively. Senior Deirdre Regan and junior Lauren Cunningham each added three points for the Magic, and sophomore Taylor Sistrunk had two.

Henderson had three double-digit scorers in Erin Thompson (15 points with three three-pointers), Ellie Shea (14 points) and Adrienne Smith (13).