by Tom Utescher
Last week women’s basketball action got underway in the Philadelphia/Suburban NCAA Summer League, which got its start many years ago at Chestnut Hill’s Water Tower Recreation Center and now is based outside of Willow Grove. As usual, former high school players from the area, some of whom just graduated earlier this month, are sprinkled throughout the 10-team league.
Schools in NCAA Division II and III are permitted to enter their entire team as a single entity. This summer, Team Kelly Green consists largely of Chestnut Hill College athletes, while Team Black is entirely made up of players from Jefferson University in East Falls.
A new franchise this summer, Team Sky Blue, is essentially the Acadia University ball club. Its roster includes Joelle Bridges, who departed with her diploma from Springside Chestnut Hill Academy just a few weeks ago.
On opening night last Tuesday, none of the games was a nail-biter, even ones that might have been expected to be close contests. Team Black (Jefferson) and Team Kelly Green (Chestnut Hill) played against one another, as they regularly do in their Division II Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference.
While Black is made up entirely of Jefferson athletes, Kelly Green includes some players from other schools besides CHC. A key starting point guard and starting forward for Chestnut Hill’s regular collegiate team are both New Jersey natives who do not play in the summer league here.
Mount St. Joseph Academy grad Caitlyn Cunningham, a redshirt rising sophomore guard, scored 19 points to lead a 98-46 romp by the Jefferson Lady Rams, who received a dozen points from redshirt junior Alynna Williams, a Plymouth Whitemarsh alum.
Making an impressive debut with 16 points was incoming freshman Haley Meinel, the best player from 2018 state large schools runner-up Central Bucks South. Another new Lady Ram is Archbishop Wood graduate Bridget Arcidiacono, a cousin of both Villanova University guard Ryan Arcidiacono and of Jen Arcidiacono, a Springside School rower (’10) who signed with the University of Alabama.
The high scorer in Tuesday’s summer league bout was actually Chestnut Hill’s Shannon Glenn, a rising junior who recorded 20 points.
Bridges, the former SCH Blue Devil, scored eight points to tie for team high for Arcadia’s Sky Blue summer squad, but this group of Division III players happened to be matched up against a solid Division II ensemble.
Rival Team Maroon, the summer version of the University of the Sciences squad, rang up an 80-33 victory.
A similar scenario played out in one of the three late games on the schedule. Team Red, based on Division II Kutztown University talent with a few Division I women mixed in, was a 68—34 winner over Team Orange. Orange is staffed by D-III athletes, mostly from Penn State Abington.
While teams from higher NCAA divisions generally overcome ones from lower classifications, top NCAA Division II and III teams can hold their own against many teams grouped a level above them.
A good case in point is Penn Charter grad Hannah Fox’s Amherst College team. This April the Mammoths completed their second straight undefeated season to repeat as NCAA Division III national champion. Fox, playing for Team Royal Blue in summer ball, came off the bench for Amherst during her 2016-17 freshman season, then started at point guard last winter and ended up making the NCAA Division III All-Tournament Team.
Last Tuesday she played in the closest of the opening night games in the NCAA League, although the final margin was still in double figures. Here, a Royal team featuring an assortment of Division III players posted an 81-68 victory over Team Purple, which blends players from all three NCAA divisions.
Fox scored seven points for Royal, which received 21 points from Jenkintown High alumna Emma Dorshimer (Gettysburg ’19) and 13 from 2018 Plymouth Whitemarsh grad Lauren Fortescue (Salisbury University).
Team Golden Sun, which has a core of players from the team that has won the last two titles in the league, opened up with an 83-57 cruise past Team Lime Green, a mix of athletes from Division II and III schools. The game’s high scorer was actually a new addition to Golden Sun; Syracuse University’s Isis Young poured in eight three-point field goals and finished with 39 points, which was also the overall high for the night amongst all teams. Although she spent most of her childhood in South Jersey, Young was actually born in Chestnut Hill Hospital.
In one of Thursday night’s early games, Young netted 31 points and six three’s, but this time her Golden Sun squad was not victorious. Maroon led most of the way, but never by more than a few baskets, and Golden Sun pulled into a 54-54 tie in the final minute.
In the end, Maroon got a game-winning jumper from former Shipley School stand-out Colleen Walsh, who actually graduated from USciences this spring but signed up for one more season of summer ball.
The other 7:00 PM contest was the second-closest game of the night, but there was still a double-digit margin at the end, with Purple overcoming Orange, 70-59. The league’s lone player from La Salle University, Michelle Nicholls, pumped in 34 points for the winners. Like Isis Young, Nicholls is a graduate of Life Center Academy in Burlington, N.J.
On the same court where Maroon and Golden Sun had gone down to the wire, there was a mismatch in an 8:15 PM meeting between Team Black and Team Royal Blue. Taller, deeper, and accustomed to playing with one another, the summer Lady Rams went ahead early. When Royal called time-out with 7:03 remaining in the first half, Black led 37-14.
Team Black went on to win 76-37, receiving a high of 13 points from forward Beverly Kum. Mount alum Cunningham was one point behind with 12, while Williams finished with eight. Fox put in four points for Royal Blue, which was led by Dorshimer’s 13.
The CHC-powered Kelly Green club stayed close with Lime Green into the second half, then fell behind by 20 points later on and lost, 76-55. Glenn once again led Kelly with 17 points, and 14 points came from an incoming freshman guard for CHC, Lauren Crim (Lansdale Catholic).
Receiving a combined 38 points from its two Lafayette players, Team Red picked up a 95-51 win over Sky Blue, which got five points from Bridges.