Mount St. Joe alum Caitlyn Cunningham lifts off for a lay-up against Team Sky Blue’s Megan O’Connell (Holy Family U.) (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

Last week, basketball players with ties to area schools and colleges returned to warm weather hoops action in the Philadelphia/Suburban NCAA Women’s Summer League. Games have been played at the Renegades AAU gym in Hatboro in recent years, but the long-running league actually traces its origins back to Chestnut Hill’s Water Tower Recreation Center in the mid 1990s.

In one of the early set of games on the 2019 opening night last Tuesday, the Lime Green team with seven Chestnut Hill College players on its roster began its summer season. A new transfer player for CHC who is on the summer roster is guard Maura Conroy, who attended Wyncote’s Ancillae Assumpta Academy and then played for Gwynedd Mercy Academy.

The Lime Green lineup is rounded out by two players from Division III schools and by one from NCAA Division II final four team Indiana University of Pennsylvania (forward Alana Cardona, a 2018 graduate of a strong Souderton High School program).

This ball club faced a Royal Blue team that had Germantown Academy grad Erin Lindahl on the roster, but not in attendance. The former GA Patriot is a rising senior at Emory University in Atlanta. Most other members of the Royal Blue squad also go to Division III schools, but there are a couple of D-II Kutztown University players from St. Basil Academy. One of them, 2019 grad Casey Remolde, led the Panthers to a 26-1 record this past winter.

Lime Green slipped behind 36-25 over the course of the first half, then saw Royal Blue disappear over the horizon to win 76-44. Rising sophomore Lauren Crim led the CHC combine with 13 points, while graduate player Brianna Cullen scored eight and junior Cassie Sebold had seven.

Several summer league teams are composed entirely of players from a single school, such as Team Black and its collection of Jefferson University athletes. Two of them are rising junior Caitlyn Cunningham from Mount St. Joseph Academy and senior Alynna Williams from Plymouth Whitemarsh High School.

Their rival on Monday was Team Sky Blue, made up of Holy Family University players, with a few exceptions. Penn Charter alum Lexi Hnatkowsky transferred in and joined the Holy Family program in January, but she is not playing in the summer league.

During the official college season, Holy Family participates in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference along with Jefferson (and CHC), but in their summer league encounter Sly Blue was overpowered by Team Black, which turned a 44-24 halftime lead into a 74-44 win. Williams hit two three-pointers and came away with 10 points, and Cunningham had eight.

One of the late games on opening night pitted two area alums against one another. Team Golden Sun, composed entirely of athletes from Division III Arcadia University, includes 2018 Springside Chestnut Hill Academy graduate Joelle Bridges.

Joelle Bridges, a 2018 graduate of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, handles the ball out on the wing for Team Golden Sun. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

A 2019 Mount St. Joseph grad, Lauren Cunningham (the sister of Jefferson U’s Caitlin), belongs to Team Kelly Green, which combines players from six different colleges. Cunningham is the lone representative of Marymount University, a Division III school in Arlington, Virginia.

Kelly Green benefits from the presence of three women who play for Division II Millersville University, including 6’2″ Cheltenham High School grad

Mia Leonard. The team will grow stronger still in the second week of July, when two Villanova University team members will be eligible to play in the summer league.

Team Golden Sun, the Arcadia outfit, was overmatched in this encounter, as Kelly Green went from a 40-21 halftime lead to a 76-52 victory. Both ball-handling guards, Bridges and Cunningham came away with two points apiece. Samantha “Bucky” Brusha, a rising Millersville sophomore out of Abington High, hit six three-pointers as part of her game-high 32-point performance.

In one of Thursday’s early games, Brusha arrived just in time to give Kelly Green an official fivesome. Although it was not a hot night in the non-air-conditioned gym, the lack of subs began to tell on the Kelly crew, with Team Black collecting a win to achieve a 2-0 record.

This contest featured dueling Cunningham sisters, the former Mounties. With Caitlyn Cunningham and Williams each scoring 10 points in the first half, the Jefferson summer franchise led Kelly Green 31-24 at the break.

The final was 70-50, with the elder Cunningham recording 24 points (with six three-pointers) while Williams finished with 17. Handling the ball at the point much of the time, Lauren Cunningham deposited one three-pointer for Kelly Green, while Brusha hit five three’s and scored a game-high 25 points.

Team Maroon, made up of ladies from the University of the Sciences, defeated Team Black in last summer’s NCAA League championship game. However, in collegiate competition this past winter Jefferson won the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) in an overtime final against USciences.

Last Thursday defending summer champ Maroon almost suffered an early upset loss. They appeared to have a secure lead at halftime, 46-30, but Royal Blue, now with GA grad Lindahl on hand, chipped away until it edged ahead, 57-56 with a minute-and-a-half remaining in the game.

Jess Huber, a rising junior out of North Penn, saved the day for Maroon, stealing the ball, hitting a game-winning three-pointer, and then blocking a Royal Blue shot at the other end. She came away with seven three-pointers and 27 points, while Lindahl scored eight points in the losing cause.

A number of players from two other CACC teams, Chestnut Hill (Lime Green) and Holy Family (Sky Blue) met head-to-head in another Thursday encounter. The summer Tigers of Sky Blue got the drop on the Griffins’ Lime ladies and assumed a 41-16 lead by halftime. The Sky squad went on to a 71-29 win, as Lime Green received a dozen points from their IUP player, Cardona, and 11 from CHC’s own Crim.

SCH grad Bridges and her Golden Sun squad were scheduled to play Team Orange, but the floor on their assigned court was so slippery from condensation that the contest was postponed.