by Tom Utescher

The 47th annual Snowball Tournament at Norwood Fontbonne Academy entertained basketball fans for five days last week, and local supporters of the NFA Bears saw their school team advance all the way to the boys’ championship game on Sunday.

Norwood ended the first quarter of the finals tied with St. Eleanor School of Collegeville, Pa., but after that the Crusaders drew away to win the 2020 title, 45-31.

Among the area teams in the latest edition of the venerable tournament were teams from Our Mother of Consolation School and Penn Charter that suffered early losses to St. Eleanor and Norwood, respectively.

The largest crowds at the event were seen on Friday night, when the schedule concluded with the annual Norwood Fontbonne Alumni Game. As usual, the tournament’s excellent concession stand was staffed by tireless parents who volunteered their time.

As the tournament opened on Wednesday evening, the first varsity game for the boys proved to be a mismatch, with St. Eleanor scoring the first 14 points of the night and going on to win, 59-19, over OMC. The Chestnut Hill ball club continued to play hard, but just didn’t have the personnel to match up with its opponent.

Mitchell Karp led St. Eleanor with 10 points and Kevin Heywood and Robbie Sturges added eight apiece, while OMC received six points from Noah Coomes and five from Thomas Donovan (who also plays on the Norwood varsity).

In the lone boys’ varsity game on Thursday, Holy Rosary (Plymouth Meeting) received 13 points from Shaun Gould and 11 from Luke Winterbottom as it rolled past the Norwood Fontbonne “Blue” team, 63-17. The Bears were unable to recover after Holy Rosary scored the first 19 points in the contest and went on to lead 39-10 at halftime. The Norwood squad received five points apiece from Mason Knight and Addison Tornetta.

The Norwood “Gold” team, the regular varsity squad, swung into action on Friday, overcoming Penn Charter by a score of 42-26 after jumping out to a 16-1 lead in the first quarter. The slow-starting Quakers didn’t register their first field goal until more than a minute into the second period, when William Vieira netted a three-pointer from the right wing.

The host Bears were ahead 34-13 at the three-quarter mark, then Penn Charter played its best ball in the fourth period. Some Norwood starters who’d been pulled out of the game reentered the contest to respond to the challenge. Still, despite being outscored in the final quarter, 13-8, NFA collected a comfortable 16-point victory.

A balanced offensive performance produced 13 points for Zahir Coleman, 12 for Thomas Donovan, nine for Kelby Hampton, and eight for Ben Olsen. Vieira was far and away the leader of the Penn Charter offense, accounting for half of his team’s 26 total points.

Norwood advanced to the tournament semifinals against the boys of St. Philip Neri, who had been unable to play on the weekdays and were slotted right into the semifinal round on Saturday.

First, though, there was a Saturday morning semifinal between St. Eleanor and Holy Rosary. A relatively modest 13-6 first-quarter lead for St. Eleanor grew to 27-12 by halftime, and the Collegeville club continued to pull away through the last two periods to win 58-28.

Leading a list of 11 scorers for the winners were Heywood, with a dozen points, Chase Mondillo, with seven, and Anthony Daddazio, with six. Holy Rosary received six points apiece from Winterbottom, Daniel Green, and Jackson Maguire.

Even earlier on Saturday, the Norwood Blue team had played a consolation game against OMC. Coomes’ 13-point performance and a 12-point effort from Jadyn Johnson helped OMC overpower NFA Blue, 54-23, as the Bears were led by Tornetta, with nine points.

At the very end of Saturday’s program, Norwood Gold romped to a 24-11 lead during the first frame of the second semifinal bout, and St. Philip reduced the gap by one point by halftime, when the tally was 31-19.

Norwood netted the first field goal of the second half almost immediately, but then did not score again in the third quarter. The Bears also had several players get into foul trouble, and they were only ahead 33-29 for the start of round four.

A lay-up by Drew Van Stone revived the Norwood offense, and he would total seven points during the final quarter as Norwood reasserted control. Coleman led all scorers with 14 points and Van Stone came away with 13, as Donovan and Hampton added 10 and eight points, respectively.

For Sunday morning’s championship game, Norwood had to take the court without one of its regular starting forwards, Hampton.

Powerful St. Eleanor’s stepped out to a 9-0 lead, but the Bears did not fold their tent. Starting with a short jumper from Donovan and later getting a three-pointer from Van Stone, NFA went on its own 9-0 spree in the last two minutes of the quarter to forge a 9-9 tie.

As the second quarter progressed, St. Eleanor’s Karp, an imposing forward, worked the paint for eight points to lead his team out to a 19-12 advantage by the middle of the period. Although Olsen netted a “three” for the home team later on, St. Eleanor was ahead 24-15 at halftime.

The visitors also bagged the first two field goals of the third quarter before Donovan once again fired up Norwood’s offense by netting three points on an “and-one” play. Three-pointers were drained by the Bears’ Olsen and Van Stone, but they entered the fourth quarter down by a dozen, 36-24.

Round four began with a lay-up by Van Stone and a successful one-and-one by Donovan, bringing Norwood back within eight points with five minutes left to play. At that point St. Eleanor quashed the uprising. The smallest player on the court, St. Eleanor point guard Avery Salvi, made a three-pointer and also a lay-up in transition to start and finish a 9-0 run.
Norwood was unable to answer this surge, and the Collegeville team clinched the Snowball title with a 45-31 victory.

Carp chalked up a game-high 18 points and Salvi had 11 points for the winners. Rounding out their total were seven points for Sturges, four for Mondillo, three for Daddazio, and two for Heywood. Donovan led NFA with 10 points, followed by Van Stone with eight, Olson with six, Coleman with three, and Michael Rossi and Freddie Zamichieli, with two points apiece.