by Tom Utescher

Late last week the weather was too warm for the making of actual snowballs, but it helped Norwood Fontbonne Academy’s 47th Annual Snowball Tournament proceed smoothly through five days of competition. It wasn’t just Mother Nature, but the efforts of organizers and volunteers that made the gathering so successful.

In addition to the varsity girls of host NFA, the tournament field included area entries from Penn Charter, St. Genevieve’s, St. Philip Neri, and Springside Chestnut Hill Academy.

It was a team from farther away that claimed the tournament title, though. Collegeville’s St. Eleanor School overpowered each of its opponents, finishing up with a 54-21 win over a young St. Philip’s team in the finals early on Sunday afternoon.

While the tournament launched on Wednesday, the first varsity girls’ game occurred on Thursday evening, pitting St. Philip Neri against Plymouth Meeting’s Holy Rosary School. Although St. Philip’s regular line-up was not intact for the Snowball debut, they got out to a 10-2 lead during the first quarter.

Steadily widening the gap the rest of the way, the Lafayette Hill squad won 40-18 with a balanced offense. Audrey Rocks scored eight points and the Saints got six points apiece from Quinn Daley, Ava DiBenedetto, and Sophia Gartland. With a game-high 15 points, Bridget Archbold accounted for most of the scoring for Holy Rosary.

Norwood’s own varsity girls opened tournament play on Friday evening, and they went neck-and-neck through the first quarter with Penn Charter. Right at the end of the period, a jumper by Jane Hohenleitner gave the Bears a 12-11 edge. The PC Quakers then took control in a 14-4 second quarter and held a 25-16 advantage at the half.

Norwood got back within six points (29-23) with a few minutes left in the third round, but Charter put up the last five points of the quarter and then proceeded to a 42-28 victory. Ashlie Johnson and Natalia Modzelewski rang up 10 points apiece for the winners, while Norwood was led by Katherine Bernstiel, with nine points, and Lucia Smigiel, with seven.

Two of the teams in the girls’ bracket, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy and St. Eleanor’s, had been unable to play during the first few days of the Snowball, and they were moved right into Saturday’s semifinal round. First up was the semi-final square-off between Penn Charter and St. Eleanor’s. It would’ve surprised many people who watched PC play on Friday to see the Quakers systematically dismantled by St. Eleanor’s, a disciplined squad that plays a rigorous CYO schedule.

The score was 18-2 at the conclusion of the first quarter, and things didn’t get any better for PC after that as the Crusaders rolled, 49-11. The victors marked down 19 points for Anna Azzara and 10 for Megan Kupetz, while Elissa Hsu registered six of Penn Charter’s 11 points.

In contrast, the encounter between SCH and St. Philip was just about as close as they come. St. Philip struggled against the Lions’ aggressive defense throughout the first half, and the Saints were down 11-5 at the intermission. The Lafayette Hill team did a better job running the floor after halftime, and by the end of the third quarter, the Springside lead was down to just one point, 15-14.

As the fourth period got underway, a three-point field goal from the right baseline by Daley and a baseline bucket from the other side by Cara Lapp moved St. Philip ahead, 19-15. Elliot Harmaty scored the first SCH field goal of the period, and with a little over a minute-and-a-half remaining a short jumper by Ella Woehlcke tied things up at 19-19.

The deadlock endured as St. Philip missed three foul shots, but on the third errant free throw the Saints scavenged a loose ball rebound. From near the left edge of the foul line Lapp put in a jumper with 11 seconds to go, and her team came away with a 21-19 victory.

Lapp and DiBenedetto each scored five points in the win, and Rocks racked up a team-high eight points. SCH had seven from Harmaty, six from Layla Shands, and four from Woehlcke.

Late on Saturday afternoon, a game in the consolation bracket resulted in a 39-20 victory for Norwood’s own girls over Holy Rosary. Bernstiel paced the Bears with 16 points, while Rosary’s Chaeli Donovan scored 12 in a losing cause.

The girls’ championship game on Sunday afternoon was the final contest of the entire 2019 Snowball event. Lapp hit a jumper to get St. Philip on the board first, but after that the Saints did not score for the rest of the opening quarter. St. Eleanor, meanwhile, piled up 19 points in the period, receiving 12 from its excellent point guard, Azzara.

As in the first round, St. Philip was first to score in the second and third quarters, each time on a midrange jumper by Rocks. In each period, though, the net result was a larger lead for the Crusaders. Even when their bench players were on the floor in the fourth period, their shooting percentage seemed to get better.

Azzara shared the game high of 14 points with her teammate, Kupitz, a forward with a nice touch close to the basket. They were supported by Caroline Welsh, with eight points, and Leah Pfeiffer and Gianna Rosario with four points apiece. Rounding out the total were two points each from Maddie Borzillo, Denise Hurd, Alaina McGonagle, Emily Riefer, and Elizabeth Sharp.

Lapp and Rocks recorded eight and seven points, respectively, for the Saints, who received two points each from Daley and Maggie Mullaney and one apiece from Gartland and A.J. Busk.