by Tom Utescher

Mount St. Joe junior Grace Niekelski launches a jump shot over a Villa Joe defender. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

Magic freshman Georgia Pickett (left) and senior teammate Audrey Bryce (right) close in for a double team on the Jems’ Julia Beck. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

After a loss to league leader St. Basil’s early last week, Mount St. Joseph Academy got back on the winning track in the Athletic Association of Catholic Academies on Thursday evening.

Jumping out to a 10-1 lead against visiting Villa Joseph Marie, the Mounties sauntered to a 60-47 victory, completing a home/away sweep against the Jems while raising their record to 6-3 in the AACA and 9-4 overall.

In a December 14 road game the Mount Magic had defeated Villa Joe, 75-62, and in last week’s rematch the MSJ victory was fueled by 21 points from junior Grace Niekelski, 17 from senior Kelly Rothenberg, and nine from senior Lauren Vesey. The Jems had three scorers in low double-digits; Carly Austin (13 points), Jackie Skalski (11), and Julia Beck (10).

Magic freshman Georgia Pickett (left) and senior teammate Audrey Bryce (right) close in for a double team on the Jems’ Julia Beck. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

While St. Basil’s has been rolling through the AACA schedule without a loss, the Magic is a contender for the playoffs along with Gwynedd Mercy Academy. Gwynedd got a leg up on the Mount with a 59-55 victory over the Magic on January 7.

At the beginning of last Thursday’s game at the Mount, Niekelski assisted on a transition lay-up by Rothenberg, then scored herself with a baby jumper. Senior Taylor Sistrunk converted off of an offensive rebound and also made a free throw awarded on the play.

Beck got the Jems on the board by making the first of two foul shots, then Vesey lobbed in a three-pointer from the right wing for a 10-1 MSJ lead. With under four minutes left in the quarter the visitors recorded their first field goal, a jumper from the left elbow by Maggie Tomaselli.

Niekelski put in a lay-up and a baseline jumper back-to-back, and the Mounties proceeded on to a 15-6 lead at the end of the period.

Villa Joseph Marie settled in on offense in the second quarter, and the Mount only added two points to its lead. Vesey ran the floor for three lay-ups, and by halftime she already had all of her nine total points in the scorebook.

Niekelski grabbed a defensive rebound and went down the court to score in transition, and a little later she capitalized on an offensive “board.” At the half, she led all scorers with 10 points. Freshman forward Georgia Pickett had scored the first point of the second period from the foul line, but late in the quarter she committed her own third personal foul.

In a good sense, it was indicator that the ninth-grader has become a full-fledged participant for the Magic, seeing a lot of time coming off the bench.

The rest of the way, the Jems presented enough of a challenge to keep the Mounties from dozing off, but not enough to seriously threaten the MSJ lead. With Rothenberg depositing 12 of her 17 points after halftime, the Magic were up 47-32 at the three-quarter mark. Subs saw a lot of minutes in the fourth frame, when Villa Joe was able to trim two points off of its deficit for a final shortfall of 13.

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