The Blue Devils’ high scorer, freshman Tatyana Hall, drives against Irwin’s Katie Anderson. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

While Germantown Academy and Penn Charter are battling for supremacy in Inter-Ac League girls’ basketball, other teams are fighting hard to avoid ending up at the opposite end of the league standings.

Springside Chestnut Hill Academy and Agnes Irwin School were each seeking their first Inter-Ac victory when they met in SCH’s Vare Field House last Tuesday afternoon. Both teams had records of 3-8 overall, while in league play the Blue Devils were 0-2 and Agnes Irwin was 0-3.

At times the prized victory looked like it might go to the Irwin Owls, who owned double-digit leads in each half. After the resilient Blue Devils battled back to send the game into overtime at 42-all, they netted all but two of their 17 points in OT from the foul line in order to prevail, 59-47.

Foul problems proved to be Agnes Irwin’s downfall. They put SCH into the double bonus for the last minute of regulation play and for the overtime period, and the Owls had four starters and one reserve player foul out of the game.

The Blue Devils improved to 4-8 overall and 1-2 in the league. A pair of freshman guards accounted for 42 of the team’s 59 points, each of them putting in two three-point field goals. Tatyana Hall shot 16 for 19 from the free throw line and 10 for 12 just in the overtime stint, finishing with 22 points overall while shooting guard Ava Chavez netted 20.

Senior Becca Arnold scored eight points and sophomore Maya McDermott scored six while forcing numerous turnovers from the visitors.

“We never got down emotionally, but we just couldn’t get together as a team for a lot of the game,” noted head coach Flo Hagains. “Then in the fourth quarter we started chipping away at their lead and got it down to three. We started making our foul shots, and we started taking our time more instead of rushing.”

Agnes Irwin received half of its points from senior guard Katie Anderson, a 1000-point scorer who will play for Franklin & Marshall College. She started out on fire, netting 16 points in the opening quarter on three-pointers, shorter jumpers, and lay-ups. She would end up with a game-high 24.

SCH went up 2-0 in the game with single free throws from sophomore center Layla Sawyer and from Arnold, but despite five points from Chavez later on, the Blue Devils would trail 16-7 at the end of the period. Irwin began fouling right away, but it took awhile for Springside Chestnut Hill to get dialed in at the foul line. The hosts missed nine free throws in the first half.

They whiffed on four straight foul shots early in the second quarter, just after a baseline jumper by Anna Leyden gave the visitors an 11-point lead at 18-7. A driving lay-up by Chavez and Hall’s first field goal (a three-pointer) got the SCH offense moving.

After Chavez scored on a follow-up, a technical foul against the Owls resulted in two points at the line by Hall, making it 16-20.

SCH freshman Ava Chavez (center) tries to penetrate an Agnes Irwin double team. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

Next, with two-a-and-half minutes still to go in the first half, Irwin put SCH in the double bonus and Arnold converted one of two tosses. After that, McDermott went three-for-four at the stripe to help the Devils end the half tied with their guests, 20-20.

Earlier, as Coach Hagains said, “It was looking kind of grim for a bit, so we as coaches tried to calm them down and give them confidence.”

The locals dug themselves into another hole in the third quarter, though, getting outscored 15-4 during the frame as Irwin spread its points around between five different players.

Leading the Owls during this stretch with seven points was forward Chloe Saulnier. She would later foul out in the middle of the fourth quarter just after making a lay-up that gave her a total of nine points for the afternoon.

The SCH coaches were well aware of Irwin’s mounting foul problems, and encouraged their players to take advantage of the situation.

“We told them, as much room as they give us, attack them and we’ll get to the foul line,” Hagains related. “We got into the double bonus way before they did, and I think they started getting frustrated.”

Before that, however, Irwin’s Anderson scored her first (and only) field goal since the opening period right at the beginning of the fourth quarter. The Owls now had their largest lead of the game, a 13-point margin with the score 37-24.

Springside’s recovery began with consecutive three-point field goals from the right wing by Chavez. In between, the visitors committed their sixth team foul of the second half. After the second trey by Chavez, SCH got the ball back when freshman Julia Thomson forced a tie-up and the possession arrow pointed to the Blue Devils. Their inbounds pass led directly to a lay-up by Sawyer, closing up the score to 37-32 with five minutes remaining.

Blue Devil fouls then got Irwin into the one-and-one, but in three straight trips to the line the Owls only picked up one of a possible six points. One last lay-up by the visitors’ Saulnier was followed by her fifth foul. SCH collected both points at the free throw line, courtesy of Hall, and it was a six-point game.

After Arnold made a lay-up for the hosts, Irwin called time-out, now only leading 40-36 with one minute and 20 seconds on the clock. A lone made free throw by Arnold was the only point added for either team over the next minute.

Hall and AI’s Anderson traded free throws, raising the score to 42-39. With about a dozen seconds left in the fourth round, Hall hooped at three-point shot from the right wing, and the game went into overtime at 42-all.

Off of a center jump to start the four-minute OT period, Irwin initially gained possession, then when Hall stole the ball she was knocked down and made two free throws tied to the intentional foul. She then deposited two more free throws as another Owl left the court with her fifth personal.

Over the next minute SCH scored three more points at the foul line and Irwin garnered two. Just after a steal by McDermott, Springside called time-out, holding a 49-44 advantage with 2:14 on the clock.

Back on the court, SCH had Chavez miss a lay-up, but she immediately stole the ball back and scored a lay-up and free throw to build the Blue Devils’ lead to eight points.
The final margin would settle in at dozen points, with the home team continuing to score from the charity stripe as three more Agnes Irwin players fouled out.

Afterwards, the Blue Devils’ Hagains noted, “What we’ve been needing to do is gel as a team, and I think you started to see that today, especially late in the game.”
One of the specific areas where the team has been improving, she said, is in the players’ off-the-ball movement.

“That’s definitely gotten better,” she observed. “When we started the season, we were more stagnant. Now, instead of standing and waiting for the ball, we’re going to the ball and keeping things in motion.”

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