A golden anniversary for NFA Snowball Tournament

by Tom Utescher
Posted 2/28/24

The longest-running scholastic basketball tournament in Chestnut Hill celebrated its 50th anniversary last week.

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A golden anniversary for NFA Snowball Tournament


The longest-running scholastic basketball tournament in Chestnut Hill celebrated its 50th anniversary last week. Norwood Fontbonne Academy's annual Snowball Tournament has featured generations of players from almost every local school.

This year, Lafayette Hill's St. Philip Neri School won both boys and girls varsity titles, the girls triumphing for the third year in a row, while the boys took the 2024 crown by defeating two-time defending champ Norwood.

Initially, the Snowball Tournament was among many similar Christmastime events. It was later moved to the first full week of January, and after the COVID shutdowns, it was pushed back to late February.

Last Wednesday, in the first varsity boys' game of the 2024 tournament, St. Philip Neri overcame Saints Coleman-John Neumann School from Bryn Mawr, 66-49. On Thursday, another ballclub from Bryn Mawr, St. Aloysius, faced St. Helena of Blue Bell, and the Main Line squad won, 59-40.

On Friday evening, Norwood's varsity girls and boys made their debut, both teams emerging victorious.

Friday's activities included a ceremony recognizing the many individuals whose efforts helped sustain the Snowball for half a century. Included was former La Salle University professor Sid McLeod, who founded the tournament in 1973. 

In game action, the Norwood ladies never trailed St. Genevieve's School after Nina Meierdiercks opened the scoring with a three-pointer from the right wing. The Bears led 9-0 at the quarter, going on to win 28-20.

The boys' game against OMC was more one-sided. NFA post player L.J. Brown scored 11 of his game-high 15 points in a 23-6 opening quarter. Ryan Smith, with two three-pointers, added 12 points in the 62-21 win. For OMC, Liam Jacobs netted all of his seven points at the foul line.

Early on Saturday, the SPN boys faced their toughest challenge of the weekend but prevailed over St. Aloysius, 41-36. Later on, it was close for the Norwood girls in a semifinal against Sts. Coleman Neumann. Trailing by 32-31 going into the fourth quarter, the Bears edged ahead by three points but committed turnovers and fell behind again. Down by five near the end, NFA had Shelby Stefan bank in a three-pointer to make it 44-42, but Sts. Coleman Neumann held on to win. Stefan wound up with 14 points and Meierdiercks and Neely Lesovitz each scored 13. The winners received 14 points from Alice Callan and 12 from Elizabeth Tyrell.

In the other semifinal, St. Andrew (Newtown, Pa.) only trailed St. Philip 15-12 at the end of the first quarter, but then the Lafayette Hill squad steadily pulled away to win 45-34.

In Saturday’s last game, Norwood’s boys engaged in a semifinal battle with nearby St. Genevieve’s. St. Gen’s was up by two points at halftime, then the Bears turned things around with an 18-9 tear through the third quarter when Smith scored 14 of his game-high 20 points. In the fourth round, Liam Coggins posted 14 of his 18 points for St. Gen’s, but NFA hung on to win, 54-51. Brown added 13 points for the winners.

In Sunday's girls' championship game, Sts. Coleman Neumann was up 6-4 early, but that would be their last lead as a “three” by SPN’s  Grace Harvey moved her team ahead for good. St. Philip was up 30-18 by halftime and the final tally was 51-35, with the victors receiving 14 points from Chloe McCarthy, 11 from Cailtin Cavallero, and 10 from Harvey. Tyrell and Callan gave Sts. Coleman Neumann 12 and nine points, respectively.

In the boys' final, a three-pointer and two regular field goals by Peter Turchi led the Saints out to a 15-8 lead at the end of the first quarter. In the second, NFA's Brown hit a lay-up, a 15-foot jumper, and six free throws to get the Bears back within three points at halftime, 24-21.

Turchi came on strong again in the third quarter, with his seven points helping St. Philip bump its lead up to five points (35-30) for the start of the fourth frame. The Bears had started well in the third, with a Billy Murphy three-pointer briefly giving them the lead at 28-26. Their offense fell off sharply after that.

About 90 seconds into the fourth quarter, the Saints pushed their lead into double figures, at 40-30. The contest slowly wound down with a series of fouls on both sides. In the end, Norwood's Brown beat the buzzer on a drive, but that still left the Bears 13 points short, 53-40.

Turchi's 16 points and Matt Catania's 11-point effort led the winners, while Brown gave the tourney hosts a game-high 20.