Quakers' quickness overcomes Blue Devils' size in Inter-Ac hoops

by Tom Utescher
Posted 1/18/24

Prior to last Thursday's encounter, PC had lost its 2024 league opener to the Academy of Notre Dame, and then staged a comeback.

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Quakers' quickness overcomes Blue Devils' size in Inter-Ac hoops


It was not a propitious point in time for the Springside Chestnut Hill Academy hoops squad to be going on the road to play the girls of Penn Charter.

Prior to last Thursday's encounter, defending Inter-Ac champ PC had lost its 2024 league opener to the Academy of Notre Dame (62-55), and then, after some soul-searching, the Quakers had come back to deliver a beating to perennial Philadelphia Catholic League power Archbishop Wood (47-33).

Thursday's Inter-Ac match-up started slowly, and in the middle of the first quarter Charter held a modest 6-4 lead. The Quakers then posted eight straight points and went on to finish the period with a 20-8 advantage. Ahead 44-16 at halftime, the hosts eventually won 70-32.

Penn Charter came away with a record of 1-1 in the league and 6-8 overall, while SCH, which had lost to Agnes Irwin earlier (47-43), slipped to 0-2.

The Blue Devils have one of the stronger frontcourt combos in the league with senior Zahkiyyah Frazier and eighth-grader Taylor Williams, but here their output could not match that of Charter's highly-recruited guards, junior Kaylinn Bethea and freshman Ryan Carter.

Frazier (eight points) and Williams (10) combined for 18 points, while Carter (17) and Bethea (16) scored 33 points between them.

Veteran PC head coach Joe Maguire had needed his players to refocus after some disappointing outings at the beginning of January.

"We were giving up too many points," he related. "We needed to take more pride in keeping people in front of us, and rebounding. Notre Dame outrebounded us.

"We talked about how defense can travel from gym to gym," he continued. "If you're having an off-night shooting, you can always impact a game on defense."

In addition to the exploits of the two guards on the open floor, senior Ashlie Johnson played a smart game in the paint, making herself available for entry passes and then turning in to score. She registered 11 of her 13 points in the first half, helping PC take control.

"She did a great job of putting herself where the other girls could see her," Maguire noted. "They found her, and she did a good job of going right up and finishing."

Bartley Jeannoute, in his second year as SCH head coach, is pleased with the progress of his team's inside game. In addition to Frazier and Williams, 5'10" guard/forward Zoe Thompson, a sophomore who already started last year, can help out on the boards.

After the PC game, Jeannoute said, "Overall I think we hung with them rebounding, and in general I think we've established a presence in the paint this season."

Williams, a talented six-foot eighth-grader, has been a welcome addition.

Jeannoute noted that Frazier, his senior veteran, is averaging a double-double, and turning to Thompson, he said, "Zoe has come a long way in terms of her versatility on the wing, on both offense and defense."

One of the new additions to the squad this season is sophomore Florence Ajunwa, who transferred in from Abington High School. She played shooting guard for the Ghosts, but abruptly had to switch to point guard at SCH when senior Kate Jaconetti was out with an injury early in the season.

"It's not easy to make that adjustment in the heat of competition, Coach Jeannoute remarked, "but she's coming along well."

Thompson and Ajunwa scored six and five points, respectively, in Thursday's contest.

Penn Charter separated from the Devils in the first quarter by pressuring the ball, getting steals, and then scoring off of them.

Jeannoute conceded, "Sometimes in the flow of the game we get away from the game plan. A well-coached team like Penn Charter is going to capitalize on that, and those early turnovers took some momentum away from us."

On the positive side, he said, "We've grown more confident, and our second unit is now coming out ready to play. I think people are settling into their roles pretty well."

PC's Maguire said that his charges are learning leadership lessons in practice, where, he related, "we split them up into two teams and each team has a captain every day. It helps them learn how they can communicate and become better teammates for each other."

Penn Charter got good performances from sophomore reserves Liv Vieira and Natalia Modzelewski, both guards. Vieira had all of her six points in the first half, while Modzelewski scored early and late, with three three-pointers and a total of 11 points.