Shorthanded Mounties give Villa Maria a battle, falling 56-50

by Tom Utescher
Posted 1/26/23

In last Thursday's Athletic Association of Catholic Academies basketball bout, host Mount St. Joseph Academy fell to Villa Maria, 56-50.

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Shorthanded Mounties give Villa Maria a battle, falling 56-50


In last Thursday's Athletic Association of Catholic Academies basketball bout, host Mount St. Joseph Academy held modest leads a number of times in the first half, which ended with the Magic ahead, 29-25.

Visiting Villa Maria forged ahead in the third quarter, and went up by 11 points early in the fourth. The Mount cut its deficit to two points in the closing minutes, but in the end the Hurricanes came away with a 56-50 victory.

Villa raised its record to 13-2 overall and 6-0 within the AACA, while Mount St. Joe emerged at 8-8, 3-4. 

Shortly before Christmas, Mount St. Joe lost the first meeting between the teams on the road at Villa, 57-45. In the closer rematch last week, the Magic were actually missing two starters. Seniors Lauren Hoffmann and Kiersten Pumilia were both injured during a January 8 victory over league opponent Merion Mercy Academy.

Pumilia suffered a concussion and is expected to return this week, while Hoffman's ankle and foot injury appears to be more involved.

Two other seniors stepped up in last Thursday's Villa contest to score 16 points apiece, with guard Chloe McGrorty producing most of her points in the first half while forward Georgia Pickett came on late in the game.

Villa's high scorer, senior forward Marah McHugh, also scored 16 points. She got the scoreboard rolling with a basket from the paint, but McGrorty answered for the Magic with back-to-back drives. She would add a free throw and a short jumper later on, and junior Emily Birmingham and senior Carlie Shouldis also scored from the floor to help the Mounties end the opening period with a 13-12 edge.

The second stanza began with the first of McGrorty's two three-point field goals, but Villa pulled back into a 16-16 tie and later edged ahead, 22-21.

Pickett drove the lane and Shouldis stuck a baseline jumper for the home team, then the Hurricanes drew even again (25-25) with a three-pointer from the right wing by Ella Iacone. Compact point guard Elaina Guerzon hit a pair of three's for the visitors during the first half.

At the end, the Magic found Birmingham on a cut inside for a basket, and a pass by McGrorty set up freshman Bridget Horgan for a lay-up that made it 29-25 at halftime.

During much of the first half, Villa Maria hadn't looked like a 12-2 team. The Hurricanes seemed flummoxed by the amount of resistance they were seeing from the Mount, and their actions often appeared somewhat hasty and sloppy.

This began to change as the second half got underway. The Hurricanes became more disciplined, and once they'd moved ahead, they would hold the ball in their set offense and make thrusts toward to the basket when they saw an opening. They did some inside scoring and also canned three three-pointers during the third quarter.

The Magic kept pace with buckets by Birmingham, Pickett, and sophomore Addy Smith, with McGrorty supplying assists. Villa's Claire Cronley scored all of her seven second-half points during a run that bridged the third and fourth quarters.

The teams were even at 37-all with two minutes left in the third round, then Villa once again mixed inside and outside shooting to score the last seven points of the third quarter and the first four points of the fourth frame, making it 48-37. The Mounties would now have to raise their own level if they didn't want to just kiss this game goodbye.

More than three minutes in, the 'Canes were still up 11, at 52-41. Pickett scored off a rebound, McGrorty hit a trey from the top of the key, and Pickett cut inside to receive a pass and score a lay-up. It was a four-point affair with a little over three minutes to go.

McGrorty then picked up her fourth personal foul and the Mount called a time-out to settle things down with 2:22 remaining and the score 52-48. The Magic did not score on their next possession, but when Villa was coming up the floor on offense Pickett intercepted a pass and finished with a lay-up. This led to a time-out by Villa, which now only held a 52-50 lead with 1:27 on the clock.

The Hurricanes committed a turnover on their inbounds play, then they blocked a Mount St. Joe shot and got the ball back. McHugh scored for Villa in transition, and then there was some controversy when Villa double-teammed a Mount ballhandler near the sideline. The MSJ sideline thought a foul had been committed, but instead a tie-up was called and the Hurricanes got the ball.

As the clock clicked under 30 seconds McGrorty was called for her fifth foul and was replaced by fellow senior Julia Donahue. Villa missed the first shot of the one-and-one, but the Hurricanes' Carly Catania corralled the rebound. The Magic then had to foul the wrong player in sharpshooter Guerzon, and she connected on both ends of a one-and-one to put the 56-50 final on the board.

The Villa guard joined McHugh in double digits in scoring, as did Cronley, with 10 points. Birmingham stamped 10 points on the Mount's stat sheet, where she was followed by Shouldis, with four points, and Smith and Horgan, with two points each.