Mount St. Joe senior Mary Jo Horgan (left) avoids an elbow to the nose while attempting to pry the ball away from Gwynedd Mercy’s Morgan Sheridan. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher
Breaking out of an early 2-2 tie with a 16-1 surge, visiting Mount St. Joseph Academy went on to beat the Gwynedd Mercy Monarchs 55-29 last Thursday evening, reaching a record of 4-0 overall and 2-0 within the Athletic Association of Catholic Academies.

After opening the 2010-2011 campaign by winning the Cedar Crest Tip-Off Tournament (Lebanon, PA) two weekends ago, the Mount cruised, 68-30, in last Tuesday’s league opener at Merion Mercy. The Gwynedd contest two days later was the Magic’s fourth consecutive road game.

Against the Monarchs, Mount St. Joe received 14 and 13 points, respectively from two senior mainstays, guard Mary Jo Horgan (eight assists, three steals), and forward Steph Smith (nine rebounds, six assists). The 6’1” Smith committed to play at Baltimore’s Loyola University at the end of last summer.

Junior guards Cailin Schmeer and Bridget Higgins (three steals) added eight and six points in Thursday’s victory, and the Magic also recorded five points for Kelsey Jones (three steals), four for fellow sophomore Meg Geatens, three for junior Maddie Kohler, and two for sophomore Anne Burgoyne.

Gwynedd (0-1 AACA, 2-2 overall) was led by Morgan Sheridan, with 11 points, and Caroline Shimrock, with eight. One of the Monarchs’ most promising players last season, freshman forward Kiernan McCloskey, has transferred to Germantown Academy.

The Mount St. Joseph Magic have been able to hit the ground running this season due to the fact that all but one of last year’s starters (forward Tara Barr) are back in action this winter. The team’s top reserve players are also accustomed to playing within the system orchestrated by fifth-year MSJ coach John Miller.

The exception is Schmeer, who transferred into Mount St. Joe’s this year from Hatboro Horsham High School.

“Everyone on the team was so welcoming,” she said. “They didn’t care if I screwed up a play in practice; they helped me through it. I think the program is just phenomenal, the intensity of the defense, the hustle everyone has every day in practice.

“Coach Miller is great,” she continued. He’s not a screamer; he’s patient and he’s definitely a teacher of the game.”

She enjoys the atmosphere in the Mount classrooms, as well.

“It’s definitely more challenging than my old school, but I like it,” she related. “You don’t have the boys being rowdy in class, and it’s very academically focused.”

UPDATE – In last Saturday’s home opener the Magic passed their first major test of the season, defeating Philadelphia Public League power Engineering & Science High School, 64-45. The Engineers hung close through the first half, which ended with a buzzer-beater by Jones that gave the Mount a 31-24 edge. The Magic took command of the contest with a 15-1 run over the first seven minutes of the second half.

Smith shone with 23 points and nine rebounds, and Horgan had 11 points and three steals. Higgins played a fine all-around game and finished with eight points and three assists, and freshman guard Alex Louin also scored eight points for the winners. E & S guard Brittany Hrynko poured in a game-high 26 points before fouling out of the game with five minutes remaining. She will attend DePaul University along with Germantown Academy’s Alexa Gallagher.