by Tom Utescher

In the last home game on their official league schedule, the Norwood Fontbonne Academy Bears emerged from an overtime period with a victory, knocking off the girls of Nazareth Academy last Thursday, 31-28.

It was a welcome win for the NFA varsity, one of only two that the team has recorded this winter in the Girls Catholic Academies League. It’s been a very different season for the junior varsity squad, which clinched the league championship on Thursday by thumping the Nazareth JV, 32-15.

The varsity Bears, who notched a win over Rosemont School of the Holy Child in a GCAL contest back in January, came out strong against Nazareth and led 8-4 with a little over two minutes left in the first half. Eighth-grader Eva McGrath fueled the early outburst with six points, while seventh-grader Eliza Ewing added a field goal.

In the final minute NFA eighth-grader Colleen Clark hit a lay-up and made a foul shot added onto the play, but Nazareth netted a field goal and two free throws to make it a three-point game at the intermission, 11-8.

Norwood’s offense stalled in the third period and the visitors took the lead, enjoying a 16-11 advantage going into the final quarter.

The Bears worked their way back and tied the game at 17-all on a free throw by Ewing with a little over four minutes left in regulation. The teams raced neck-and-neck from there. On a lay-up by Ewing with 19 seconds to go the ball circled the rim and then dropped in to give the hosts a 25-23 lead, but Nazareth’s Molly Driscoll drained a jumper from the foul line to tie the score with just seven seconds left.

A three-minute overtime began with the score 25-25, then the Bears’ Ewing committed her fifth foul and Nazareth’s Emily Miller hit the second of two free throws. A drive by NFA’s Clark was matched by a bank shot by Miller, giving Nazareth a 28-27 edge at the end of the first minute.

Norwood went ahead for good on a short jumper by McGrath with 1:43 on the clock. The Bears lost an opportunity to reinforce their lead, missing four straight foul shots. Nazareth’s last possession ended with a steal by NFA eighth-grader Casey Lorimer, and McGrath scored on a rebound at the buzzer to give her team a three-point margin at the end.

McGrath piled up 16 points, Clark had nine, and Ewing scored six for the winners, while Miller collected nine points to lead Nazareth.

Next, the Norwood JV took the court with a cast consisting entirely of sixth-graders. At the start of the season, the Bears lost a tournament game where they were missing two of their starters, but since then they’ve done nothing but win.

Most opponents have no answer for 5’10” center Chloe Burns, and Nazareth was no different last Thursday. In the opening quarter she poured in five lay-ups, and guard Kara Celano added a field goal on an inbounds play. Nazareth’s Mary Kate Gould got off a buzzer beater, but her team still trailed 12-3 going into the second round.

After cruising to an 18-7 halftime lead, the Bears increased their substitutions and got everybody on their long bench into the game. Remaining unbeaten in official league contests, they captured the GCAL title with one game remaining, since each of the other teams have at least two league losses.

Burns’ game-high 20 points was complemented by four points apiece from Celano and Gabby Dunning, and two each from Grace Gelone and Georgia Powell. For Nazareth, Kate Delancey scored seven points, and Gould finished with six.