by Tom Utescher

As they had against the Germantown Academy girls exactly a week earlier, the Lions of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy got off to a strong start at Penn Charter in last Tuesday’s Inter-Ac hoops showdown, but then saw the opposition recover and eventually prevail. SCH led 17-9 early in the second quarter, but fell behind for good during the third period and lost to the Quakers, 38-34.

The final margin between the teams was a lot closer this time around, four points as opposed to a dozen against GA, but the net result was still the same, as SCH slipped to 6-9 overall and 2-3 in the league, while PC improved to 7-7, 2-2. In between those contests, the Lions had an even more frustrating experience (if possible), losing 40-39 at Notre Dame on a late free throw by the Irish.

At Penn Charter, SCH’s Michelle Boggs went inside for the first field goal of the game and senior classmate Sydni Epps followed up with a pair of three-point baskets. PC started off with a trey of its own from senior Danielle Sienko, and another upperclassman, Dianna Thomas-Palmer, added a lay-up to make it 8-5.

Boggs and Thomas-Palmer are both strong 6’1” post players, and there was a lot of muscle at work in the paint. Boggs had an early edge in this battle, but Thomas-Palmer rose up to score a game-high 13 points, along with seven rebounds and two blocks. Surprisingly, she also handled the ball a good deal on the offensive transition, proving sure-handed with the rock.

“Our team goes through Dee,” PC coach David Bass said. “She’s a big presence; an all-league player in my opinion. We have to make sure she gets touches down low.”

SCH still led at the end of the first quarter, 13-9, but Epps already had two personal fouls. Boggs would pick up her second late in the second stanza. A jumper by Lions sophomore Julia Schumacher (starting at point guard in place of injured junior Gianna Pownall) and a score off a rebound by Boggs made it 17-9 early in the second round.

Unfortunately for SCH fans, Boggs (six points, 13 rebounds) would not score again in the game, and it would take the Lions until the end of the afternoon to score their next 17 points.

“They got a lot from their high-low plays early in the game, so we changed some things on defense to try and take that away,” said PC’s Bass. “They ended up taking a lot of shots from the corners, and the corner shots are tough to make.”

When the Lions can’t get the ball inside to Boggs on offense, they’re usually headed for trouble. The senior (who will play for East Stroudsburg University) rang up 22 points in the Notre Dame game, when the Lions gave perhaps their best complete-game performance this season.

Still, as the first half wound down last Tuesday, the Quakers had only taken three points off of their deficit for a 17-12 tally. With 10 seconds to go, the Lions ignored the well-worn phrase “Don’t foul the jump-shooter!”

Charter senior guard Marykate O’Brien made both a three-pointer from the right wing and a free throw tacked onto the play, pulling PC within one point at the intermission, 17-16. That trey, combined with her seven-for-seven free throw shooting, would give O’Brien 10 points for the day.

A lay-up and free throw by Epps (which rounded out her 10-point total) gave SCH a little lift to start the second half, but Thomas-Palmer deposited two jumpers to tie the score at 20-20. After SCH junior Maddi Hinchey (five points) and PC’s Sienko (eight points, four rebounds) traded buckets, Thomas-Palmer barreled down the lane to give the Quakers their first lead of the day (24-22) with 1:38 left in the third round.

SCH’s Schumacher, who made the most of her starting opportunity with nine points and four assists, stuck a jumper from the foul line to tie the game for a final time. Ayanna Matthews (four points, three steals), a starter for Charter along with eighth-grade classmate Hannah Fox (three points), hit a lay-up, then Thomas-Palmer and O’Brien each made a pair of free throws to close out the period, 30-24.

Two more O’Brien foul shots upped the lead to eight points early in the final frame, but three-pointers by Hinchey and Schumacher kept SCH from falling out of contention. Later on, with 2:22 on the clock, Schumacher was fouled on another three-point attempt, and she canned two of her three tosses to make it a two-point affair, 34-32.

Now in the foul double bonus, Charter had Matthews, Thomas-Palmer, and Sienko each hit one of two shots from the stripe as the clock ticked down to 36 seconds. The foul committed against Thomas-Palmer, with 40 seconds left, was the fifth for the Lions’ Epps. At 18 seconds, the final total for SCH went up on the board with two free throws by senior Elana Roadcloud (four points, eight rebounds). Four ticks later, a foul shot by Fox locked in the final score, and on their last possession, the Lions couldn’t find the mark on a three-pointer and a lay-up.

As in more than one prior encounter, Springside Chestnut Hill came out with a successful initial strategy, but when the other team countered effectively, the Lions became frazzled and didn’t play well together. At Penn Charter, the three SCH players who took the most shots from the floor connected on only six of 36 attempts – less than 17 percent.