by Tom Utescher

Penn Charter’s Dianna Thomas-Palmer (left) is confronted by Sydni Epps of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. The two seniors will play college ball together at Hofstra University. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

At the Blue Chip Basketball “Super Sunday” showcase last weekend at Archbishop Carroll High School in Radnor, the top five teams from the Girls Inter-Ac League were on display in four consecutive contests.

The only Inter-Ac squad to emerge victorious was Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, which defeated Penn Charter, 47-40, in a contest that Charter led, 34-33, at the start of the fourth quarter. Both the SCH Lions (8-13 overall) and the Quakers (11-12) were 4-5 in league play as a result.

Later on, Germantown Academy (16-7, 8-0 league) led by eight points in the final minute of its game against Bishop McNamara, from suburban Washington. The Patriots were forced into overtime, though, and lost to the Mustangs, 62-55.

The showcase schedule began with Episcopal Academy falling to Archbishop Ryan, 48-45, and in between the SCH and GA games the fifth Inter-Ac entry, Notre Dame, succumbed to a second-half rally by Villa Maria of Erie, Pa., which won 56-41.

Despite SCH’s 3-5 Inter-Ac record coming into Sunday’s event, the Lions had taken a number of games down the wire against quality league opponents. Still, they had not been able to finish with a victory against any Inter-Ac rivals except the last two teams in the standings, Agnes Irwin and Baldwin.

At the Blue Chip showcase, SCH was up by two points both at the end of the first quarter (12-10) and the end of the first half (22-20). Senior forward Elana Roadcloud and junior guard Gianna Pownall had led the Lions’ offense in an overtime loss at GA two days earlier, and at halftime on Sunday they were credited with nine and six points, respectively.

However, PC center Dianna Thomas-Palmer was winning the battle in the contact zone under the basket, and topped all scorers with 10 points. The Quakers senior, who will play for Hofstra University along with SCH guard Sydni Epps, moved Charter ahead in the third quarter, along with classmate Daniello Sienko.

Pownall put SCH up 26-20, but PC began to rally with a three-pointer and a lay-up by Sienko. Thomas-Palmer produced two lay-ups and shot four-for five at the foul line, helping her squad go ahead 34-30 with half-a-minute left in the third stanza. SCH sent notice that it was not going to meekly fold its tents, as Epps closed the period with a three-pointer that made it a one-point affair.

Over the next three minutes, the teams traded field goals to raise the count to 38-37, still in Charter’s favor. Sophomore guard Julia Schumacher sank a midrange jumper for the Lions, then a pass from senior Alexis Giovinazzo set up a successful baseline drive for Roadcloud. When Roadcloud canned a jumper from just below the foul line, Springside Chestnut Hill was up 43-38 with under two minutes remaining.

With just over one minute left, the Quakers got within three thanks to a drive by Thomas Palmer. The Lions missed their next shot, but the possession arrow pointed their way when the ball was tied up on the rebound. Only 48 seconds were left, and Charter had to foul repeatedly to bring its team total from two up to seven.

On the seventh infraction PC avoided fouling the steady Pownall, but sending Schumacher to the line didn’t help the Quakers, as she gave SCH both points from the one-and-one, making it 45-40 with 27.7 on the board. Following a time-out with 19 seconds to go, Charter missed a three-point shot and Epps recovered the rebound. She secured the Lions’ last two points from the foul line with seven seconds to go.

In the bleachers, the Lions’ athletic director, Tina O’Malley, had one more reason to celebrate on her birthday. Roadcloud scored 17 points and Pownall had 14 in the victory, with Epps adding 10. Four for Schumacher and two for Boggs rounded out the final tally.

Thomas-Palmer posted a game-high 22 points, but from there Charter’s scoring dropped off to Sienko’s seven and five points apiece from senior Marykate O’Brien and eighth-grader Hannah Fox. PC junior Katie O’Malley chipped in with a free throw.

Notre Dame played next, then GA squared off against Bishop McNamara, a traditionally powerful program that is not having one of its best seasons, arriving in Radnor with a 12-8 record.

Powered by nine points from senior guard Jaryn Garner and seven from junior forward Kiernan McCloskey, the Patriots enjoyed a 25-19 halftime advantage, and they were still up six at the three-quarter mark, 37-31.

Germantown’s rebounding suffered after McCloskey fouled out with 2:12 remaining in the fourth quarter. Still, the Pats were ahead 45-40 as the final minute approached, and McNamara had committed eight team fouls. GA might have put this one away at the free throw line, but collected only five of a possible 12 points there.

One made foul shot by Garner and two by junior Dempsey Cooper had the Philly franchise ahead 48-40 with 51.9 seconds showing, but the D.C. denizens quickly countered with a three-pointer from Carrie Alexander. The Mustangs kept battling back until a rebound conversion by Chanise Lee brought them even (50-50) with three seconds left in regulation. The Patriots’ first two possessions in overtime ended with a turnover and an offensive foul, while McNamara started out making three of four free throws, going ahead for good.

Germantown was only down 55-53 with under 90 seconds remaining, but then the Pats had to start fouling to try and get the ball from the Mustangs. McNamara steadily built its lead by sinking six of eight free throws. GA’s final points came on a jump shot by Cooper with 16 seconds to go, and the Mustangs notched one more foul shot after that.

Garner gave GA 21 points and the Patriots got 12 from McCloskey, nine from Cooper, and six from junior Natalie Toner, who tabbed a pair of three-pointers. McCloskey’s sophomore sister, Megan, scored four points and turned in one of her best big-game performances to date. Junior Fran Sweeney furnished the other three points for the Pats.

Alexander rolled up a game-high 24 points for the victors, and Jasmine Boyd, with nine, led a list of five other Mustang scorers with five or more points. A 5’9” senior guard, Alexander has committed to Drexel University. Two of her future Drexel teammates played a little later on Super Sunday; Meghan Creighton and Rachel Pearson helped event host Archbishop Carroll chalk up a 64-47 win over a solid squad from central New Jersey, St. John Vianney.