By Tom Utescher
Although the Springside School hoop squad hasn’t truly been at full strength since early December thanks to various personnel difficulties, the Lions acquitted themselves well last week against the top two teams in the Girls Inter-Ac League.
On Tuesday, Springside trailed by just a single point early in the fourth quarter before eventually submitting to Germantown Academy, 55-48, and in another home game two days later the Lions launched a three-point ball that rattled off the rim in the final seconds, letting Penn Charter emerge with a 38-35 victory. No matter how close, each bout resulted in an “L” on the season record, so the Springsiders were happy to end the week with a 53-41 win over Agnes Irwin in a game played at Chestnut Hill Academy on Friday.
“It’s been said many times, but the truth is that all really good teams start out with defense, and our kids hear that from me all the time,” said Springside coach Brian Morris. “I’m lucky to have [junior forward] Elana Roadcloud, who is the best defensive player I’ve ever coached. Tell her what you need her to do, and she does it.
“I think all the kids have come to see that we can stay in a game with anybody if we work hard and defend,” he went on. “They believe in themselves and each other; we may get hurt, we may get behind, but we keep coming back.”
The opening quarter of Tuesday’s GA game gave no indication of how close the contest would turn out to be. Senior forward Dana Lotito started out with eight points in the opening frame and junior guard Jaryn Garner added seven as GA jumped on the Lions, 21-9. The Springsiders steadied themselves in the next round, nipping one point off of their deficit for a 29-18 score at halftime, when Epps had 10 points in the book.
In the third quarter the Lions first brought the margin back down into single figures, then kept creeping closer to end the period just three points behind the visitors, 35-32. Sophomore guard Gianna Pownall joined the list of double-digit scorers, now with 10 points in the book.
A free throw by GA senior guard Alexa Gallagher touched off the scoring in the fourth quarter, then with 6:08 on the clock a lay-up and foul shot by Roadcloud made it a one-point game, 36-35. Another senior in Germantown’s backcourt, Monica Shacker, responded quickly with a three-pointer from the top of the key.
The Lions had a golden opportunity to actually take the lead during this stretch, but over the first five minutes of the fourth period they converted on just one of seven free throw attempts. Roadcloud, who performed better than her teammates in this regard, nailed a pair from the stripe with 2:42 left in the game for a score of 40-37.
Over the ensuing minute, the tally climbed to 45-38 thanks to a 5-1 GA spurt that included a foul shot and a jumper by Garner and two free throws by Schacker. Gallagher’s fifth foul put Springside in the double bonus and senior Brenna Coll connected on each shot, but GA’s Garner quickly recouped those points from the line as the Lions also committed their tenth foul of the half.
The home team kept putting Garner on the line (where she was eight-for-10 in the fourth frame) and the teams exchanged points up to 52-45. With 42 seconds to go Coll knocked down a “three” from the right wing for the Lions, who then fouled Shacker and dropped back to a 54-48 shortfall. Sinking the first of two free throws, GA’s Lotito put the final score on the board with 18 seconds remaining.
During the encounter Epps sprained an ankle and was sidelined on Thursday, when Penn Charter junior guard Brianna Butler was just returning from an ankle injury of her own. Quakers senior Kendall Stokes, plagued by trouble in the same joint since December 31, was finally back in action for the visitors, as well.
The various injuries have given PC coach Diana Caramanico the chance to try out some of her younger reserve players. Among them are sophomore Kelly Kubach and freshmen Lauren Dimes, Kristina Kubach (who also sat out at Springside due to injury) and Steph Soroka, who were starters on Charter’s soccer team last fall.
“They need to keep learning the fine points about basketball,” Caramanico explained, “but they all have a lot of athletic experience, and I think there are certain ball principles that hold true from one sport to another.”
On the other side of the scoring table, Springside was making do without three players who had started out the season. Epps was on crutches and senior point guard Shea Crotty is headed for ACL surgery, while 6’3” freshman Erin Garner left the team in the middle of the month. When PC visited on Thursday, the two bruised ballclubs battled to a 19-19 draw.
The Quakers made a 9-4 move in just under five minutes as the third period unfolded. It began with a trey by MaryKate O’Brien and a score off a rebound by fellow junior Danielle Sienko, and ended with two foul shots and a transition lay-up by another 11th grader, center Dianna Thomas-Palmer. Coll connected for a Springside “three,” but regular field goals by Butler and senior point guard Aleesha Powell sent the visitors into the closing round with a 32-26 lead.
The score seesawed to 34-28, then Powell penetrated for two lay-ups and added a free throw, making it 39-28. Junior forward Michelle Boggs scored from the paint for Springside, then PC responded by sending a pass inside to a wide-open Stokes, who saw limited action but was in the game for Charter during the stretch run.
Boggs put in a short jumper on an inbounds play, and Springside was back within three (38-35) with half-a-minute to go. On the Lions’ next possession a missed shot was rebounded by Pownall, and the host team called time-out with under nine seconds remaining. A final Springside three-ball bounced off the rim, and PC’s Butler scooped up the rebound right at the buzzer.
In a game at Agnes Irwin in mid-December Springside struggled before prevailing 58-50, but in last Friday’s rematch even the currently depleted Springside squad was able to take care of business.
“We were really banged-up, but the kids knew we needed the win, especially because it was a league game,” Coach Morris said.
The Lions stepped off to a 20-7 first-quarter lead and then engaged cruise control to top the Owls by 12 points. In both scoring and rebounding Boggs bagged an even dozen, while Coll collected a game-high 17 points and Roadcloud added 11. Nine points from Pownall and four from junior point guard Alexis Giovinazzo rounded out the winning total.