by Tom Utescher
In last week’s best-of-three-games final series in the NCAA Summer League, Team Lime Green clinched its third straight championship in two straight games, although the second victory came much harder than the first. The three-time champs are coached by Ted Hagedorn and Tom Freedman, and the roster includes Hagedorn’s daughter, Elle, a former Mount St. Joseph Academy star heading into her senior year at Harvard University.
The team was actually known as “Kelly Green” last summer, but this year the players were back in the Lime Green jerseys that they wore in their 2010 championship run.
On Tuesday night, the Limeys got on a roll in the 2012 series opener, taking down second-seeded Team Black, 85-54. The following evening, Black was still within five points of the defending champs with under three minutes left to play, then Lime reinforced its lead in the final phase, winning 66-56 to retain the league crown.
Including the playoff quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals, Lime Green finished with an overall record of 15-0, with an 11-0 regular-season mark that included a 76-57 victory over Team Black (9-2 regular season).
Game one began with the first of Meg Pearson’s four three-pointers helping to launch Lime Green towards a 7-0 lead. However, seven minutes into the action it looked like the contest could develop into a pitched battle as post players Kerry Kinek (14 points total), Emily Leer (11), and Stephanie Schultz (10) brought Black back within two points of the leaders at 17-15.
The last two points in this rally had come on free throws by Rachel Roberts (10 points), but after this, Team Black struggled both in the shooting and rebounding departments, and didn’t score again for more than five minutes.
During this span, Lime’s Liz Sharlow sank a three-pointer and a lay-up and fellow forward Dana Mitchell provided a midrange jumper and two free throws. A trey from the left corner by Jenn Prine capped off a 16-0 surge for the number one seed before Black’s Schultz stuck a “J” from the right wing to break the drought.
The Black bunch never really got back in contention as Lime’s transition offense began to click and they built a 20-point halftime lead at 48-28. The two seed was not lacking in large bodies, but the quick hands and reflexes of some of Lime’s smaller players, including MSJ grad Hagedorn, produced rebounds and strips that resulted in a number of one-shot offensive trips for Black.
Kinek (a first-team all-state player from Allentown Central Catholic who’s bound for Lehigh) came on to score six of her team’s first nine points of the second half. Although Black shaved just two points off its deficit over the first five minutes, Lime seemed to lack some of its former fire, and called time-out with the count at 55-37.
Coming out of the break, Sharlow and Katie O’Reilly touched off an 18-2 run that effectively put the game out of reach for Team Black. The scoring spree included three pointers by Kuester (two) and Pearson, who each finished with four triples for the evening. Before Black put up the final six points in the game, the score was 85-48.
Although Kuester stood out with her 22 points, it actually was a well-balanced effort for the winners, who received additional double-digit performances from Prine (15), Pearson (14), Sharlow (12) and Mitchell (11). Alicia Manning scored seven points and O’Reilly finished with four.
The Black team stepped up its rebounding the following night, and exhibited much better ball movement on offense while tightening up its set defense. This all contributed to a contest that was competitive the whole way.
Nevertheless, Black was playing catch-up almost the entire time, falling behind after leading 3-2 in the second minute. Mitchell had opened the scoring in the game, then Black’s Leer (giving a much stronger performance than in game one) nudged her team ahead with a short jumper and a free throw. A Kuester lay-up then touched off a 13-2 spree for Lime Green that featured three-pointers by Pearson, Hagedorn, and Sharlow. That made it 15-5, and later, with a little over nine minutes left in the first half, the gap was still at 10 points, 28-18.
Two inside buckets by Leer and a baseline jumper by guard Ashley Wood rallied the Black franchise, who later got a three-pointer and a shorter jumper from Roberts, Leer’s teammate at Villanova University (where Lime’s Pearson and Devon Kane also play). This resurgence got the league’s second seed back within four points, 33-29, about four minutes before the end of the half.
A lay-up and a 15-footer by Mitchell, along with single free throws by her and Kuester, helped Lime Green gain a little more breathing room at the break, when the tally was 39-31. Kuester had nine points in the book, but the overall scoring leader was Sharlow, with an even dozen.
Jasmine Elum, a guard for Team Black who played for Bethune Cookman University last winter, notched 13 of her game-high 16 points in the second half. Elum, the all-time leading scorer out of Philly’s Bodine High School, scored on a fast break, converted an offensive rebound, and added a pair of free throws over the initial eight minutes, helping her ballclub pare Lime Green’s lead down to just three-points, 47-44.
On consecutive possessions, Lime’s Pearson hit a lay-up off an inbounds play and then bagged a “three” to get the leaders out of immediate danger. One of her teammates, Prine, registered all seven of her points for the night in the second period, including a breakaway lay-up that set the score at 59-48 with five-and-a-half minutes remaining.
Elum led one last meaningful charge for Team Black, sandwiching a “three” and a flawless one-and-one around one free throw by teammate Kinek. The foul that sent Elum to the line also happened to be the fourth personal on Lime’s Kuester. When the Bodine grad converted with 2:59 on the ticker, the count was 59-54.
Prine popped a big three-pointer from the right wing, then Sharlow hit the second of two free throws and Pearson scored again off an inbounds play. That took the leaders into the final minute with a 65-54 advantage, and a lay-up by Elum and a foul shot by Kuester locked in the final score.
Another balanced scoring effort for the league champs saw Sharlow’s 13 points backed up by 12 from Pearson and 11 apiece from Kuester and Mitchell. Prine and Hagedorn each put up seven points, and O’Reilly added five.
Team Black’s points were also well-distributed, with 16 from Elum, 14 from Leer, a dozen from Roberts, and 10 from Kinek. Schultz’s four points completed the total for the league runner-up.
In all, players with local connections appeared on six different teams in the league this summer, and as usual, even those on squads which were not title contenders enjoyed the experience. The success of this highly popular enterprise is due in no small part to the efforts of league commissioner David Kessler, who worked for many years in the Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation before retiring in 2009.