by Tom Utescher
Playing three games in as many days proved too tough a task for Springside Chestnut Hill Academy to handle last week, especially when two of the opponents were 2013 Pa. Independent Schools champion Episcopal Academy and Girls Inter-Ac League runner-up Notre Dame.
On Monday, the Lions hosted EA, which got quite a run from SCH but eventually prevailed 32-27, clinching the Inter-Ac title outright in the last league game of the season. In another home contest the next afternoon, Springside Chestnut Hill opened up in the Pa. Independent Schools tournament with a 54-32 victory over non-league area rival Germantown Friends.
While Wednesday’s journey to Notre Dame was not quite as unpleasant as a voyage on the Carnival Triumph, a tired, flat Lions crew was no match for the Irish, and SCH went down 58-25. Unfortunately, that outcome tipped the Lions’ season record to the negative side, as they finished up 13-14 overall. However, even with the final league loss to Episcopal, Springside Chestnut Hill ended up with a winning mark in the Inter-Ac, going 7-5 to rank fourth in the final standings.
Episcopal arrived at SCH on Monday with a chance to claim outright possession of its first Girls Inter-Ac championship in basketball since the once all-male institution began to field girls’ varsity teams in the early 1980’s.
The Lions actually helped quash the Churchwomen’s hopes to accomplish that feat a year ago, defeating host EA in the second-to-last game of the league campaign. It didn’t seem likely that SCH could be a spoiler this season, since EA romped to a 60-37 home court win over the Lions in their first meeting back in mid-January.
Like most teams, SCH has trouble matching up against the 6’2” senior center for the Churchwomen, Megan Quinn. She had a strong supporting cast in the first clash with Springside Chestnut Hill, as her 16 points were matched by junior teammate Sarah Abbonizio, and five other players contributed to the scoring.
In last week’s rematch, it was largely pure force of will on the part of the Villanova-bound Quinn that carried EA to victory, and the program’s first championship. She netted 21 of her team’s 32 total points, and the Lions stayed in contention the whole way by shutting down almost everyone else on the visiting ballclub.
Abbonizio and fellow guards Leah Becker, Kristen Hinckley, and Meghan Hubley had combined for 35 points when Episcopal thumped SCH back in January. Last Monday, the same four had 8 points between them as Abbonizio, with six points on the day, was the only Churchwoman besides Quinn who scored more than two points.
However, Abbonizio and Hinckley each corralled four rebounds, and that, along with the 12 boards pulled in by Quinn, helped keep the Lions from getting second shots on most possessions while providing multiple chances for the visitors.
In the first quarter, Abbonizio and Hinckley each drove for a lay-up, and Abbonizio uncorked Episcopal’s lone three pointer of the afternoon (down from a team total of seven in the January game). Two lay-ups and a free throw by Quinn helped give EA a 12-7 lead at the end of that opening period, with SCH getting a traditional three-point play from sophomore Caroline Henry and field goals from senior Gianna Pownall and junior Julia Schumacher, also guards.
Almost six minutes into the second round, it looked like the Churchwomen might be making a clean break as only sophomore forward Olivia Byron found the net for the home team during an 8-2 Episcopal surge. Another Byron basket revived the Lions, then Pownall strung together a three-pointer and a score off a steal in the final minute, tugging her team back within four points by halftime, 20-16.
Overall, offensive production fell off in the third quarter, with the reckoning at 4-4 until Quinn engineered a put-back of her own shot with half-a-minute to go, making it 26-20 to start the fourth round.
Schumacher, the smallest starter between the teams at 5’2”, had scored all the Lions’ points in the third period, and after Pownall opened the fourth with a solitary free throw, Schumacher completed the Lions’ total for the day with three field goals. The third shot, a mid-range jumper from the right wing with 1:23 remaining, had SCH’s deficit down to four points, 31-27.
As the clock progressed through the final minute, the visitors lost a chance to ice the win by coming up empty on a pair of one-and-one’s. SCH could not get any shots to fall from the field, though, and with EA getting into the double bonus with nine seconds to go, Abbonizio made the first of her two shots from the stripe to complete the scoring for the day. By the time the Lions called a time-out just five seconds were left, and they could do nothing but heave up a meaningless (and off-target) three-point shot.
Leading the losing cause were Schumacher (five rebounds) with 12 points and Pownall with eight, followed by Byron with four points and Henry with three. Freshman Lindsay Hiner and senior Maddi Hinchey hauled in six and five rebounds, respectively.
The SCH girls may have missed their last shot from beyond the arc in that game, but the next day they drenched the GFS Tigers with three-balls in the first round of the Pa. Independent Schools Championship Tournament.
Seventh-seeded Springside Chestnut Hill rained down 12 triples in all; four for Hiner (12 points total), three each for Pownall (18) and her freshman sister, Marissa (nine), and two for junior Madi Sehn (10).
It was actually the younger Pownall, a freshman, who began to break the game open in the middle of the third quarter. Seeded 10th for the tourney, GFS was hanging in and was down seven at 32-27 when the SCH ninth-grader subbed into the game and nailed her three treys all in a row. The Lions proceeded to a 48-25 advantage at the three-quarter mark, and cruised from there.
Another freshman, Germantown’s Lizzie Becker, had a team-high 12 points, and Tigers sophomore Imani Ross added nine.
The previous day’s game for the Lions, the one against Episcopal, had originally been scheduled for the Friday before, and SCH had planned to host the Indy tournament game with GFS on Monday. But while almost every other school – pubic and private – went forward with their Friday afternoon contests without suffering ill effects from the approaching winter storm, Springside Chestnut Hill postponed the EA game until Monday while shifting the tussle with the Tigers to the following afternoon.
This put the SCH hoopsters in the position of having to play three games in three days, and on the final outing on Wednesday, the Lions had a major letdown at Notre Dame. In the first of the two regular-season duels between the teams, the Irish had roared back from a small halftime deficit to ring up a 52-24 victory, but in the rematch on February 1, host Notre Dame prevailed by just half-a-dozen points, 47-41.
The third time was definitely not a charm for the locals, who never enjoyed a lead even briefly. The Irish were eager to have a third encounter with Germantown Academy, something that would happen if both teams won their Indy tournament games on Wednesday (which they did).
Notre Dame and the Patriots split in their two Inter-Ac tilts, and the GA win, which came in the second set-to, eventually forced the Irish to settle for second place in the league while Episcopal claimed the crown.
With Hinchey and Pownall each driving for lay-ups, SCH only trailed 5-4 seven minutes into Wednesday’s contest, but near the end of the first quarter Bucknell-bound senior Megan McGurk bagged a three-pointer and then scored a breakaway lay-up off of a pass from classmate Kathleen Fitzpatrick, who’s headed to St. Joseph’s University.
From that 10-4 shortfall, things went downhill rapidly for the visitors, who didn’t score again before halftime and found themselves looking at the Irish across a 23-4 gap. It was 42-14 by the end of the third quarter, and in the final frame the lead grew as large as 35 points.
Declining to use his team’s back-to-back-to-back schedule as an excuse, Lions head coach Steve Purcell said, “I just think they played really well and we didn’t play well at all. Notre Dame never let us get into our offense, and they just did everything right out there.”
One bright spot was that Hinchey, a Norwood Fontbonne Academy graduate who did not score in the Episcopal or GFS games, came on to record 10 points after halftime at Notre Dame, winding up with a team-high 12 points. Gianna Pownall produced four points, Hiner had three, and Henry, Marissa Pownall and freshman Essence Walden scored two points apiece.
McGurk, with 20 points, and Fitzpatrick, with 12, topped a list of nine scorers for the Irish.