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August 6, 2009

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Springside moves into playoff Quarterfinals

Some clown set off a quarter-stick of dynamite on a softball field at Kendrick Recreation Center last Tuesday night, while on the adjacent outdoor basketball court Springside School and Plymouth Whitemarsh High School were generating some fireworks of their own.

In a first-round playoff game in the Lou Cappiella Summer League, the PW Colonials led most of the way, but the Lions made three of four free throws in the final eight seconds of the game to pull out a 30-29 victory and move on to this week’s quarterfinals. Incoming freshman Gianna Pownall hooped the first of the crucial foul shots, then sophomore transfer Sydni Epps nailed both of her shots from the line to clinch the victory.

It’s ironic that Springside won the contest at the free throw line, because throughout much of the game, and in their regular-season finale the previous night, the Lions struggled at the stripe. On Monday the Lions lost to John W. Hallahan High School, 25-18, while making just seven of their 20 free throws. Springside didn’t fare much better on field goal attempts, and trailed 16-5 at halftime.

The contest didn’t develop into a full-fledged rout due to the fact that Hallahan’s shooters were only a little more accurate than Springside’s. The Mickey Mice were up 10 (22-12) with just over two minutes to go, but after that they garnered only one of a possible 12 points from the foul line (including one-and-one’s).

A free throw by sophomore Aly Markey, a jumper by middle school prospect Julia Schumacher, and a three-pointer by incoming freshman Michelle Cybularz got the Lions a little closer, but they still succumbed by a seven-point margin. Recent Norwood Fontbonne graduate Maddie Hinchey wound up with four points, as did Pownall.

This setback forced Springside to enter the playoffs as the fourth seed in the East Division of the league, and lined the Lions up against a talented Plymouth Whitemarsh squad. Epps, an agile 5-11 forward, made up for a three-point effort against Hallahan with a 15-point performance that allowed the Lions to squeak past the Colonials. Her first two field goals helped Springside gain a 5-4 edge midway through the first half, then the larger and older PW players set off on a 10-1 spree.

The Colonials were ahead 16-10 at halftime, and would remain in front until the final second of the game. Scrappy Springside made several runs at the lead before their final assault. Plymouth Whitemarsh knocked down the first shot of the second half, but a drive by sophomore transfer Ashley Hale and a three-pointer and a free throw by Epps pulled the Lions within two of the leaders, 18-16.

Two field goals by the Colonials were countered by a lay-up by Hinchey and two free throws by Hale as the score seesawed up to 22-20, then PW expanded the gap a bit, and led 26-21 with under three minutes remaining. The Colonials were fouling a bit more than Springside, though, and the Lions began to find their stroke at the free throw line, hitting five of six the rest of the way (they had connected on just seven of 17 freebies up to that point.)

Two “makes” from the line by Pownall were followed by a successful drive by Epps, and it was a one-point affair (26-25) with 2:25 remaining. A PW player hit the second of two free throws, then the Colonials scored on an inbounds play to lead 29-25 as the game entered its final minute. Both teams were in the foul bonus by this time, but in the stretch run the Colonials would miss their first shot on three different one-and-one’s.

After their first errant toss, Springside responded with a lay-up banked in by Epps, and after another Colonial miss at the charity stripe, Springside’s Pownall drew a shooting foul and stepped to the line with eight seconds to go. She made her first attempt, bringing the Lions within one point at 29-28. PW immediately called a time-out to disrupt her rhythm, and the ball rattled off the rim on her second try.

The Colonials collected the rebound and Springside had to foul, but with six seconds left, PW once again missed the front end of a one-and-one. Epps grabbed the rebound and as she dribbled across the half-court line she was fouled with one second remaining.

The Lions were now in the double bonus, and after Epps knocked down the initial shot for a 29-all tie, PW used its final time-out to try and ice her on her next attempt. This time the ploy failed, as the sophomore swished her second shot to give the Lions the lead, leaving the Colonials with no time to respond.

Hale and Hinchey each scored five points in the victory, while Pownall picked up four points and Markey added a free throw.


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