Springside gets by Chester to win own hoops tourney
Trailing by as many as nine points during the second half in the championship game of the Springside School Holiday Basketball Tournament, the host Lions rallied to seize the tourney title last Tuesday evening, getting by Chester High School, 47-44.
In the tourney semifinals a day earlier, Springside (7-3) rolled past Little Flower, 55-14, while Chester’s Lady Clippers clobbered John W. Hallahan, 70-47. Prior to Tuesday’s championship contest, Little Flower (1-5) picked up its first victory of the season by shading Hallahan (1-5) in the consolation game, 41-39.
Senior guard Colleen Caldwell, who scored a combined 26 points in the two tournament outings, was named MVP of the event, and joining her on the All-Tournament team was sophomore forward Sydni Epps, who accumulated two dozen points during the tourney.
Round out the All-Tourney picks were Chester’s Karen Flagg, Little Flower’s Chelsea Kada, and Hallahan’s Melissa Danao.
In the tourney’s opening game, Chester easily overcame Hallahan after breaking out to a 21-7 lead over the first eight minutes. Malika Staples led the winners with a game high 20 points, and 14 points apiece were added by Flagg and LaQueena Ferguson. Hallahan was paced by Shannon Mack, with 16 points.
The second semifinal contest was equally unexciting. Although the Lions did not cash in on all of their offensive opportunities by any means, the outcome of the contest quickly became a foregone conclusion. Springside scored the first ten points of the evening and proceeded to a 22-4 halftime advantage. Even with the Sentinals upping their offensive output to eight points in the third quarter, the Lions tacked another ten points onto their lead as everyone all the way down the bench got plenty of playing time.
In addition to 15 points apiece from Colleen Caldwell and Sydni Epps (ten rebounds), Springside received six points from Gianna Pownall, five from Stacey Costain (five blocks), four points apiece from Courtney Caputo (four steals) and Alexis Giovinazzo, and two each from Fran Edmondson, Jamie McGinn, and Maddie Hinchey. Little Flower was led by Courtney Weidner and Chelsea Kada, with five and four points, respectively.
The game might easily have been a forgettable affair if it had not been the 100th victory for Springside mentor Brian Morris. Now in his third season at Springside, Morris began his coaching career with a three-year tenure at Hallahan, then headed the women’s team at Chestnut Hill College for the next two years. Immediately before coming to Springside, he spent two seasons at the helm of the girls’ team at Bishop McDevitt High School.
Many of Morris’ friends, relatives, and former players were on hand for Monday’s milestone, including Morris’ father, celebrated coach Bill “Speedy” Morris.
Tuesday night’s tournament consolation game matched up two all-girls schools that seem destined to struggle in the Philadelphia Catholic League’s Southern Division, where Archbishop Carroll and Cardinal O’Hara are the longstanding powers in girls hoops. Here, at least, the Sentinals and the Mickey Mice found an even match.
There were numerous lead changes, and ultimately a 15-6 fourth quarter resulted in a 41-39 win for Little Flower. Kada accumulated 20 points for the Sentinals, with Annmarie Collins and Julia Deegan adding six points apiece. In the losing cause, Melissa Danao scored 10 points and Nya Mercer put in seven for Hallahan.
On the opening night of the tourney, Chester had simply used its athleticism to dash past Hallahan, but as Tuesday’s championship bout got underway the Clippers displayed a disciplined approach that stymied Springside.
After lay-ups by Epps and Caldwell and a short jumper by Edmondson got Springside off to a 6-2 lead, Chester shut down the Lions’ offense for the last four minutes of the opening period. Flagg, a quick and agile six-foot forward, scored four points to initiate a 10-0 run for the Clippers, and Staples ended it with a three-pointer that sent Chester into the second stanza with a 12-6 lead. The Lions had a number of shots blocked when small guards insisted upon driving on much taller defenders.
In the opening minute of the second round Costain resurrected the Springside offense, scoring off of an offensive rebound, and then delivering a pass to Caputo to set up a lay-up. Staples and Springside’s Caldwell exchanged three-pointers in the middle of the period, but with Chester cashing in on several breakaways, the Clippers were back up by six points as halftime approached. Right at the buzzer, Epps converted off an assist from Caldwell, making it a four-point game at 25-21.
“Our girls tried to run with them,” said the Lions’ Morris, “and I told them that we’d be better off if we just settled down and got into our offensive sets.”
Springside came out for the third quarter playing a zone defense instead of the man-to-man specified by Coach Morris. By the time things got sorted out, Chester’s Flagg had added two field goals and two free throws to her total. With 5:27 to go in the period, a lay-up by guard Janera Handy put the Clippers up by nine points, 33-24.
Springside started to come back as its two New Zealanders, Edmondson and Costain, each put in a shot from the paint. In between those two baskets, Caldwell picked up her third personal foul. Still, the Lions continued with what would become a 13-2 rally as Pownall, a freshman guard, came off the bench. She scored a modest two field goals during the Springside spree, but her approach to the situation, aggressive yet level-headed, seemed to rub off on her older teammates. Her second basket, a breakaway buzzer-beater assisted by Epps, gave the tourney hosts a 37-35 edge heading into the final period.
“It was her coming-out party,” Morris said of the ninth grader. “Gianna may already be the best defender we have on this team. We didn’t get her into the game against GA, but we could’ve because she’s not afraid of anybody. She gets better every day and she has a tremendous work ethic.”
Three minutes into the fourth frame the Lions had built a five-point cushion at 42-37, and although they didn’t score during the next few minutes, they remained ahead as Chester netted just a single point from three one-and-one chances at the foul line. After the Lions whiffed on a one-on-one of their own, Edmondson fouled Staples on a successful lay-up, and the Clippers guard drained the free throw to make it 42-41 with 1:47 on the clock.
Edmondson redeemed herself with a lay-up, but at the other end Tishana Jackson answered with a bucket off a rebound. With 36 seconds left and the Clippers now in the foul double-bonus, Handy hooped the first of two free throws, tying the game at 44-all.
During the waning moments of the game, one could almost hear Fats Domino crooning “I’m walkin’, yes indeed!” as the Clippers shuffled their way to two key turnovers.
After tying the game, Handy missed her second free throw, and just after Flagg corralled the rebound for Chester, she was called for traveling. The visiting squad then committed its eighth team foul, and the Lions’ Epps stepped to the line to knock down the first shot of a one-and-one with 15 ticks to go, making it 45-44.
Epss’ second shot was off the mark, and the Clippers came down the floor needing just a regular field goal to take the lead. However, when guard Georria Clark drove through the lane she, too, was whistled down for a walk as the clock showed four seconds remaining. This development drew a technical foul from the Chester bench, and Caldwell made it a three-point game by sinking both of the resulting free throws. Costain then inbounded the ball to Epps, who held onto it as the clock clicked down to victory.
Edmondson registered 17 points, six rebounds, and three blocked shots for the Lions, with Caldwell contributing 11 points and four steals, and Epps adding nine points, ten rebounds, and five steals. Costain (four assists, three blocks) and Pownall scored four points apiece, and Caputo put in two points.
Chester’s Flagg supplemented a game-high 19 points with a dozen rebounds and five blocks, while Staples and Ferguson finished with eight points apiece.
The Lions ended the 2009 portion of the season with a record of 7-3, and Morris observed, “If we played a couple of the teams we lost to over again right now, we could easily be 9-1. This year we have a number of strong non-league teams on our schedule like Friends Central and Chester and Nazareth, and now we have league games coming up against Notre Dame and Penn Charter, so things don’t get any easier.”