Mount basketball adds four wins in a week
Mount St. Joseph Academy got right down to business in the new year with four games on last week’s agenda. On Monday and Tuesday, the Magic racked up comfortable victories over non-league rival Penn Wood High School (65-21) and Catholic Academies colleague Sacred Heart (46-24).
The W’s did not come as easily later in the week, but in a pair of league contests the Mount was able to win at Nazareth on Thursday, 49-38, and at home against Merion Mercy on Saturday, 38-36. This successful stretch raised the club’s record to 5-1 in league play and 10-1 overall.
On their first day back in school after the Christmas break, the Magic eased back into action against a 2-7 Penn Wood squad. Lay-ups by Mary Jo Horgan and Steph Smith got host MSJ rolling, and with two field goals and a free throw by Tara Barr, the Mount was ahead 9-0 before Tyneisha Whitsette (11 points total) got the Patriots on the scoreboard.
After the first period ended at 17-8, the Magic would score the first nine points of the second quarter, as well. The hosts were up 35-14 at the intermission, and even with the Mount’s generous use of its bench in the second half, the visitors couldn’t make any headway.
Smith, Barr and Horgan had 17, 13 and nine points, respectively, while Bridget Higgins had eight and Kelsey Jones and Kelsey Robbins put in four points apiece. Rounding out the total were three points apiece by Maddie Kohler and Meg Geatens, and two each by Katie Gallagher and Meg Black.
Aware that fellow AACA member Sacred Heart is having a relatively good year, the Magic came out strong on Tuesday afternoon, building up a 25-10 lead by halftime. Smith duplicated her Monday output of 17 points, with Barr and Horgan each adding half-a-dozen and Jones chipping in with five points. Higgins had four points, Kohler and Gallagher each had three, and Geatens scored two points in the victory, while the visiting Lions were led by Hannah Rush (eight points) and Anne O’Donnell (seven).
“I think we’re getting better as the season moves on,” coach John Miller said of a Magic squad that includes just two seniors. “They’re getting a feel for each other and what I want them to do. We’re taking good care of the ball and we’re playing very good defense, so certainly progress has been made. Earlier on in the season we were getting ourselves into a lot of foul trouble, but we seem to have eliminated that recently.”
Making these comments prior to the Nazareth game, Miller added a “knock-on-wood” to the part about eliminating foul trouble. That precaution wasn’t completely effective, as the Magic picked up eight team fouls in the first half against the Pandas, including three on Horgan and two each on Smith and Barr.
This caused the Magic to bog down a bit after they’d built a 17-9 lead a few minutes into the second quarter. In the last four-and-a-half minutes, Nazareth’s Maggie Borski (13 points) and Nicole Perri (seven points) each deposited one free throw, and then the Pandas’ Jess Sylvester (six points) popped in a three-pointer early in the final minute, setting the score at 17-14 for the intermission.
The Magic opened up a larger lead again in the third quarter, and once more three-point prowess helped Nazareth come back. Paced by seven points from Horgan, the Magic forged ahead, and when Higgins scored on an inbounds play with three minutes left in the third round, the visitors were up by 11 points, 31-20.
As the game transitioned from the third to the fourth period, Nazareth sandwiched treys by Danielle Gaspari (eight points) around two lay-ups by Perri to make it 31-30. The Pandas couldn’t get over the hump as MSJ’s Smith responded with back-to-back baskets from the paint.
With the clock down to 2:20 and the visitors up 42-35, the Magic called a time-out to prepare for the stretch run. Whatever plans were made didn’t take into account an ankle sprain suffered by Horgan with 1:55 to go. She was carried off the court and Jones, a freshman guard, subbed in. The first time she touched the ball, she was standing near the sideline and a rampant Panda knocked her into the bleachers.
Jones collected herself and stepped to the line to sink two free throws. Fouled again with 1:10 remaining, the rookie again cashed in on both of her foul shots, putting the Mount up 46-35. With a minute to go, the Panda’s Borski was fouled on a successful drive, and she tacked a third point onto the play to make it an eight-point game.
Nazareth now had to foul for possession, though, and after Barr made the first of two free throws, her miss on the second attempt was rebounded by Smith to keep the ball in the Magic’s hands. This led to a foul on MSJ’s Kohler, who hit the second of two tosses in a double-bonus situation. The Pandas missed a three-point shot at the other end, and Smith then scored the last point for the Magic from the foul line.
Horgan’s game-high 15 points was backed up by 14 from Smith and nine by Barr.
In an earlier AACA game, Nazareth had to battle to pull out a win over Merion Mercy, and with Horgan now out of action for Mount St. Joe, Merion’s Golden Bears were not to be taken lightly in Saturday’s encounter on the Mount’s home court.
Scoring from Smith got the Magic out to a 5-2 lead, but by the end of the period, Merion guard Margaret Corzel had nine points in the book and the visitors held a 13-11 edge. With Horgan on the bench, the Magic’s feared press was not quite as effective as usual, and the hosts appeared headed for a more serious halftime shortfall as the first five minutes of the second quarter saw Merion extend its lead to seven points at 22-15.
The home fans perked up as Smith made good on an inside move and Barr bagged a pair of free throws. In the final seconds of the half, Smith missed a jumper from the left corner but Barr scored on a put-back, leaving the visitors with just a 22-21 edge at the break.
With a three-pointer by Jones kicking off the third quarter, Mount St. Joe had the lead for the first time since the early minutes of the game. Merion wasn’t going away, though, and at the end of the round the Magic was only ahead by one point, 30-29.
They were already in the foul bonus, but in the final frame their aim was off at the foul line. With one-and-one’s included, the Mount could’ve collected 14 points on free throws in the fourth quarter, but only scored six. Merion also wasted come chances in this regard; down 37-32 with a minute-and-a-half to go, the Bears extracted just a single point from a one-and-one and a subsequent two-shot foul.
The Bears remained dangerous, though, and with 54 seconds remaining Corzel lobbed in a trey from the right wing to make it 37-36. The Merion star then blocked a transition shot by Smith at the other end, but the Magic recovered the loose ball. Now in the double bonus, the Mount had Jones sink the second of two shots with 25 ticks on the board, and six seconds later the Bears called a final time out, down by two.
As Merion set up on offense, a swat by Jones knocked the ball loose and Barr scooped it up. By the time Merion stopped the clock with a foul, only a little over two seconds remained. Uncharacteristically, Jones was off the mark on both of her free throws, but at this point all the Bears could do was heave the ball the length of the court, and there would be no miracle finish for the visitors.
Winding up with 17 and 12 points, respectively, the Mount’s Smith and Barr each registered eight rebounds and three steals, while Jones had six points and two assists. Maddie Kohler added a field goal and Higgins had one point and three assists, while Merion’s Corzel led all scorers with 20 points.