Mount basketball struggles in Catholic Academies opener

by Tom Utescher
Posted 12/20/23

For Mount St. Joseph Academy, a slow beginning to the basketball season has carried into the start of competition.

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Mount basketball struggles in Catholic Academies opener


For Mount St. Joseph Academy, a slow beginning to the basketball season overall has carried into the start of competition in the Athletic Association of Catholic Academies.

The Mount has been coping with the loss of last year's six seniors, several of them multi-year starters. In addition, a current junior at the school who began to start as a freshman has decided to pursue crew on a full-time basis.

The Magic brought a 1-3 record against non-league opponents into last Tuesday's AACA opener at Villa Joseph Marie Academy in Holland, Pa. They only trailed by one point seven minutes into the game, then the host Jems surged ahead with an 11-0 run and went on to win, 58-41.

Senior Emily Birmingham posted nine of her team-high 14 points in the fourth quarter of the contest, while junior Jill Marcolina and freshman Caroline Dougherty each came off the bench to score six points.

Villa Joe, led by 20 points from Grace Pizzica and 13 from Ava Gumienny, came away with the reverse record to the Mount's, 4-1 overall and 1-0 in league play.

When Tuesday's contest began, the Mount had to make do with just a pair of free throws from junior Charlotte McDaid for more than five minutes, then Birmingham scored the Magic's first field goal on a putback. Villa Joe was not burning up the scoreboard either, though, and with 90 seconds left in the opening frame the contest was tied at 4-4.

Villa Joe's Pizzica, who'd opened the scoring with a lay-up, bagged a three-pointer from the right side and the Mount had sophomore Emily Markowski convert off an offensive rebound.

That made it 7-6, but in the last minute of the quarter a bucket off a rebound by Pizzica started an 11-0 Jems run that extended into the second quarter and involved other VJM players, including Gumienny. Senior forward Audrey Kukla and Marcolina, the reserve guard, breathed some life back into the Mount offense, but at halftime the hosts had the Magic doubled up at 24-12.

The Mounties needed to put up some points right away at the start of the second half, but instead, Villa Joe began the third quarter with a 9-2 surge. The tally for the third period ended up at 17-5, allowing the Jems to begin the final round with a 24-point cushion, 41-17.

The Magic played better in the fourth quarter, with the young Dougherty providing a spark off the bench and with Birmingham asserting herself on offense. The senior hit a couple of jumpers and a transition lay-up, and then she made all of her free throws when fouled on a three-point attempt.

However, several Mount players were in deep foul trouble themselves. Two of them eventually fouled out of the game, and another finished with four personals. The visitors trimmed Villa Joe's lead to 13 points on a few occasions late in the game, but the Jems would finish 17 points ahead.