Mount falls to St. Basil, avenges Villa Joe loss

by Tom Utescher
Posted 2/16/21

A select set of parents were permitted to enter the gym at Mount St. Joseph Academy last Wednesday afternoon as the basketball team gave an official sendoff to their daughters, Isla Maguire, Paige …

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Mount falls to St. Basil, avenges Villa Joe loss

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A select set of parents were permitted to enter the gym at Mount St. Joseph Academy last Wednesday afternoon as the basketball team gave an official sendoff to their daughters, Isla Maguire, Paige Metzeler, Clare Moxey, and Grace Niekelski.

They are the senior players for the Magic, and two of the team managers, Grace Chadwick and Gina Princevalle, are also in the Class of 2021.

In the game itself, the Mounties were able to avenge a loss on the road earlier in the season, overcoming visiting Villa Joseph Marie Academy, 57-54. The Magic's record rose to 5-3, while VJM slipped to 4-5.

Two days earlier, the Mount had lost to defending Catholic Academies champ St. Basil, 54-42. Referring to the six-foot star for the Panthers who is headed for Mississippi State, Mount head coach Matt Feeney related, "Denae Carter had a great game and we didn't have an answer for her - she had 35 points and 17 rebounds."

Against Villa Joseph Marie, the Mount started its four seniors along with sophomore Lauren Hoffman. After the visiting Jems missed their initial shot, Niekelski grabbed the rebound and went coast-to-coast to get the Magic on the board.

In addition to two more lay-ups by Niekelski, the Mount marked down a three-pointer and a 15-foot jumper for Hoffman and a lay-up by sophomore Kiersten Pumilia on a nice two-pass transition sequence. Another 10th-grader, Georgia Pickett, scored off an inbounds feed from Metzler to have the hosts holding a 15-8 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Somehow, the MSJ defense seemed to get switched off in the second period. After a modest start to the quarter with one free throw, the Jems received three-point field goals from three different players and now were ahead, 18-15. Pickett put in two more baskets for Mount St. Joe a little later, but in all the Magic were outscored 24-7, and Villa Joe was

perched on a 10-point cushion at halftime, 32-22.

Coach Feeney didn't repeat word-for-word what he told his players in the locker room during the break, but paraphrased it by saying, "Defensively, we fell apart. The effort wasn't good enough, so basically we told them that if they didn't want to give the effort, they weren't going to play."

As in their victory over the Mount when the teams met earlier out in Bucks County, the Jems were led by senior Julia Beck and junior Carly Austin, who each had nine points at halftime. The Mount had recorded eight points for Niekelski and six for Pickett.

Each of the two Mounties added six more points in the third period, and four other players scored for the hosts, as well. The Magic didn't come all the way back, but they had their deficit down to four points (47-43) by the three-quarter mark.

Their defense had still given up 15 points in the period, but they would trim that number to seven in the final frame.

With two lay-ups by Niekelski sandwiched around one by Pickett to begin the quarter, the Mount led for the first time since the second period. The senior would ring up a dozen points overall in the last stanza, but Villa Joe never slipped more than one or two baskets behind. Early in the final minute, a "three" by Villa Joe's Beck shaved the Magic's lead to one point, at 55-54.

Soon after that though, the Jems committed their sixth team foul. When their seventh was called, the Mount came up empty on its first one-and-one. Although the Magic ended up with six infractions themselves, they never put the visitors on the free throw line during the fourth quarter.

Still down by one, Villa Joe had the ball on offense as the clock cut into the final 10 seconds. The Jems made a move toward the hoop but a lay-up bounced off the rim, and in a scramble for the loose-ball rebound, a tie-up ensued and the possession arrow pointed Mount St. Joseph's way.

The visitors called a time-out, but now only 1.9 seconds remained. At the middle of the Mount's defensive baseline, the ball was inbounded on a hand-off to Niekelski, who was immediately fouled.

She made two free throws with two-tenths of a second showing on the board. A long heave by the Jems sent the ball off the far backboard for an out-of-bounds call, and the Mount then got the ball in to Pickett to end the game with a 57-54 final.

Niekelski and Pickett emerged as double-digit scorers with 26 and 12 points, respectively, followed by Pumilia with eight and Hoffman with six. Metzler and sophomore Chloe McGrorty each added two points, and freshman Emily Birmingham put in a free throw.

The only Jems with more than four points were Austin (20) and Beck (18).

Looking forward to the short schedule remaining, the Mount's Feeney observed "The season's going to be over before we know it, so every game's important." Returning to the subject of defense, he said, "We need to defend for four quarters, and so far we haven't really done that. We seem to always have a lapse for a long stretch, and our success is going to be limited if we continue to have those letdowns."

UPDATE: Gwynedd Mercy Academy remained the undefeated league leader at 9-0 with Saturday's 51-47 victory over visiting Mount St. Joseph. The Magic (5-4) were leading by six points with less than three minutes remaining, but the Monarchs went ahead for good with just under 30 seconds to play.

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