PC basketball drops road game at Notre Dame.

by Tom Utescher
Posted 2/16/21

Less than a week after defeating Germantown Academy for the first time in seven years, the girls of Penn Charter traveled to the Main Line to take on a scrappy squad from the Academy of Notre …

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PC basketball drops road game at Notre Dame.

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Less than a week after defeating Germantown Academy for the first time in seven years, the girls of Penn Charter traveled to the Main Line to take on a scrappy squad from the Academy of Notre Dame.

Behind at the end of the first quarter and down 31-24 at halftime, the visiting Quakers closed the gap to two points (41-39) by the end of the third period. A minute-and-a-half into the fourth round Charter had edged ahead, 45-43, but after that PC didn't score from the field the rest of the way.

The Irish finished with an 11-3 rally that included six-for-six free throw shooting, and won the bout, 54-48.

Penn Charter's victory over GA the previous week had been followed a few days later by a win over Springside Chestnut Hill Academy (63-26), so the Quakers left Villanova last Tuesday with a record of 2-1. Notre Dame, which had opened up with a one-point victory over Episcopal Academy, rose to 2-0.

Penn Charter was playing without sophomore Kelsey Bess, who has been on the varsity roster since she was an eighth-grader. She suffered a concussion in the GA game the previous week, and it was hoped she'd be able to return around the middle of February.

After Tuesday's game at Notre Dame, PC head coach Joe Maguire told his players that the recent ascension of the Quakers' program has created new challenges.

"I said to the girls that we have to realize that we're a target for people now, that other teams see a win over us as a big accomplishment," the coach related. "Teams are starting to look at us they way they've looked a Germantown Academy, so we've got to be ready for that."

That applies to individual players too, noted Maguire, whose program graduated a pair of four-year varsity standouts from last year's team.

"We have younger players who now are going to be at the top of the scouting report for other teams, and they have to get used to that."

For many years, the Academy of Notre Dame had operated as a very guard-oriented program, but that has changed under third-year head coach Lauren Power.

"Right now, we have more post players than guards at the varsity level," said the Irish mentor, who has known PC's Maguire since childhood. "Our style is up-tempo, up-and-down. For this game, I had four guards out there a lot of the time because we had to be able to defend the guards Penn Charter had on the floor."

In the first half, Notre Dame gradually built a lead with modest scoring runs that were just a little larger than those PC could manage. Senior Kaitlyn Hnatkowsky's lay-up for the Quakers led off the day's scoring, and later field goals by junior Maddie Shoup and sophomore Aleah Snead gave Charter a 6-5 edge.

This was the last time PC led until the fourth quarter, as Notre Dame moved ahead with a 7-0 spurt of offense than included a three-pointer from the right wing by 5'9" standout Maeve McErlane, a versatile guard who would lead all scorers with 17 points. Another 16 went up on the home side of the scoreboard thanks to the efforts on the inside of sophomore forward Katie Halligan.

Notre Dame was up 14-9 at the end of the first quarter. In the second frame, the Irish and the Quakers fought to a 15-all standoff until PC fouled Halligan with five seconds remaining. Her two free throws had the hosts ahead 31-24 at the intermission.

AND's McErlane led all scorers at halftime with 13 points, and she provided taut defense against PC's Snead, holding her to a lay-up and a free throw over the first two quarters.

"I thought Maeve was tremendous defending Aleah, and she's not easy to guard," remarked Coach Power.

Sophomore forward Bella Toomey led the visitors with six points, and University of Louisville lacrosse recruit Ava Coyle, a senior, came off the bench to stick a three-pointer and a shorter baseline jumper in the second frame. Shoup's sophomore sister, Gracie, had also subbed in and scored.

The Quakers managed to shut out Notre Dame's McErlane in the third quarter, but she would go to the line several times in the fourth round to complete her total. Toomey and Snead led a Penn Charter rally in the third, mixing in a few jumpers with shots from beneath the basket.

When senior Jamie Kubach scored on a drive down the lane with under two minutes left, the Quakers were just one point behind the leaders, 37-36.

Halligan gave AND two points from the foul line on Toomey's third personal foul, but Charter's Coyle guided in a trey from the right side to tie the score at 39-all. Halligan had the last word, scoring from the paint to send her Irish into the final frame with a 41-39 advantage.

Penn Charter inched ahead at the start of the fourth round with a Hnatkowsky's trey from near the top of the key and one free throw by Maddie Shoup. Shoup then committed her fourth personal foul, putting Notre Dame into the bonus and sending senior Izzy Casale to the line to make two free throws. Snead drove through the paint to score, giving the lead to the Quakers (45-43) one last time with 6:41 remaining.

Over the next few minutes the visitors missed three foul shots while the Irish received a "three" from sophomore Ava Bleckley and another flawless one-and-one from Casale.

Later, AND's McErlane also pulled both points from a one-and-one, while Charter scored on one free throw by senior Kait Haughey and two by Toomey.

During her team's final time-out, Notre Dame's Power said, "We emphasized composure on the offensive end - taking care of the basketball. Defensively is where we had to get it done. We haven't been able to really go over everything yet; we'd been on a 14-day quarantine and we've had more virtual practices than on-the-court practices."

The contest entered its final minute with Notre Dame up 50-48.

On offense, the Irish put up a jumper to beat the shot clock and the ball glanced off the rim, but Halligan corralled the rebound and scored.

Notre Dame also grabbed the rebound of an errant Penn Charter shot at the other end, but then turned the ball over. The Quakers followed this with a turnover of their own, and the ball was in the hands of the hosts' McErlane.

Shoup committed her fifth foul against the Notre Dame star, whose two "makes" at the line put the final score (54-48) on the board with 15 seconds left. The visitors' last jump shot was well short of the hoop and the ball was grabbed in the air by McErlane as the clock ran out.

"We had a couple of experienced girls out there," Maguire said, "but we also had some players who weren't used to being in games where every single possession matters in the fourth quarter. Obviously, having Kelsey would've made a difference. Hopefully, she'll be back for the next one."

The Quakers will face the Irish again at 4 p.m. on Thursday, February 18, this time in the Dooney Field House at Penn Charter.

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