LOWER MERION >> No. 7 seed Mount St. Joseph’s is headed to the PIAA District One 5A girls basketball championship final after defeating sixth-seeded Bishop Shanahan, 51-49, Tuesday in the semifinals at Harriton High School.
The Magic went on a 14-1 run in the second quarter for a 26-14 halftime lead, then withstood a furious Shanahan comeback in the final minute.
Mount faces Springfield (Delco) in the district final at Villanova University Saturday at noon. Springfield, the top seed, defeated No. 5 seed West Chester Rustin, 51-27, in the district semifinal Tuesday.
“Right now, we’re on our longest winning streak of the season – three games,” said Mount head coach Claire Perry, with a smile. “The key to our [recent] improvement has been that everyone on our team has bought into the idea of a sisterhood – every player on the team is owning up to her role.”
Shanahan led 13-12 early in the second quarter when Mount began its 14-1 run. Five different players scored for Mount during the run – senior forward Ashley Smith, junior forward/guard Grace DiGiovanni, senior guard Julie Hoover, senior forward Grace Gelone and junior forward Megan Dodaro.
Smith, who led the Magic scoring with 17 points (including five treys), said, “I think the key to our second-quarter run was that we were moving the ball, everyone was touching it.”
Perry added, “Shanahan shoots well, particularly No. 42 [Courtney Warley], so we had to play ‘in your face’ defense, get ball pressure. Our defense was really strong in the second quarter. Sarah Rothenberg and Grace DiGiovanni really [applied] ball pressure, Kieran Glowacki got rebounds and Julie Hoover was our composed point guard.”
Shanahan head coach Fran Burbidge said, “Mount was packing it in on us [defensively], taking away our penetration. But we’ve dealt with that type of defense before – teams have packed it in against us, and even though we couldn’t find the bottom of net in the second quarter, the question then becomes, ‘How do you react on defense when your shots aren’t going down?’ We weren’t locked into our defensive intensity in the second quarter. We allowed [Mount] to put the ball on the floor and drive. They had too many straight shots to the basket.
“I challenged our players at halftime, and they responded, they battled back in the second half.”
Shanahan trailed 30-16 early in the third quarter, then the Eagles spread their wings for a 13-point run of their own to make it 30-29. Warley worked her way inside for a couple of baskets underneath, and sophomore Sammi McCarter nailed the second of three treys she converted on the evening. Plus, Shanahan was applying a full-court press that caused several Mount turnovers during the run.
With a narrow 30-29 lead, Mount came right back with an offensive rebound and basket by senior forward Grace Gelone, and a three-point field goal from the top of the key by Smith, to put the Magic ahead 35-29 at the end of three quarters.
When Smith, who will be playing basketball for Catholic University next winter, hit her fifth (and final) trey of the evening midway through the fourth quarter, it gave the Magic a 44-35 lead. A few seconds later, DiGiovanni hit a free throw to make it 45-35.
“Give Mount credit – they hit some big shots, and Smith hit some big shots,” said Burbidge. “And even though we put ourselves in a big hole, we battled back and gave ourselves a chance to pull it out at the end.”
Shanahan rallied with the help of a trio of fourth-quarter treys from senior Jen Sendi, and when she connected on the third one, it cut Mount’s lead to 45-40 with 2:15 left. Two free throws by DiGiovanni gave Mount a 47-40 lead, then Shanahan sophomore Sammi McCarter hit her third trey of the night, this one from the top of the key, with 1:18 left to make it 47-43. When Hoover hit both ends of a one-and-one, it gave Mount a 49-43 lead with one minute left.
Thirty seconds later, Shanahan rallied to tie the score. Warley worked her way inside for a basket, and was fouled, making the free throw to cut Mount’s lead to 49-46 with 55 seconds left. Following a missed Mount free throw, Shanahan senior guard Kelly Basile hit a trey from the top of the key to tie the score at 49-49 with 36 seconds left. The Eagles finished the night with seven treys.
Hoover was fouled, and made one of two free throws to put Mount back on top, 50-49. A Shanahan shot with 16 seconds left was unsuccessful, then Rothenberg got the ball and was fouled. She coverted one of two free throws with 7.9 seconds left to make it 51-49. A potential game-winning three-point attempt by Warley from the right side of the court just before the final buzzer was wide to the left.
Mount St. Joseph 51, Bishop Shanahan 49
Mount St. Joseph 12 14 9 16 – 51
Bishop Shanahan 11 3 15 20 – 49
Mount St. Joseph: DiGiovanni 3 3-4 9, Glowacki 1 0-0 2, Rothenburg 2 1-2 5, Gelone 3 0-0 6, Hoover 3 4-7 10, Smith 5 2-3 17, Dodaro 0 2-2 2, Totals 17 12-18 51.
Bishop Shanahan: McCarter 5 2-2 15, Sendi 3 0-0 9, Basile 1 2-2 5, Greenhut 2 0-1 4, Warley 5 6-8 16, Totals 16 10-13 49.
Three-point field goals: MSJ – Smith 5; BS – McCarter 3, Sendi 3, Basile.
Top Photo: Mount St. Joseph’s Julie Hoover (23) and (21) Grace Gelone (21) defend against Bishop Shanahan Sammie McCarter (12) in their District 1-5A semifinal at Harriton High School on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017. (Pete Bannan/Digital First Media)