READING >> The first half of St Basil Academy’s PIAA quarterfinal against York Catholic couldn’t have gone much better.
The second half, that was another story. Basil wasn’t able to hold on to a double-digit halftime lead as York Catholic standout Kate Bauhof willed her team to a 40-31 win over the Panthers Sunday afternoon at Reading’s Santander Arena.
It was the first loss of the season for St. Basil (29-1), but it also meant their season was over two games short of their dream of a state title.
“They came out in the second half and it was a completely different game,” Basil senior center Natalie Kucowski said. “That’s a credit to them. You could see they weren’t playing their game in the first half and they came out, changed it and we couldn’t adapt.”
Bauhof scored 21 points, but didn’t have one in the first half. Nobody on her team had a point in the first quarter, after which Basil led 10-0. While the Panthers didn’t score a lot, they were absolutely ruthless on defense with Kucowski blocking anyone from the Fighting Irish bold enough to venture into the lane.
York Catholic got back in the game a little bit in the second quarter, but the Panthers still carried an 11-point edge into the half and it seemed like whatever they wanted to do on defense was working and their offense was doing enough. Kucowski, who ended the night with 16 points, 11 rebounds, five blocks and three steals, had 11 points at the break.
“I think we were a little complacent, we felt like we had the game won in the first half,” St. Basil coach Terry Mancini said. “Our girls didn’t come out as aggresive as we did in the first half. Plus, (Bauhof) is a great player and she took the game over in the second half. You shut a team out in the first quarter, you think you’re going to win the game.”
Bauhof set the tone for the second half on the first possession. The junior, who stands out thanks to her shoes featuring one red and one blue, drove right into the lane and scored. A possession later, she fired up a three from the left wing that rattled off every part of the rim and went down.
“We wanted to get the ball away on the other side where the big girl wasn’t because she was blocking all of our layups in the beginning,” Bauhof said. “We said take what they give you. If they weren’t giving the lane, pull-up short or shoot the jump shot. We were setting a lot of off-ball screens to get each other open.”
Bauhof added the plan was to just chip away at the lead. She did a great job at it, scoring the first seven of the frame for her team and tying the score at 27-27 with 1:16 left in the third on a pair of foul shots.
St. Basil didn’t have an answer for Bauhof on the defensive end while on the other side of the court, they couldn’t get anything going. The Irish did a nice job of bumping and pushing Basil cutters and being physical to keep Kucowski out of the post.
At times, there were up to three defenders on the Lafayette recruit and even though the Panthers found open shooters, the shots weren’t going down. Jules Gura scored seven points as the Panthers’ second-leading scorer while usually consistent scorers and shooters like Casey Remolde, Cheryl Remolde and Lizzie Deal were off the mark.
“They did a good job of forcing us into shots like that,” Mancini said.
Bauhof scored eight of her 21 in the fourth, rolling in a layup with 6:33 for the first Irish lead, then scoring four straight for a 33-29 edge they would never relinquish. Crucially, in between, the Panthers missed three shots right under the hoop and after, missed a pair of free throws with 2:18 left.
“You could see we got nervous,” Kucowski said. “We started speeding up, we weren’t settling down and trying to run our offense and get good shots. When we did get good looks they weren’t falling.”
The loss shouldn’t take away from what was a remarkable season by the Panthers. They won 29 games in a row, finished with the best record in school history, won AACA regular season and tournament titles and won the District 1-3A championship.
Kucowski finishes with well over 1,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 blocks and Mancini called her the best player to have come out of St. Basil.
“It was absolutely incredible, no one would have expected us to be undefeated up to this point,” Kucowski said. “Of course, you don’t want it to end but you think about all the good things you did accomplish this year. Hopefully for the underclassmen coming back next year, they realize how much this hurts and how much they don’t want it to end and they come back and do the same thing next year.”
York Catholic 40, St. Basil Academy 31
ST. BASIL ACADEMY 10 10 7 4 – 31
YORK CATHOLIC 0 9 18 13 – 40
St Basil Academy (31): Natalie Kucowksi 6 3-3 16, Jules Gura 1 4-4 7, Cheryl Remolde 1 0-0 2, Casey Remolde 2 0-2 4, Lizzie Deal 1 0-0 2. Nonscoring: Kelly Grant, Katie Dougherty. Totals: 11 7-9 31.
York Catholic (40): Kate Bauhof 6 8-9 21, Abby Pilkey 2 0-0 5, Gina Citrone 0 1-4 1, Jania Wright 0 3-3 3, Katy Rader 2 2-2 6, Sterner 1 1-2 3. Totals: 11 15-19 40.
3-pointers: SBA – Kucowski, Gura; YC – Bauhof, Pilkey.