SPRINGFIELD >> Gwynedd Mercy Academy basketball coach Tom Lonergan knew the exact moment the game turned against his team.
With 1:24 left in the first quarter, senior forward Bridget Casey scored and landed awkward, needing help off the court with a lower right leg injury. The Monarchs lost their top rebounder and best interior defender and one lopsided run later, St. Basil Academy was way out in front.
GMA battled, but couldn’t close the gap and fell 43-32 to the Panthers in an AACA semifinal Sunday night at La Salle College High School.
“When Bridget Casey went down, the whole game was gone,” Lonergan said. “Nobody realizes the value she brings to our team. She gets 90 percent of our boards. They went on a 20-5 run and did things we knew going into the game we had to take away like points in the paint, second-chance points, the offensive glass. When she was out, they just dominated.”
Casey’s injury and her inability to return to the game was a huge tipping point, but plenty of credit should also go to St. Basil’s defense. The top-seeded Panthers (18-5), led by the lockdown duo of Casey Remolde and Jules Gura, kept the Monarchs (14-9) under clamps for much of the game.
It’s been the story of the latter half of the season for St. Basil, which faces No. 2 seed Villa Maria in the title game Tuesday night at 6 p.m. again at La Salle. A win over Nazareth Academy, followed by a holiday break trip to Florida, got the Panthers on track defensively.
“The whole season, team defense has been a big thing, so we’re always helping and our energy really picks up,” Gura said. “Once we get a couple steals, our momentum really gets going and we can play our style.”
Gura is one of a handful of St. Basil players who also played on the Panthers’ state finalist soccer team, so it was a slow start to the year as those players got their basketball legs back under them. The senior said they tried to stay in game shape with open gyms during the fall but it did still take a couple weeks for everyone to get back on the same page.
“A lot of our players come through the same AAU program so we’ve played next to each other and were always working out together in the offseason,” Gura said. “I know all their strengths and weaknesses just like the know mine. Knowing that and having the team chemistry is what takes us far.”
St. Basil got off to a slow start on Sunday, trailing 6-0 early and down 10-7 at the end of the first quarter. The Panthers got a lift from freshman Denae Carter, who had three points in the first quarter and spurred the Panthers in the second. Carter finished the night with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
With Casey out, Carter was able to take advantage, scoring the last seven points of St. Basil’s 16-0 run to open the second quarter. It’s not fair to ask her to replace Natalie Kucowski, but Carter’s athleticism and energy make her a defensive factor with three steals and a block on Sunday.
“At this time of year, she’s playing like a sophomore and she’s comfortable,” Panthers coach Terry Mancini said. “She’s a phenomenal athlete and she’s learning how to play being a rough league like this where it’s very physical, so she’s figuring out that aspect.”
St. Basil out-scored GMA 18-4 in the second frame and led 25-14 at the break, giving them a big enough lead they could play aggressive on defense. It wasn’t a perfect effort, as the Panthers missed a lot of foul shots in the second half and got sped up at times by Gwynedd Mercy’s press, but they were able to use their lead as an advantage to stay the course.
Aside from their work on defense, Remolde and Gura were also key cogs offensively. Remolde led St. Basil with 15 points while Gura had 10 and ran a lot of the offense from the high post, a role the USciences recruit has had most of the season.
“We really have all of our options down,” Gura said. “We know where each other are going to be on the floor and have confidence the other person knows that too.”
With Remolde staying in front of GMA’s tough senior point guard Maura Conroy and Gura shadowing Monarchs guard Carly Heineman, the No. 4 seed needed offense to come from other places. In the second half, it was freshman guard Kaylie Griffin providing some punch.
Griffin was scoreless in the first half but posted 10 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, after intermission. The freshman also did her part on the glass with 10 rebounds, roughly half of the team’s total.
“Kaylie, I think being a freshman and her first time in this situation, she looked a little bit nervous to start,” Lonergan said. “She was able to calm herself down, she only had one shot in the first half but got herself comfortable and in better positions. Hopefully having this game helps her moving forward.”
GMA will now prepare for the District I 4A playoffs while St. Basil will turn its attention to the District I/XI 3A regional after Tuesday’s game.
ST. BASIL 43, GWYNEDD MERCY 32
ST. BASIL ACADEMY 7 18 12 6 – 43
GWYNEDD MERCY ACADEMY 10 4 6 12 – 32
St. Basil Academy: Casey Remolde 6 2-7 15, Jules Gura 3 3-6 10, Cheryl Remolde 0 1-2 1, Denae Carter 5 2-5 13, Kell Grant 1 0-2 2. Nonscoring: Lizzie Deal, Shannon Remolde, Savannah Whiteley. Totals: 15 8-22 43.
Gwynedd Mercy Academy: Kaylie Griffin 3 2-4 10, Carly Heineman 2 0-0 5, Maura Conroy 1 5-8 8, Bridget Casey 1 0-0 2, Molly Hutton 1 2-3 4. Nonscoring: Alyssa Martin, Sarah White, Reganne Flannery, Gerogia Cattie, Samantha Berish. Totals: 8 9-15 32.
3-pointers: SBA – Gura, Casey Remolde, Carter; GMA – Griffin 2, Conroy, Heineman.
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