Mount St. Joseph tops Gwynedd Mercy for 3rd straight Catholic Academies title

SPRINGFIELD — The atmosphere was electric during the Athletic Association of Catholic Academies championship game between Mount St. Joseph Academy and Gwynedd Mercy Academy, as supporters from both schools came out in numbers to cheer on their respective squad at La Salle College High School.

But for the Mount’s dedicated fans in particular, Magic was in the air as MSJ topped the Monarchs, 29-26, in a nail-biter throughout all four quarters.

The Magic claimed its third-consecutive Catholic Academies crown, while Gwynedd Mercy fell short in chasing its first-ever title since joining the league in 2002-2003.

“It was close all the way,’ Mount St. Joseph head coach John Miller said. “No one could really build up much of a lead, it was always in balance. Both teams had to earn every basket that they made.

“Just a tremendous game, we showed a lot of character to be able to win. It tells them what they need to do the next time they’re in a close game.’

Mount St. Joe’s was paced by Cait Cunningham’s 10 points, closely followed by a nine-point night from Libby Tacka.

The Monarchs showed why they deserved to be in the title game with performances from Erica DeCandido, who recorded a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, and Maura Conroy’s battling through injury with 10 points of her own.

It was a close contest from the first whistle until the last buzzer, as the Magic’s lead was just 10-5 over the Monarchs after the first quarter.

The second quarter began somewhat sluggish for GMA, as it struggled to find a basket in the first five minutes of the second, and DeCandido was the only player to make a field goal as the Monarchs trailed 15-11 heading into the break.

But Gwynedd Mercy had other plans in the second half and came out with five unanswered to take a 16-15 lead over the Mount, if just momentarily, before MSJ’s Cait Cunningham jumped a pass and finished with a layup and a foul at the other end to take the advantage right back.

The deficit was the same after three quarters, with the Magic holding the Monarchs at four points, 22-18, with the final frame looming.

Gwynedd Mercy went on a 4-0 run to start the fourth, knotting the game up at 22, but a 5-0 run that concluded with a Tacka three-ball, upped the score to 27-22 in the Magic’s favor, and GMA was forced to put MSJ on the line with just under 30 seconds remaining in the championship.

“I think, defensively, we played a very sound and solid job,’ Gwynedd Mercy head coach Tom Lonergan said. “Only a few times did we get out of what we were trying to stop them from doing, but when we tended to get out of it we were able to quickly pull ourselves back.

“Offensively, we struggled, we played in spurts. We really didn’t keep our discipline on the offensive end of the floor. We showed what we did when we wanted, we could make some things happen. We just didn’t do it enough.’

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