Ulasewicz’s big 2nd quarter helps Mount St. Joseph top St. Basil in AACA semis

SPRINGFIELD TWP — After a sluggish offensive start for the Mount St. Joseph girls basketball team Tuesday night, it was Mary Kate Ulasewicz that provided a spark in the second quarter.

That was not much of a surprise to Magic coach John Miller.

“Mary Kate just has spurts like that through the season where she gets like a spurt and scores consecutive baskets in a row,’ he said. “She just has a knack for doing that.’

The Mount scored just three points in the opening quarter, but erupted for 22 in the second — Ulasewicz contributing 13 of those — to take a 12-point lead into halftime of its Athletic Association of Catholic Academies semifinal with St. Basil.

“We’re a team and if I have my shots, I’ll take them,’ Ulasewicz said. “But everybody has their nights, I guess tonight was just mine. I was just being aggressive. Everybody’s told to be aggressive.’

The advantage grew to 17 in the third, which was enough for the Magic to blunt any of the Panthers’ late charges and earn them a 51-36 victory at La Salle College High School.

Ulasewicz finished with a game-high 19 points while Caitlyn Cunningham chipped in another 11 for Mount St. Joseph (21-2), which goes for its third-consecutive Catholic Academies title against Gwynedd Mercy 7 p.m. Wednesday back at La Salle.

“We want to win every year, but especially three straight, I don’t think people have done it in a while,’ Ulasewicz said. “We just want to win. It’s a big deal.’

Down 33-16 in the third, St. Basil rallied to within 10 entering the fourth thanks to seven straight points from Natalie Kucowski, however the Panthers (15-8) could never get closer than seven in the final quarter.

“They’re a well-coached team and the way they play it’s like guarding the wishbone in football,’ St. Basil coach Terry Mancini said. “If you can run the wishbone and you’re behind, you’re in trouble against a team like the Mount.’

Kucowski had 15 points to pace the Panthers, who do not play again until Feb. 21 when they face either Calvary Christian or New Hope-Solebury in the District 1-AA final. A win there gives St. Basil a third-straight district crown.

“Seventeen days off now, but we’re in the championships, that’s a good thing,’ Mancini said. “We’ve seen the team we’re probably going to play and we’ll prepare for that. We’re used to it. This is the third year in a row we’ve had to do this.’

Neither team came out firing early with St. Basil holding a 5-3 lead after a quarter. Ulasewicz quickly went to work in the second — hitting a jumper, making a steal and layup then scoring again to put the Magic up 9-5.

St. Basil cut the margin to two twice, but a 10-0 Magic run bookended by threes from Ulasewicz and Sarah Wills put Mount St. Joseph ahead 21-9. A Lyndsay Joyce three in the corner made it 21-12 only for Ulasewicz to answer with a jumper.

“I think in the second quarter we really picked up our intensity,’ Ulasewicz said. “And then our defense always starts offense, so our shots start dropping everybody’s getting hyped on defense. And we were able to just be aggressive on offense and we were just a little more calmer cause we were able to score and we were playing good defense.’

After a free throw from Kaely Pinkerton put the Panthers within 23-13, Ulasewicz drove to the left then down the baseline for her final two of the quarter and a 12-point Mount lead at the break.

“She’ll bring the ball down and we’ll call a play, but if she sees an opening, she just taking it herself,’ said Miller of Ulasewicz. “It’s obviously what we want her to do.’

Ulasewicz started the third by knocking down a jumper. Two Libby Tacka free throws gave the Mount a 30-13 lead before Liz Napierkowski’s three. But Cunningham answered with a trey to put the Magic back up 17.

Kucowski, however, kept St. Basil alive with a 7-0 solo run. The sophomore scored on a drive and was fouled — she missed the and-one — connected on a three, then made an underhanded scoop shoot to make it 33-23 after three quarters.

“You can see the brilliance she’s going to have,’ said Mancini of Kucowski. “She’s only a sophomore, she’s get stronger. The future’s bright for her.’

Mount St. Joseph pushed its advantage to 13 twice in the fourth, but St. Basil chipped the lead down to 40-33 after a Kucowski putback and a Napierkowski three.

The Panthers were close to cutting it to five only Kucowski’s layup attempt off a steal would not drop. Ulasewicz hit two free throws at 3:53, while Wills found Lucas open inside for a basket to Mount up 44-33.

Cunningham hit a pair from the line with 1:21 remaining to make it 46-33 before a Karen Lapkiewicz triple got St. Basil back within 10. Those ended up being the Panthers’ final points as Mount capped the win going 5-for-6 from the line in the final 66 seconds.

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