Pope John Paul II stuns Mount St. Joseph in George Snear opener

CONSHOHOCKEN >> Mount St. Joseph’s Libby Tacka put on quite a show early at the Fellowship House in the Magic’s tilt against Pope John Paul II in the George Snear Tournament’s opener, but Gabby Troisi and her Golden Panther cohorts were up to task.

After Tacka’s monstrous 15-point first quarter, PJP battled back, took a lead on the heavily-favored Mount about halfway through the second, and never looked back while running away to a 62-52 win.

“That was an exciting game for the girls,” said PJP coach Liz Bernstein. “I’m really proud of them. They came out and executed in every phase of the game.”

Pope John Paul II Rachel Yerger passes the ball. Tuesday, December 29, 2015. Submitted by Jon Vander-Lugt
Pope John Paul II Rachel Yerger passes the ball during the Golden Panthers’ game against Mount St. Joseph on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015. (Jonathan Vander Lugt/For The Times Herald)

Did they ever — but it did take a bit to get going. The Mount came out firing, led by Tacka’s aforementioned 15 first-quarter points. The Magic scored the game’s first six, and held a 22-16 lead after the first frame.

“We really wanted this win,” said Troisi. “So we knew that we had to play as well as we could — box out, and do all of that stuff.”

After the first quarter, “we just made the decision to play straight man on them,” Berstein said. “We knew that Tacka was going to be a big threat.”

Needless to say, it worked. Pope John Paul II took a lead on Rachel Yerger’s mid-quarter three-ball and didn’t trail for the game’s remainder.

“We knew what Tacka wanted to do — take the ball to the hole,” Bernstein said. “So we told the girls that when that happens, step in front, and see if we can get a couple charges to get her off the floor.”

That worked too. Tacka got her third foul partway through the second frame, and was held to just nine more after her blistering first quarter. She led the gym with 24, but they wound up being pretty hollow.

“We didn’t carry out our defensive game plan, to be quite honest,” Mount coach John Miller said. “We don’t give up 62 points to anybody.”

Except, well, the Golden Panthers. Troisi led PJP with 19, followed closely by Stephanie Petery’s 17. Yerger also chipped in with double digits, finishing with 10.

“It was a complete team effort, but I can say that I was impressed with both Steph and Gabby,” Bernstein said. “I took them both aside in the beginning of the year and told them that we were going to need their leadership and they did everything that we asked them to do today.”

For Troisi, that included grabbing a whopping 17 boards, as well as dishing out five assists and nabbing a pair of steals.

“She has incredible floor vision, and innate athletic ability,” Bernstein said. “When she sets her mind to it, she can do tremendous things on the floor both offensively and defensively.”

The loss is the first for the Mount in the 2015-16 slate, and with the win, PJP improves its record to 5-6. They’ll play in the tournament’s final Wednesday.

“We allowed them to beat us at their strength—taking the ball hard to the basket,” Miller said. “When we lose, I usually point to what we did defensively, and we just did a lot wrong.”

Pope John Paul II, on the other hand, could do little wrong. They were getting good shots, making defensive stops, and generally pestering a Mount squad that seemed flustered throughout.

“This was absolutely our best game,” Bernstein said. “It was the best four quarters that we’ve put together.”

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