ABINGTON >> Mount St. Joseph — with some hot shooting from the outside — came on strong in the final minutes Tuesday night, but Natalie Kucowski was the steady, towering presence needed throughout in order for St. Basil Academy to push this one into the win column.
“I’m really proud of us,” said Kucowski, a 6-foot-2 senior center who is headed to Lafayette College next year. “Hopefully we can take this into our (holiday) tournament down in South Carolina and then continue on through our league play when we get back.”
And in the Catholic Academies League, the Panthers are off to a 2-0 start, including a win over Gwynedd Mercy Academy.
Said Kucowski: “We lost to both of those teams last year so to beat them is a good confidence booster for us.”
Kucowski’s 15 points were a game high and her rebounding and defense around the net made it difficult for the Magic (2-4, 1-1 CAL) to sustain any offensive rhythm in the opening three quarters.
A Kucowski layup in the early moments of the fourth stretched the margin to 39-23, providing the Panthers (4-0, 2-0 CAL) their biggest lead of the night.
St. Basil, getting solid play from sisters Casey and Cheryl Remolde, was able to keep the lead in double digits until Mount turned up the pressure and cut the deficit to eight with a basket by Grace DiGiovani.
Ashley Smith nailed three 3-pointers in the second half, banking in the last one to make it 44-37 with a minute to go.
But Basil was able to move the ball around to work valuable seconds off the clock, and a free throw by Casey Remolde boosted the Panther lead to 45-37.
A defensive rebound and two free throws by Kucowski iced the game for Basil.
“Even with our new transfers coming in — Casey and Cheryl, we’ve really done a great job of just working together,” Kucowski said. “Tonight we struggled a bit with running our offense, but you could see in our other wins how we really worked the ball around.”
St. Basil buckled down when it mattered most, holding off a late rally by Mount. Smith’s 11 points led the visitors.
“We had effort throughout the entire game and this atmosphere definitely helped with that,” Magic coach Claire Perry said of the contest, played in front of a packed house at Basil, complete with strong cheering sections for both sides. “We need that intensity (like we had in the fourth) throughout the entire game.
“We have to start the same way that we are finishing.”
Next up for Mount is a trip to the Girard College Tournament on Dec. 27.
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