SPRINGFIELD >> Natalie Kucowski is St. Basil Academy’s best basketball player.
So, opposing teams are naturally going to try and slow down the 6-foot-2 Lafayette recruit as much as possible. The Panthers know this and Kucowski knows this. The senior also knows just what to do in those situations: find her teammates.
Thursday, Kucowski did just that, scoring just six points but making a big impact on the Panthers’ 50-36 win over Mount Saint Joseph with her defending, rebound and passing.
“Natalie is a great passer, so I know even if she’s not having the best game shooting, I always know she’s going to find the open player,” St. Basil sophomore Casey Remolde said. “She’s always going to make a great pass and will end up with a ton of assists.”
Remolde took advantage of the Mount’s attention on Kucowski to put in a game-high 18 points while her older sister Cheryl scored six, both of them set up several times by Kucowski. Jules Gura scored 11 points, providing another strong option on offense for St. Basil.
— Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3) January 20, 2017
Kucowski pulled down 13 rebounds, dished seven assists, had five blocks and five steals for the Panthers, who improved to 16-0 on the season. While the secondary and role players stepped up on offense, the entire team chipped in on a strong defensive effort that seemed to throw the Magic off its rhythm early in the game.
“That’s been a constant all year,” St. Basil coach Terry Mancini said. “We had a real big win on Sunday (over Mt. Lebanon) at Philly U and the defense has been such a constant. We told them at the beginning of the year that defense wins championships.”
Mancini said the team’s captains and seniors have done a very good job of keeping their teammates focused on the present and each game individually. Remolde, who transferred to St. Basil along with her sister before the school year, said the undefeated start doesn’t come up between the players.
Casey Remolde got the Panthers off to a good start on both ends, scoring six of the team’s first 11 points and playing good defense on Mount senior Ashley Smith. It seemed like every time a Mount player tried to use a screen from a teammate, there was a second blue jersey right in their face at the turn.
“We prepped for all of that, so we knew what they were going to bring on both offense and defense and we still didn’t adjust,” Mount coach Claire Perry said. “We have to go back and practice.
“It was part of our game plan to stop (Kucowski) and slow down other individuals. We did that, but we also have to know those aren’t the only two options. It’s about executing the plan we went over.”
The Magic defeated rival Gwynedd Mercy Academy on a buzzer-beater Saturday, then lost to Archbishop Carroll at Philly U the next day and came into Thursday’s game having topped Sacred Heart on Wednesday. Mount isn’t a team that’s built to score a lot of points, so falling behind 11-2 to start Thursday’s game was a tough hole to dig out of.
For every good stretch of play on defense and even on the offensive end, there was one where the Magic just couldn’t seem to get a stop on defense or swing the ball on offense. Mount was at its best when it attacked the rim, earning four trips to the foul line in the second quarter but making just 4-of-8 free throws.
“It’s a theme if you can say that, or a lack thereof, playing a 32-minute game,” Perry said. “We’ve sometimes done three really good quarters then had that one quarter that just brings us down. Consistency and putting together a full game, we have to really work on that.”
Casey Remolde only had three points in the second quarter as Basil took a 23-11 lead to the half, but the sophomore came out feeling in in the third quarter as the Panthers opened up their lead. Her first hoop, assisted by Cheryl, the team’s junior point guard, put Basil up 27-11.
She later scored five straight points in a row, the second basket a straightaway 3-pointer assisted by Kucowski, that gave Basil a 34-15 lead.
“There were a couple plays where we could have ran things better, but for the most part I thought we had pretty good offense,” Remolde said. “The last game we played the Mount was probably our worst game we’ve played this season. This was a game to get out and jump on them and show even though it was close last time, we can play better as a team.”
— Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3) January 20, 2017
St. Basil has good depth this year, with Mancini noting the play of freshmen Elizabeth Deal and Kelly Grant off the bench all season along with Casey Remolde. The Panthers had their four-year streak of District I titles snapped last year, so their goals are bigger than just an undefeated start.
They face Villa Maria, which has just one league loss, in a crucial AACA game next week and are eyeing up not only a regular season league title, but an AACA tournament crown as well before trying to reclaim their District standing.
“We’ve had great leadership from everybody, not just the seniors,” Remolde said. “Even my sister, she’s played great at point guard and really keeps everyone together. I think we’re really playing well as a team because we’re a family, and that’s a good thing.”
The Mount was led by eight points from freshman Lauren Vesey, who scored them all in the last 2:48 of the game. Julie Hoover scored six, Grace Gelman scored five, while Smith and Sarah Rothenburg each put in four for the Magic, which is hoping to find some consistency in the next two weeks with the hope of making a run through the AACA tournament.
“It’s been a tough nonconference schedule for us and now it’s how can we learn from all this,” Perry said. “We want to compete and get to the championship game and see where we can go in districts, but we have to learn from all of these challenges.”
St. Basil 50, Mount St. Joseph 36
St. Basil 14 9 14 13 – 50
Mount St. Joseph 4 7 8 17 – 36
St Basil (50): Casey Remolde 7 3-7 18, Jules Gura 4 2-7 11, Cheryl Remolde 2 2-3 6, Natalie Kucowski 3 0-0 6, Kelly Grant 1 2-2 5, Elizabeth Deal 1 0-0 3, Kaitlin Dougherty 0 1-2 1. Nonscoring: Riehman, M Deal, McCreavy, Roemhild. Totals: 18 10-21 50.
Mount Saint Joseph (36): Lauren Vesey 3 0-0 8, Sarah Rothenburg 1 1-2 4, Grace Gelman 1 3-4 5, Julie Hoover 3 0-0 6,Ashley Smith 1 1-2 4, Grace DiGiovanni 1 0-2 2, Megan Dodaro 1 1-2 3, Deidre Regan 1 0-1 2, Liana Akaro 1 0-0 2. Nonscoring: Bethel. Totals: 13 6-13 36.
3-pointers: SBA – Casey Remolde, Gura, Grant, Deal; MSJA – Vesey 2, Smith, Rothenburg.
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