Kucowski, defense propel St. Basil to PIAA 3A quartefinals

QUAKERTOWN >> Natalie Kucowski noticed her team’s pregame shooting wasn’t going so well.

Then the St. Basil Academy senior missed her first shot of Friday night’s game against Dunmore. That was about the end of that. Kucowski made her next two shots and only missed three more times the rest of the night.

Kucowski hit six 3-pointers and scored 24 points to lead a strong two-way effort by Basil in a 53-42 win over Dunmore in the second round of the PIAA Class 3A tournament.

“It was good to see, I missed my first shot but I had space on my other shots and was setting my feet,” Kucowski said. “We were all getting good looks at the basket. In warm-ups, we weren’t really making many of our shots, so I was a little skeptical but we pulled through in the game. It boosts your confidence after you make one.”

The teams had one combined loss entering the game, with the Bucks having lost the District 2 title game for the only shared blemish. So, Dunmore was clearly a team to be respected and the Panthers prepared for the game that way, devouring the scouting report and paying special attention to the Bucks all-state standout guard, Maddie Martin.

Basil used a handful of different defenders on Martin, with Jules Gura, Cheryl Remolde and Casey Remolde all getting some possessions guarding the NJIT recruit. The teams twice had the game delayed by the week’s snowstorm, which Kucowski said helped and hurt the Panthers.

It hurt because it was tough to keep focused and working not knowing when they would get to play, but it aided the Panthers in that the scout team got more reps running Dunmore’s stuff. By extension, it allowed Basil to better defend the Bucks when they hit the floor.

“We were paying attention to their main players and we knew a lot of their main plays that they got a lot of points from,” Casey Remolde said. “We worked a lot on making sure to defend it the right way and not get tricked up by the stuff we saw them trick other teams on. There were a lot of main plays we were prepared for tonight.”

Kucowski, the 6-foot-3 Lafayette recruit, buried her second shot, a step-back 3-pointer, then got fouled on a drive to the hoop. She didn’t hit the foul shot, but just showing she could score from anywhere on the floor started to open up space for her teammates.

“After the first couple shots, it really got our momentum going,” Remolde said. “We felt more confident as a team moving forward from that. I think when she hit those first couple big shots, we all felt good going forward and knew we should keep giving that kind of effort.”

Basil led 11-7 after the first quarter with Kucowski having scored seven. She canned two 3-pointers in the second to give Basil a 17-11 lead, but the senior said that kind of led to the Panthers getting a little too aggressive on defense. As a result, Kucowski and Gura both picked up two fouls in the second quarter.

Panthers coach Terry Mancini can keep Kucowski on the floor because her game IQ is so high, she won’t pick up an extra foul. With Gura, it just meant switching up the defensive assignment, but he touted the Remoldes as able to take any kind of assignment.

It wasn’t just defense. The few times Kucowski sat, her teammates didn’t miss a beat and each hit a big shot in a key moment. Cheryl Remolde hit a 3-pointer off her sister’s tap-out rebound to give Basil a 20-19 lead. Freshman Liz Deal, making a spot start, hit a corner trey in the third and Casey Remolde had clutch shots in the third and fourth quarters.

“For Lizzie Deal to come in a game of this magnitude and play the way she did was incredible,” Mancini said. “It says a lot about our kids because we told them someone had to step up and it shouldn’t always be on Natalie’s shoulders. We’ve been like that all year.”

Cheryl Remolde’s triple put her team in front for good, and counting that shot, the Panthers made seven of their next 3-point attempts. Kucowski was a bit shocked when she heard that stat, even though she knew her team was playing well.

The Panthers held a narrow 23-21 lead at break with Kucowski having scored 13 and Martin giving Dunmore eight. Martin ended up with 15 points and dished five assists, but she shot just 4-of-16 from the field.

Basil got 14 points and four blocks out of Casey Remolde, Cheryl Remolde had four helpers and Deal finished with six points.

With four 3-pointers in the third, Basil extended its lead to seven at 39-32 and took a 10-point lead on Casey Remolde’s jumper with 3:23 left in the fourth. Dunmore was forced to start fouling with 1:25 left and the Panthers went 8-of-8 from the line to close out the win.

“We really executed our offense well tonight and it gave us all those open shots,” Remolde said. “We ran it all week in practice. If anything, the last couple days were helpful because it gave us extra time to prepare on defense.”

St. Basil will face District 3 champ York Catholic on Sunday. At 29-0 so far, it’s been a special season for the Panthers and one Kucowski is trying to enjoy every moment of.

“At the same time, you have to think the day before a game, it could be your last practice, it could be your last bus ride,” Kucowski said. “You have to go in thinking it could be your last and give it everything you’ve got, no matter the score, the team, the situation, because for one team, it’s the last game and you don’t want to be on the other side of that.”

St. Basil Academy 53, Dunmore 42
Dunmore 7 14 11 10 – 42
St. Basil Academy 11 12 16 14 – 53
Dunmore (42): Erika Bistran 4 1-2 12, Gianna Delfino 2 2-2 6, Maddie Martin 4 5-5 15, Lisa Tallo 0 2-2 2, Victoria Toomey 3 0-0 7. Nonscoring: Quinn, Borgia. Totals: 13 10-11 42.
St Basil Academy (53): Natalie Kucowski 8 2-3 24, Casey Remolde 4 4-4 14, Jules Gura 1 2-2 4, Cheryle Remolde 1 0-0 3, Lizzie Deal 2 1-2 6, Kelly Grant 0 2-2 2. Nonscoring: Dougherty. Totals: 16 11-13 53.
3-pointers: D – Bistran 3, Martin 2, Toomey; SBA – Kucowski 6, Casey Remolde 2, Cheryl Remolde, Deal.

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