Niekelski’s 30 points lead Mt. St. Joseph past Marple Newtown in District 1-5A 1st round

SPRINGFIELD >> By the time Grace Niekelski intercepted a tipped pass, weaved her way through and around defenders and took it all the way in for two, Mount St. Joseph Academy was speeding towards the District 1-5A quarterfinals.

Niekelski was on her way to a game-high 30 points and the fifth-seeded Magic were headed to a 66-41 victory over No. 12 Marple Newtown.

“I think we worked really hard this season so I’m excited to be going to the second round,” said Niekelski, who scored 10 of her points in a decisive fourth quarter for Mount.

Marple Newtown stayed close to the Magic for three quarters but Mount pulled away in the fourth.

All of the Magic’s primary weapons began to connect. Niekelski hit a jumper from the foul line and moments later scored off the tipped pass.

Lauren Vesey hit a spotup jumper then moments after completed a three-point play off a fast break. What was once a 12-point lead had been stretched to 19.

“We started pushing the ball more,” Niekelski said, “instead of just walking it up the court. And we could get down there quickly.”

Mount’s defense put its stamp on the fourth quarter.

“We started doubling (Devon Adams, 16 points) on the bottom,” Niekelski said, “and started getting a bunch of steals from that.”

“We battled in the first half,” Marple Newtown coach Ryan Wolski said. “I think towards the end we just ran out of steam.

“It’s tough because they’re a very guard-heavy team and we are more of a half-court offensive team so when we’re not making shots, (Mount) is making rebounds and they’re going. I’m happy with how hard these girls played. They battled.”

Back-to-back baskets in transition by Lauren Vesey and Niekelski helped give Mount an early 12-3 lead.

Kelly Rothenberg scored six first-quarter points for the Magic, keying a 14-9 advantage after one.

Mount continued its push into the second quarter, and when Megan Dodaro went baseline, completing a three-point play, the Magic had their first double-digit lead of the night at 21-11.

But the Tigers were tough to shake.

Halle Robinson was hitting for Marple Newtown, including a pair of first-half threes, and Adams was battling underneath. Marple was very much in contention at the half, down 26-22.

Mount started to gain more control in the third, and Niekelski’s buzzer-beating jumper off a rebound increased the gap to 44-32 and sent Mount sprinting into the fourth.

Of her 30-point effort, Niekelski said with a smile: “That’s probably one of my best games.”

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