MALVERN >> Villa Maria Academy, coming into Thursday’s basketball contest against powerful St. Basil (13-2 overall, 9-0 AACA) with an 8-4 record despite the loss of star forward Paige Lauder, had reason to feel optimistic as they prepared to host the Panthers.
One month ago, the Hurricanes had battled host St. Basil to the wire in a narrow 47-45 defeat. This time, the game would be played at Villa Maria’s court.
Through the first half Thursday, the host Hurricanes kept battling, coming back from a 19-9 deficit at the beginning of the second quarter and trailing St. Basil by only two points (21-19) at halftime.
Unfortunately for Villa Maria, the Panthers then went on a 15-3 run in the third quarter, all of their points coming from the potent duo of Denae Carter and Shannon Remolde, and St. Basil prevailed for a 45-29 win.
St. Basil head coach Terry Mancini credited his team’s switch to a zone defense in the third quarter.
“We traditionally play a man-to-man defense, but we got ourselves in some foul trouble in the first half, so we came out in the second half in a zone [defense] and took away their shooters, and I think it really helped us,” said Mancini. “Denae Carter did a great job of rebounding, and we like to push the ball, and she had a great second half. She probably put us on her back the first 4-5 minutes of the second half. Shannon Remolde also had some big shots for us to start the third quarter.”
Villa Maria head coach Kathy McCartney said, “We really lost our composure against their zone in the second half, we didn’t get the shots we wanted. We turned the ball over too much, didn’t make our foul shots (10-for-22), and you can’t do that against a good team like St. Basil. Basil played really well, they’re a solid squad, and we didn’t play our best basketball today.”
In the first quarter, the Hurricanes (8-5 overall, 4-4 AACA) hung close to St. Basil, thanks to a couple of treys from Carina Chieffalo, But a clutch three-pointer from Remolde in the waning seconds of the first quarter, and a steal and drive by Carter to start the second period, gave the visitors a 19-9 lead.
The Hurricanes delighted the home crowd by gradually chipping away at the Panthers’ lead in the second quarter. Jackie Ford’s drive for a layup, then senior Maddy Ryan’s midrange basket against tight defense cut St. Basil’s margin to 19-14. With 28.4 seconds to go before halftime, Ryan converted two free throws to trim the Panthers’ lead to 21-19 going into halftime.
Carter went coast-to-coast for a layup to start the third quarter, but Villa Maria’a Faith Iacone came right back with a basket in the face of tough defensive pressure. St. Basil, leading 23-21, then buckled down and allowed the Hurricanes only one point for the rest of the third quarter.
Morgan Warley, who, along with Ryan, has led the Hurricane scorers this season, hit a trey from the top of the key to start the fourth quarter, but the visitors then held Villa Maria scoreless for the next four minutes and gradually pulled away for the 45-29 win. Remolde and Carter combined for 41 of the Panthers’ 45 points.
Mancini, who has a career record of 422-94 in his 11th season as head coach at St. Basil, said, “This has been a rough week for our girls, they’ve had exams and we’re a little mentally drained. A couple of our girls aren’t feeling well, they’ve had colds, but they fought through that today and it was good to see them fight through that. Our energy level isn’t what it usually is, but they gutted it out tonight.”
For Villa Maria, Ryan (a Millersville commit) and Chieffalo each had eight points. Lauder, a Columbia University basketball commit who entered the season with a stress fracture, has only played one game this season (against St. Basil Dec. 14) and is out for the rest of the 2019-20 campaign.
Mancini said, “Kathy’s such a great coach, I have a lot of respect for her and her program, she’ll figure out [compensating for the loss of Lauder] by the end of the season. She always has her teams playing well by the end of the season, so I’m sure we’ll probably see them in our league playoffs.”
McCartney said, “We’re trying to get ready for the playoffs, and today was a major setback for us, so we’re going to have to regroup, work at practice, particularly on our offense and shooting – right now, we don’t have a go-to outside shooter – and come back ready to play.”
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