ABINGTON >> After scoring just eight points in the first half, the St. Basil girls basketball team knew something had to change to stay alone atop the AACA standings.
“We came out very flat in the first quarter and once we got into the halftime room, before the coaches came in we talked about what we could improve on,” Panthers junior Denae Carter said. “And what we did wrong and the turnovers that we made. We knew we had to come out smart because they were on our back and they’re a team that wants to go first place in our league.”
The change that sparked St. Basil Monday night against visiting Gwynedd Mercy came on the defensive end as the Panthers put on a trapping press, the switch tilting the speed and momentum of the game in the Panthers’ favor.
“They were holding the ball,” St. Basil coach Terry Mancini said. “We were in a little bit of foul trouble the first half, so we couldn’t be an aggressive as we wanted so we let them dictate the tempo. I knew coming in here halftime we had to pick up the tempo and pressing’s the best way to do it.
Carter powered the SBA offense in the third – scoring all 11 of her team’s points in the quarter while the Panthers pulled away from the second-place Monarchs with an 11-0 run in the fourth as they stayed perfect in league play with a 38-28 victory.
“From a mental standpoint, I don’t think we were ready to play and it showed,” Mancini said. “And we told them that at halftime and there’s a lot of experience in this room. They’ve been in big games so they did what they had to do in the second half.”
Three-pointers and solid defense helped Gwynedd Mercy put together a 13-4 first-half run to take a 16-6 lead before a jumper by St. Basil’s Samantha White made it an eight-point margin at the break.
But the Panthers going to their trapping defense – aided by tight confines of the Basil court – kept GMA from the continually employing the patient half-court attack the Monarchs used to build their halftime advantage.
“They’re lengthy, their arms, they’re tall, their athletic,” Gwynedd Mercy coach Tom Lonergan said. “We were saying that even when we were able to get the pass on the floor where we want to get it to, our players felt like they were out of bounds or falling out of bounds because there’s just no room. “
Carter finished with a game-high 17 points while Shannon Remolde scored all eight of her points in the fourth as St. Basil (15-2, 11-0 AACA) won its eighth straight.
“It was really a team effort,” Carter said. “We did a good job on the rebounds – offensive and defensive – we did a good job passing the ball. And luckily I was able to finish around the basket.”
Sarah White had a team-high eight points while Reganne Flannery added seven points for the Monarchs (9-6, 7-2), who lost for the 11th consecutive time against the Panthers.
“We weren’t disciplined enough to do what we wanted to do for four quarters,” Lonergan said. “And we got a little bit away from it and again I think a lot of it was we got thrown off with the trap and that affected us a little bit on the defensive end the fourth.
“Plus they turned the ball over enough in that trap where they score a lot of points not with us playing defense but in the open floor.”
Both teams have road AACA contest 5:15 p.m. – St. Basil visits Merion Mercy while Gwynedd Mercy is at Villa Joseph Marie.
With Gwynedd Mercy up 18-10 in the third, Carter collected the next seven points, capping the personal run with a three-point play off a baseline inbounds at 3:55 to cut the margin to 18-17.
“She’s in my opinion the best player in our league,” said Mancini of Carter. “And she showed it tonight like she did at Villa Maria the other day.”
Carter scored off a drive to get St. Basil back within one again at 20-19 before Sarah White got to the hoop for two for a 22-19 GMA edge entering the fourth.
The Panthers got into the bonus early in the final period – the Monarchs called for their seventh foul with 7:43 in the fourth. Lizzie Deal hit both ends of the 1-and-1 to make it 22-21 with a Carter putback giving St. Basil its first lead since 4-3 in the first quarter.
“The one thing we wanted to do at halftime was speed them up,” Mancini said. “So that’s why we went to both traps and it definitely worked. They don’t want to play that style, so we got them into the style that we like and Denae did some nice things and we finally hit some shots.”
Two Sarah White free throws had GMA up 26-25 with 5:56 remaining but those would be the last points for the Monarchs until the game’s final minute.
A Remolde basket made it 27-26 SBA with Remolde finding Hannah Hunter inside for two for a 29-26 advantage. Remolde then knocked down the Panthers’ lone three – her triple from the right wing extending the lead to six.
“The one thing we said at halftime we did just such a great job in the first half which was not foul and that killed us,” Lonergan said. “I mean, they went up to the line 10 times. (Shannon) Remolde, who we held in check, went off.”
Four straight free throws – St. Basil finished 8-of-10 from the line in the fourth – pushed the Panthers’ lead to 36-26 with 1:06 remaining. Two from Flannery with 42.8 seconds had the Monarchs within 36-28 but GMA could not climb any closer.
Carter had all four points for St. Basil in the first quarter while 3-pointers from Bianca Coleman and Flannery had GMA up 6-4 after eight minutes.
“We had a lot of trouble running our sets,” Carter said. “They played very good defense, they bumped us on our cuts and we weren’t really expecting much of that.”
A pair of treys from Sarah White gave the Monarchs a 12-4 lead before Samantha White’s long jumper had Basil within six. Kaylie Griffin made four straight free throws to give the Monarchs their biggest lead at 16-6 with 42.5 seconds left in the half.