PHILADELPHIA >> One quarter. Eight minutes.
That brief period of time will live in the memories of the Villa Maria Academy players and fans for a lifetime.
The Hurricanes broke open a close game in the second en route to a 52-38 victory over Bishop Shanahan to capture the District 1 5A Girls Basketball Championship at Temple University’s Liacouras Center on Saturday.
“It doesn’t get old,” said Villa coach Kathy McCartney. “I think this is our 12th district championship and it’s just as special and just as cool for the kids as the first one. And I’m just a big kid, so it’s still exciting for me too.”
“I’m speechless, honestly,” added Maura McHugh. “I was expecting it, but not expecting it. It was incredible.”
The first period was a much rosier start for the Eagles. They scored the first five points, but Villa answered with a 5-2 run to take its first lead at 7-6. Shanahan ended up with an 8-7 lead after one after a Sami Blumenthal basket.
Villa (14-11) went on a quick 5-0 run to take a 12-8 cushion, and the best was yet to come. Leading 15-14, they recorded a 13-2 spurt in the final three minutes of the quarter as the lead ballooned to 28-16 at halftime. Consecutive 3-pointers from Elaina Guerzon, Carly Catania and Guerzon again fueled the outburst. As she did in the semifinals against Radnor, Guerzon made a pair of huge shots from outside the arc to buoy the Hurricanes.
“She drives me crazy, but she can hit the three,” said McCartney. “She has a passion for the game and can do some really great things. She’s a real weapon off the bench.”
“Before the game, I put up a lot of shots, a lot of threes and I think I took that into the game. It was an experience I’ll never forget,” said Guerzon.
Fueling the 21-8 quarter was Villa’s defense. They turned the Eagles over six times in the second and 16 overall.
Shanahan coach Jim Powers talked before the game about the moment getting too big for either team, and the Hurricanes handled it better than his team.
“Turnovers. Not finishing. A lot of it was mental, I think,” said Powers. “We were here, but we weren’t here. Kids got tentative, missed some easy shots. And it kind of got away from there.”
The Eagles (18-10) ended up shooting 30 percent (13-for-43) from the floor for the game.
They were stymied in their efforts in the third quarter in trying to get a foothold back into the game. Shanahan was held to five points in the third – all by Caydence Oswald – as Villa bumped the lead up 40-21.
The Hurricanes led by as much as 20 in the fourth, but the Eagles kept scrapping and fighting and trimmed the lead to 50-37 with 1:58 left, but it wasn’t enough.
“God bless Shanahan, they battled to the very end. I was trying to get the opportunity to put some of my seniors in,” said McCartney, who was wearing the aftermath of the locker room celebration with the residue of Silly String and drying water on her face. “But, Shanahan kept battling and cut it to 13. They stayed engaged, so we stayed engaged until the end.”
McHugh helped keep the lead scoring eight of game-high 16 points in the fourth. Guerzon added 10 points, while Catania, Ella Iacone and Claire Cronley had seven apiece.
Abby Wolf led the Eagles with 12 points and Oswald had eight. The team, filled with sophomores and juniors, will now regroup for the PIAA tournament.
“I’m proud of them,” said Powers. “They have accomplished a lot. They don’t know it right now, but they did. I’m happy for them.”
Villa Maria 52, Bishop Shanahan 38
Villa Maria: Guerzon 4 0-3 10; Kenny 0 0-1 0; Irvine 1 3-5 5; McHugh 7 2-3 16; Sharp 0 0-0 0; Catania 3 0-0 7; Carroccico 0 0-0 0; Murphy 0 0-0 0; Iacone 3 1-2 7; Bailer 0 0-0 0; Broadhurst 0 0-0 0; Cronley 1 4-4 7; Bacallao 0 0-0 0. Totals: 19 10-18 52.
Bishop Shanahan: Willis 0 0-0 0; Le 0 1-2 1; Oswald 2 3-4 8; Wolf 4 2-5 12; Brown 2 2-2 6; Kopec 0 0-0 0; Bojko 0 2-2 2; Cosgrove 0 0-0 0; Griffin 2 0-0 4; A. Blumenthal 0 0-0 0; Iannelli 0 0-0 0; S. Blumenthal 2 1-6 5. Totals: 12 11-21 38.
Villa Maria 7 21 12 12 — 52
Bishop Shanahan 8 8 5 17 — 38
3-point goals: Guerzon 2, Catania, Cronley, Oswald, Wolf 2.