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McGrorty, Mount St. Joe's reverses fortunes against archrival Gwynedd Mercy

01/26/2023, 10:45pm EST
By Andrew Robinson

Andrew Robinson (@ADrobinson3)

FLOURTOWN — Chloe McGrorty doesn’t know what is yet to come, so living in the moment was more than good enough on Thursday.

It had been quite a while — six games and almost three years — since Mount Saint Joseph Academy had beaten archrival Gwynedd Mercy Academy in basketball. Since the Magic’s last win, on Feb. 8 2020, there had been some agonizing losses so going into what could have been their last home game against the Monarchs, McGrorty and her fellow seniors were pretty much done with the losing.

Chloe McGrorty (above) had 12 points as Mt. St. Joe's beat Gwynedd Mercy for the first time in nearly three years. (Photo: Andrew Robinson/CoBL)

Bolstered by a full-strength lineup, the Mount put together a complete game on both ends of the floor and downed Gwynedd Mercy 36-15 in front of a packed house.

“Obviously, I’m not a fortune teller, I can’t tell what the future is going to hold but knowing these girls, this is our last hurrah,” McGrorty, who led all scorers with 12, said. “Every single time I step out on this court, I’m going to make it like it’s my last game. Every game, I hope we’ll play like this and get as far as we can.”

Mount-Gwynedd games are an event for both schools and Thursday was no exception, with sizable student contingents decked out in school colors filling each end of the bleachers and forcing some overflow crowd to standing room only. It didn’t take long after the final buzzer for the Mount students to pour out of the bleacher and engulf the team at center court.

“This is honestly, one of the best moments of basketball for me personally not because of the win but how much effort we put into preparing for this game,” McGrorty said. “Tonight, it wasn’t even about our points, we played with a lot of heart and a lot of effort which is why I love them so much and appreciate everything about this night.”

McGrorty and classmate Georgia Pickett had been pretty much holding the fort recently with fellow seniors Kiersten Pumilia and Lauren Hoffman sidelined due to injuries. Offensively, the Magic (10-9, 5-4 AACA) had held up well enough but there was a noticeable drop on the defensive end so there was a collective relief when Pumilia and Hoffman both made sure they got back to action this week.

It certainly didn’t hurt that they were back on the other end too, with the threat of two other polished scorers requiring the attention of the Monarchs’ defense. That’s exactly what happened on the first possession of the game, Hoffman pulling the defense her way and finding McGrorty for a three 30 seconds into the game.

“I love starting off a game like that, hitting a jumper really quick and I think it got our momentum up,” McGrorty said. “From then on, everyone else just followed. I think that did boost our confidence right off the bat.”

Gwynedd Mercy, which had to shoot in front of the Mount student section in the first half, looked at times like the relatively youthful and inexperienced team that is while the Magic played like a team built around four senior multi-year starters. The returnees were big early, Hoffman doling out assists on the first two baskets and adding a three in the first quarter while Pumilia scored on a putback as part of a 12-5 Magic start.

McGrorty also drew the main assignment of guarding Gwynedd Mercy (15-3, 6-2) senior Hannah Griffin, who led the Monarchs with 10 points but needed an atypically high number of shot attempts to get them. The seniors have matched up plenty, McGrorty even emerging from the amorphic mass of Mount students after the final horn to share a couple words with Griffin, but that didn’t mean McGrorty was going to take it easy.

Where the team most missed Hoffman and Pumilia was in its zone. McGrorty said it can be hard to communicate in the zone, especially in a loud gym like Thursday but having two seniors who know what to do covered up some of the breakdowns and most importantly, she was confident if she had to hand Griffin off to the next defender, they wouldn’t lose the GMA standout.

“We’ve not been able to defend well with them out of the lineup so having them back makes a difference, tonight was really about our defense,” Mount coach Matt Feeny said. “If there is a silver lining to losing two of your top kids, it’s that others step up and Chloe was really strong tonight.”

Pickett checked a lot of boxes with eight points, four rebounds, three assists, three blocks and three steals while Hoffman had 10 points, five rebounds and two steals. Pumilia had four points and McGrorty added four rebounds and two assists to her line.

The Mount home crowd was fired up all game long. (Photo: Andrew Robinson/CoBL)

One thing the game didn’t lack was energy. Players from both teams dove on the floor with aplomb, scrapping for every loose ball and forcing plenty of tie-ups.

“I was a freshman once, I know how intimidating it is to play against upperclassmen,” McGrorty said. “I think that’s what it was, we came out like ‘we’re going to beat you, we’re older and we’re going to push you around.’”

“A lot of people get stressed under that type of thing but I, personally, love that kind of energy. I think that’s why we won, the energy in the room. I usually don’t let anything anyone in the stands says get to me, like I’m on the court and you’re the one in the stands watching me play but I like that energy.”

The third quarter ended with McGrorty scoring a layup off a pass from Pickett. They switched roles to start the fourth, McGrorty hitting Pickett cutting to the rim off an inbound play for a 14-point lead that all but put the Mount back in the win column within the rivalry.

“Georgia, her wingspan is like out to the walls so I knew she was going to get there in like three strides and I was going to get it to her,” McGrorty said. “We all came to an agreement, I’m done losing, they’re done losing and if we do, it had better be a good loss, we had better have given it everything we’ve got.

“But, I’m not expecting our season to end anytime soon.”

Both teams are safely in the District 1 5A field, Gwynedd the No. 5 seed and MSJ at No. 7 after Thursday’s win, the top 12 teams in the district making it to the playoffs.

McGrorty isn’t sure what her team’s future holds and the same applies for her individual career. She’s heard from Moravian and Ursinus, so there’s an opportunity to pursue playing at the next level but the senior guard said she hasn’t decided if it’s something she wants to do yet.

Thursday, all that mattered was the end of the streak. She’s played with Pickett since they were in second grade and considers her, Hoffman and Pumilia among her closest friends and whatever is up the shrouded path ahead, they’re going to face it together.

“Everyone says this, or mostly everybody, but these girls are my best friends. Feeny’s coached me since the sandbox, he’s known me since I think I was in kindergarten so it makes it that much more special to me,” McGrorty said. “This team and this school has had a big impact on me in that sense.”

By Quarter
Mount St. Joseph’s:  12  |   7   |   6   |  11  ||  36
Gwynedd Mercy:       9   |   1   |   3   |   2   ||  15

MSJ: Chloe McGrorty 12, Lauren Hoffman 10, Georgia Pickett 8, Kiersten Pumilia 4, Emily Birmingham 2

GMA: Hannah Griffin 10, Cara Lapp 2, Emilia Coleman 2, Bailey Balkir 1

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