The St. Hubert basketball team made quick work of Bishop McDevitt in Tuesday night’s first-round home playoff game.
Now comes the hard part.
Junior guard Elizabeth “Biff” Jones and freshman forward Meghan Matthews each scored a team-high 14 points as the seventh-seeded Bambies throttled visiting No. 10 McDevitt, 60-35. Jones and Matthews combined to score 14 in the first quarter as St. Hubert built a 22-8 lead and never looked back.
“We came out and started fast,” Bambies head coach Brian Kuzmick said by phone Wednesday afternoon. “We shot the ball really well in the first quarter, which really helped because we hadn’t done that in awhile. We got more confident as the game went on and we never took our foot off the gas. We played a complete game together.”
St. Hubert won’t have much time to celebrate, as a daunting road test at perennial Catholic League power Archbishop Wood looms on Thursday night. The Vikings put a 61-38 whooping on St. Hubert on Feb. 6, putting a damper on the team’s Senior Night festivities.
A similar scenario unfolded in the postseason last year, as the Vikings overwhelmed St. Hubert late in the regular season only to set up a decidedly more competitive playoff match later on. The Bambies ended up losing that game too, so Kuzmick is hoping to avoid a complete déjà vu situation.
“They’re one of the best teams in the league and probably the state,” he said of Wood, which hasn’t lost since Jan. 25. “Offensively, they’re smooth and polished, so it’s difficult to guard them for 32 minutes. Plus, they’re the best man-to-man defensive team in the league. If we shoot the ball like we did against McDevitt, it’s certainly a game we can win. It’s a doable task.”
It will be much more doable if Kuzmick can get his best player and senior leader, forward Charlotte Kucowski, back on track. After scoring at a rapid rate to start the season, Kucowski has struggled considerably of late; she managed just five points in the win over McDevitt, and Kuzmick said she’s only averaging about three points per game over the last seven contests. She will probably need to tally three to four times that allotment to knock off the mighty Vikings.
“She’s not shooting the ball like she did the beginning of the year,” Kuzmick said of Kucowski. “We need her to knock down shots and shoot the ball better than she has, no question.”
The continued emergence of Matthews down low has picked up some of Kucowski’s slack, and the Bambies’ depth should keep them in any contest. Kucowski, Jones and Matthews are the team’s most reliable scorers, but Kuzmick has a stable of role players — such as senior Claire Alminde and juniors Caroline Price, Maria DeRentz, Kelly Riley and Megan Reilly — that must contribute.
“I’m still playing nine or ten kids a night,” Kuzmick said. “They all bring something to the table, and we need solid performances from everyone we put out there on the floor. If they all believe in themselves then it will go a long way.”
Though St. Hubert is seeded seventh, Kuzmick said he believes his team stacks up against any other one in the league. He cited critical close losses (one point against Archbishop Ryan, three points against Archbishop Carroll) as being the difference between the 7-seed and qualifying for the state playoffs.
“The league is that close and that tough,” Kuzmick said. “The exciting thing is that if we win tomorrow night we’ll have done something St. Hubert has not done in a long time … maybe in about 12 to 15 years.”
He was referring to the Catholic League semifinals, a definite goal for a team “fighting to get to that next level.” Kuzmick spoke of the tremendous opportunity in front of his players, one that is not lost on them.
“For me personally this is absolutely the most exciting time of the year,” he said. “The most exciting part about it is that next win can be one of the most special moments of their lives. There’s always the opportunity to have that great moment. If you can get your hands on it then it’s something they’ll always remember.” ••
Sports Editor Ed Morrone can be reached at 215-354-3035 or firstname.lastname@example.org