Northeast Times

First Impression

Fresh legs: Meghan Mat­thews, a 5-foot-10 fresh­man for St. Hubert, played like a seni­or with 19 points and 16 re­bounds in the 72-66 win over Con­well-Egan. Mat­thews notched 17 points and 10 boards in the first half alone. MARIA POUCH­NIKOVA / TIMES PHO­TOS

— St. Hubert fresh­man Meghan Mat­thews starred with a 19-point, 16-re­bound ex­plo­sion in a win over Con­well-Egan.

If this con­sti­tuted an off night for Char­lotte Ku­cowski, then the rest of the Cath­ol­ic League should be put on no­tice.

Ku­cowski, a 6-foot-1 seni­or for­ward for the St. Hubert bas­ket­ball team, has wowed many early in the sea­son with her abil­ity to score. Through nine games, Ku­cowski has av­er­aged a shade un­der 15 points per game and has scored in double fig­ures in all but one, lead­ing the Bam­bies to a 7-3 re­cord in the pro­cess. Not only that, but Ku­cowski’s size, com­bined with her in­side-out­side of­fens­ive abil­it­ies, makes her a match-up night­mare for any team that St. Hubert plays.

And to make mat­ters worse for fu­ture op­pos­i­tion, she’s got plenty of able-bod­ied help­ers.

In Fri­day night’s home and league open­ing 72-66 win over Con­well-Egan, just how good the Bam­bies can be was on dis­play for three quar­ters. A sloppy fourth frame saw a 20-point lead shrink to as little as five, but St. Hubert held on with im­press­ive per­sever­ance.

“If I’m hav­ing an off night, then there’s tons of oth­er play­ers we can look to,” Ku­cowski said be­fore rat­tling off sev­en or eight names of her team­mates.

Wheth­er or not Ku­cowski had an “off night” is de­bat­able (she con­ver­ted just four of her 11 field goal at­tempts, but still fought her way to 12 points and 15 re­bounds), but her com­ments about the team’s depth cer­tainly ring true. Ku­cowski had lots of help in hold­ing off Ash­ley Smith (18 of her 26 points came in the second half) the feisty Eagles, and nobody stood out quite like fresh­man Meghan Mat­thews, Ku­cowski’s front­court part­ner.

All Mat­thews did was post 17 points and 10 re­bounds … in the first half. She was around the bas­ket­ball any­time she was on the court, us­ing her 5-foot-10 frame to out­work Egan play­ers on the glass. (Most, if not all, of her shots were lay­ups.) Mat­thews was so im­press­ive that she even had a re­port­er con­firm­ing her class stand­ing with the team’s head coach and ath­let­ic dir­ect­or dur­ing the game. When told that his fresh­man had 10 re­bounds at half­time, head coach Bri­an Kuzmick offered a simple “wow.” Trans­la­tion: Mat­thews doesn’t play like a fresh­man, and if the Bam­bies get this kind of con­sist­ent ef­fort from her in ad­di­tion to Ku­cowski and the rest of the sup­port­ing cast, they will be a con­tender in the Cath­ol­ic League.

“She’s do­ing so well,” Ku­cowski said of her young team­mate. “I didn’t ex­pect it, be­cause I was nowhere near that good as a fresh­man. The hard work she’s put in every day has been amaz­ing, and I think she’s pushed the rest of us even harder.”

So how good can Mat­thews be?

“If she keeps this up, she’ll be phe­nom­en­al … one of the best in the league,” Ku­cowski said with con­fid­ence.

Mat­thews has been a re­cent rev­el­a­tion for the Bam­bies, scor­ing in double fig­ures in the last three games after get­ting there just once in the first six. She fin­ished with 19 points and 16 re­bounds against Egan.

“Well, num­ber one, the tal­ent is there, and num­ber two, the phys­ic­al at­trib­utes are there,” Kuzmick said fol­low­ing the game. “She’s a big, strong kid that’s a nat­ur­al scorer. We’re not ex­pect­ing 20 and 15 from her every night, but she has it in her, and she knows it.”

In ad­di­tion to Ku­cowski and Mat­thews down low, the Bam­bies boast en­vi­able bal­ance. Ju­ni­or Car­oline Price is a very cap­able ball-hand­ler, as is her back-up, seni­or Ca­sey Mat­thews. Seni­or Eliza­beth “Biff” Jones ad­ded 16 points (5-for-6 at the foul line in the cru­cial fourth quarter) to go along with a hand­ful of hustle plays, while ju­ni­or guard Kelly Ri­ley mixed in a quiet 11 points and three-sport ath­lete/stu­dent coun­cil pres­id­ent Claire Al­minde scored all six of her points with­in a minute or two in the third quarter. 

On a team filled with ju­ni­ors and seni­ors, the Bam­bies hope their ex­per­i­ence and up-tempo of­fense will al­low them to simply outscore every­one else in the Cath­ol­ic League.

“Be­cause we’re 10-deep, we like to push the tempo early on,” Kuzmick said. “We know how good this league is and how noth­ing will be handed to us.”

The Bam­bies will have no time to rest, as the com­ing week was ex­pec­ted to bring two tough­er league games on the road at rivals Arch­bish­op Ry­an (Tues­day, after the North­east Times went to press) and Little Flower (Thursday).

“It was really im­port­ant for us to win this first game,” Ku­cowski said. “We want people to know they are play­ing St. Hubert’s and give them the best we can be every game. 2013 is a big year for us for a lot of reas­ons, and we want to prove to every­one that we can win this league.”

That will be much easi­er said than done, but with more ef­forts like this one from Meghan Mat­thews and few­er “off nights” from their best play­er, one thing is clear: these Bam­bies will not be easy to beat.

“We have the pieces,” Kuzmick said. “And we’re pretty con­fid­ent that we’re go­ing to be good.”

Ku­cowski agreed.

“I know in these games I’ll be guarded tough­er, and that’s fine, be­cause we have so many oth­er play­ers that can beat you,” she said. “I want to win this league, and every­one on this team wants to do the same. It’s what we’re striv­ing for.” ••

Sports Ed­it­or Ed Mor­rone can be reached at 215-354-3035 or em­or­rone@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at emorrone@bsmphilly.com.

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