Maria Belardi capped a strong late-game defensive effort by the NEPA Elite Clark 17U girls team with two blocked shots in the final minute Friday night to preserve a 47-44 victory over Long Island Lightning Flynn 2022 in the first game of the Girls Southern Jam Fest in Hampton, Va.
The 17U Division Pool A opener at the Hoop Group event featured two teams from the Hoop Group Showcase League.
Long Island led 42-35 before being held without a field goal over the final 8:50.
NEPA Elite moved into the lead, 45-44, when Ciera Toomey scored off a Kylie Lavelle feed on a pick-and-roll with about 4 ½ minutes remaining.
Toomey and Lavelle led the team offensively in the game. The go-ahead basket was the last of a game-high 20 points for Toomey, including 13 in the second half. Lavelle joined her in double figured with 11.
Kaeli Romanowski’s drive with 2:50 left accounted for the last of the game’s scoring, so NEPA Elite had to rely on its defense and other factors the rest of the way.
Olivia Smelas and Romanowski, who also did much of the late-game ballhandling, each grabbed offensive rebounds off missed free throws during the final minute to help take additional time off the clock.
Belardi made her last block with under three seconds remaining, then Romanowski contested the final 3-point attempt, which bounced off the rim as time expired.
Belardi is from Scranton Prep, Toomey from Dunmore, Lavelle from Riverside, Romanowski from Western Wayne and Smelas from Jim Thorpe.
All five NEPA Elite girls teams are in action at the Southern Jam Fest.
The teams from the AAU club out of Riverfront Sports in Scranton went 3-2 on the Opening Night of the three-day event with the three oldest teams producing the victories.
The Rini 17U team routed Maryland Basketball Club, 60-27, in the 17U Division Pool CC.
The NEPA Elite 16U girls, coached by Emily Sheehan, beat the Potomac Valley Thunder HGSL team, 47-42, in a 16U Division Pool A game.
Katherine Shepherd and Claire Dougherty scored 17 points each to lead the Rini team’s win.
Shepherd made four 3-pointers in the first half and finished the game 5-for-6 from long distance.
Chase Purdy, Dougherty’s teammate at Lake-Lehman High School, added 14 points.
NEPA Elite led 28-15 at halftime behind Shepherd’s sharpshooting, then ran away with Dougherty, Purdy and Mia Blume each scoring nine points in the second half.
Shepherd is from Western Wayne. Blume is from Dunmore.
Cadie Lewis hit three 3-pointers and scored a team-high 13 points to lead the Sheehan team to its victory.
Gianna Cafarella added 10 points and Erin Van Ness 9 for NEPA Elite. Anna Williams grabbed a team-high six rebounds and Lexi Corby added five.
Lewis is from Dunmore, Cafarella from Scranton Prep and Van Ness, Williams and Corby all from Tunkhannock.
The two NEPA Elite 15U teams lost.
SI Bulldogs 2024 HGSL downed NEPA Elite Scoblick 15U, 46-41, in Pool A. DMV Lady Tigers defeated NEPA Elite Butler 15U, 91-22, in Pool B.
Ella Wilson had nine points while Emily Romanowski and Finley Bittenbender added seven each for the Scoblick team.
Wilson is from Lake-Lehman, Romanowski from Western Wayne and Bittenbender from Scranton.
Gabby Marsola from Wyoming Valley West led the Butler team with eight points.
The Coyle 17U team is the only NEPA Elite boys team in action this weekend.
The Coyle boys team is playing in the Zero Gravity Mid-Atlantic May Madness event at Spooky Nook Sports in Manheim, Lancaster County.
The Middlesex Magic-Lambros defeated NEPA Elite, 61-55, Friday night.