by Tom Utescher

The girls basketball team at Germantown Friends compiled a 4-2 record against non-league opponents in December, but the Tigers have found the going tougher as they opened up the Friends Schools League season in the New Year.

GFS dropped its league opener against Friends Central two weeks ago, and last Tuesday the Tigers stayed with host Abington Friends the entire afternoon, but in the end suffered a 39-32 setback that lowered their record to 0-2 in the FSL and 4-4 overall.

GFS senior guard Julya Loder hit a pair of three-pointers and shot 10-for-12 at the foul line for a game-high 16 points. Tigers tenth-graders Sophie Mercuris and Katherine Walden (six rebounds) scored six points apiece, and senior Ava Samuel and sophomore Lucy Guida each scored one field goal.

Senior guard Juyla Loder scored a game-high 16 points for GFS in a game at Abington Friends last week. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

Freshman Caroline Myran, a starting forward who has been Germantown’s second-leading scorer, was out of action at Abington, having pulled a hamstring during the league opener. One of Abington’s reserve players, Brittany Garrison, missed the game due to illness.

A girls/boys doubleheader had been scheduled between the Tigers and the Kangaroos, but the ominous weather forecast for that evening caused the boys’ contest to be postponed. The first flakes of Tuesday night’s snowstorm would not fall for several hours, but the cold air seeping through the long, low window behind the scorer’s table suffused the stark interior of the gym with a chill that left no doubt as to the season.

Fouled by the ‘Roos the first several times she drove to the basket, Germantown’s Loder seemed destined to spend much of the afternoon on the free throw line, but after the opening period Abington was not so heavy-handed when guarding her.

“She’s been an all-league player the last couple years, and we knew going in that we couldn’t let her take over the game,” revealed AFS coach David Bass. “We played box-and-one and rotated a lot of different players on her to sort of tire her out, and I think that started to work in the second half.”

GFS mentor James Jordan lamented, “When the other teams concentrate on Juyla on defense, everyone else is still timid about shooting the ball. Caroline is not, because she also plays a lot of basketball outside of school, but we didn’t have her today.”

Six-for-six foulshooting by Loder, together with a three-pointer, helped the Tigers stay with their hosts through the opening quarter. At the buzzer, the Kangaroos’ Kelsey Clark nailed a three-point shot from the right corner, nudging her team ahead 16-13. Clark would score all of her team-high nine points from the three-point arc, and Maria Savarese’s half-dozen points came on three-balls, as well.

“We shoot the ball – we have a lot of shooters,” Bass said. “We don’t want to rely on the “three” entirely, so I told the girls to try and get some touches inside, and we did that later in the game.”

Clark’s closing trey in the first frame proved to be part of an 11-0 Abington spree. The Tigers’ Mercuris scored the last points of the half on a short jumper from the lane, but the visitors still trailed 24-15 at the intermission. However, Mercuris’ bucket revived the GFS offense, and the visitors outscored Abington 10-9 in the third quarter as Loder, Mercuris, Walden and Guida all put points on the board.

A minute into the final frame, Loder hooked up from the top of the three-point loop to make it 33-28. Abington started its endgame rather early, passing the ball around the perimeter. Before long the Roos began looking toward the basket once more, but neither they nor the Tigers connected on their next couple of field goal attempts.

A lone Loder free throw made it a four-point game with three-and-a-half minutes to go, but then AFS got some of the interior offense Bass was looking for as the hosts found Hannah Weitz down low for a pair of lay-ups. Forward Alexa Bowman had also been producing in the paint for the Roos, scoring six of her eight total points after halftime.

In the last 90 seconds Loder scored her last point from the foul line, and the final field goal of the game was a lay-up by Samuel with 20 seconds to go, leaving GFS seven points short in the final reckoning.