by Tom Utescher

Germantown Friends’ Katherine Walden (left) drives for a lay-up against another sophomore, Episcopal’s 6’2” Megan Quinn. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

It was a very young Germantown Friends squad that arrived at Episcopal Academy last Tuesday afternoon for a first-round game in the 2011 Pa. Independent Schools Girls Basketball Championships. The seniors on the team decided not to participate in the tournament, and with no juniors on the roster, a group of freshmen and sophomores made the trip to Newtown Square.

Considered underdogs even with their upperclassmen, the youthful Tigers fell behind 32-1 during the first half, but at least reached double digits after the interlude to finish with a score of 64-11.

Receiving 15 points from sophomore Megan Quinn, 11 from senior Allie Clark, and nine apiece from sophomore Kristen Hinckley and freshman Sarah Abbonizio, Episcopal improved to 16-9 overall. The tournament run for the Churchwomen ended the following day, with a 52-44 setback at the Hill School in the quarterfinal round.

Finishing their season with an overall record of 9-8, the Tigers earned a spot in the Friends Schools League playoffs this season, losing to eventual champion Shipley School in a semifinal game on Wednesday, February 9. Episcopal was coming off of a February 11 upset of Germantown Academy, which was the first league loss for the Patriots since 1999. The final standings in the Girls Inter-Ac League are determined by win/loss records in the regular season, and Churchwomen tied for third place with the Academy of Notre Dame, both at 7-5.

A year ago, GFS declined an invitation to participate in the Pa. Indy tournament.

“When the bracket came out this year, the seniors said they couldn’t make it,” related Tigers coach James Jordan. “We already made the commitment to be in the tournament, and I didn’t want to turn them down again. It gave us a chance to see what next year’s team will look like.”

One of Jordan’s concerns this winter was that his young players usually waited for senior Julya Loder, the team’s best player, to take the initiative, especially when it came to shooting the ball. The Tigers continued this pattern in the first half of Tuesday’s game, and the result was a lone free throw by freshman Isabel Ballester throughout the first half.

During the break, Jordan said he told his charges, “The score is 32-1; there’s nothing you can do wrong by shooting the ball!”

The Tigers absorbed the message, and got their first field goal on a lay-up by sophomore Katherine Walden. Buckets by sophomore Lucy Guida and freshmen Maddie Andrews and Caroline Myran followed. Guida’s second field goal, a bank shot from the foul line at the buzzer, made it 50-11 at the three-quarter mark. EA ruled the fourth frame, 14-0.

Jordan is looking into opportunities for his team to play together in the off-season, perhaps in a local summer league. He’d like his players to have a basketball in their hands at least some of the time between now and next November.

As he put it, “The next season begins right after the old one ends.”