SCH’s Elana Roadcloud (right) tries to poke the ball away from GA’s Dempsey Cooper. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

In their first game of 2012, and the first true Girls Inter-Ac League test for both ballclubs, the Germantown Academy Patriots came to call on the Lions of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy last Tuesday afternoon.

SCH stunned the Patriots by taking a 21-10 lead in the opening quarter, but that proved to be more than half of the total points the Lions would accumulate by the end of the game. GA was back within three points at halftime, and went on to win 51-39 while marking down 16 points, 10 rebounds, eight steals and four assists for senior guard Jaryn Garner.

SCH slipped to 6-7 on the season despite the contributions of three seniors: guard Sydni Epps (13 points), and forwards Michelle Boggs (11) and Elana Roadcloud (nine). The Lions took away a 2-1 mark in the Inter-Ac, having defeated Baldwin and Agnes Irwin in December.

GA, who had also beaten Baldwin before the holiday break, improved to 2-0 in the league and 7-5 overall last Tuesday, when Garner’s performance was complemented by juniors Dempsey Cooper (11 points) and Kiernan McCloskey (10 points, 13 rebounds).

The Lions came out playing the kind of focused, team-oriented basketball that they’ve rarely displayed this season. Two scores of off rebounds by Boggs helped the hosts go up 7-0 before GA got on the board with a three-pointer by Fran Sweeney. Epps then went to work, scoring in transition and then canning two “three’s”. At the end of the period the Lions had five straight lay-ups attempts on one possession, with Boggs finally putting the ball in to make it 21-10.

“We hadn’t seen the two-one-two press and I think that threw us off a little bit,” commented GA coach Sherri Retif. “Later in the game it wasn’t as effective.”

The Lions ultimately didn’t have the depth to keep up the strenuous pressing maneuver, especially after guard Gianna Pownell collided with another player late in the second quarter and had to sit out the rest of the game. Pownall retired with four points; her replacement, Julia Schumacher, scored two.

GA’s Natalie Toner, who’d hit a three-pointer in the opening quarter, drove for a lay-up early in the second frame, and later Cooper chalked up five straight points on a baseline jumper, a lay-up, and a free throw. When Garner scored off a steal with 3:25 left in the half, the Patriots were back within a point at 21-20.

“Our girls seem to have in their heads that they’re supposed to lose to GA, and we need to change that type of thinking,” pointed out Lions mentor Steve Purcell. “When GA got back in the game, it was like, uh-oh, here we go again. It hurt losing Gianna, but injuries happen and you’ve still got to play on.”

Retif said that in her club’s comeback “Our defense kind of was the catalyst; we got some easy transition buckets off of steals. Early in the game we missed a lot of our three-point attempts, then we attacked the paint for some higher-percentage shots.”

Although the Lions were still leading 29-26 at the half, order broke down in their offense in the second half.

“We couldn’t get the ball in to Boggs, and we started taking some crazy shots,” Purcell said. “Our defense wasn’t bad, but we only scored one point in the third quarter. The way we played in the first quarter, there’s almost nobody we couldn’t beat; the way we played in the third, we couldn’t beat anybody.”

From the start of the third period to the middle of the fourth, the Pats engineered a 15-3 run that put them in control for keeps. Toner finished with seven points, Sweeney with five, and Mel Repella with two.

“I think they just wanted it more in the second half,” reflected Purcell. “Garner played really well for them; she was getting every loose ball.”

GA was coming off of a challenging holiday tournament in Atlanta, where they lost the first two of their three games. Their opponents included a pair of University of Tennessee recruits and a team with four players standing 6’4”.

“After that second loss we had a team meeting, and I think some good things came out of it,” reported Retif, whose ball club defeated Miami’s Hollywood Christian School in their final tournament game. “When you lose, there can still be some benefits, and I think the girls really came together and made being a true team their focus. They developed trust in one another on and off the court.”