GFS sophomore Julia Mankoff (left) plays ferocious transition defense as Penn Charter freshman Ayanna Matthews brings the ball over half-court. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

Last Saturday’s girls championship game at the 23rd Annual Germantown Community Tournament ended up as a School House Lane rivalry between two Quaker institutions. Tourney host Germantown Friends (1-2) kept it close until the middle of the second quarter, but after that Penn Charter (2-1) opened up an 11-point halftime lead and went on to win by the same margin, 45-34.

In Friday’s semifinals, the GFS Tigers pleased the home crowd by taking the measure of Germantown High School, 53-20, while in the other first-round contest the Quakers of Penn Charter logged a 58-31 win over Bodine High School for International Affairs.

Following the championship game, the tournament MVP trophy went to PC freshman guard Hannah Fox, who rang up a total of 46 points in the two-day competition. She was joined on the all-tournament team by teammate Nicolette Napoleon, a sophomore forward, and Germantown Friends senior guard Sophie Mercuris. The other members of the elite group were Germantown High’s Ebony Geddis (a junior forward), and Bodine’s Teneka Garvin (a senior guard).

On Friday, eight points by junior forward Caroline Myran paced GFS to a 29-6 halftime lead over Germantown High after the Tigers took it out early in a 13-2 opening quarter. GFS was never in danger after that as 14 of the Bearettes’ 20 total points didn’t come until the fourth quarter.

Myran finished with 10 points and another starting forward, Katherine Walden (team co-captain along with Mercuris) led the winners with 11. Imani Ross, a 5’9” guard who was starting for the Tigers as a freshman last year, matched Myran’s 10 points, and nine points were marked down for swing player Julia Mankoff. A new student at GFS, Mankoff is a sophomore whose family relocated here from the West Coast.

Both the Tigers and Penn Charter had opened the season earlier in the week with losses to opponents from New Jersey, GFS falling to Pennington, and the Quakers succumbing to Hun School.

At the Community Tournament, PC assistant coach Jim Powers was the stand-in skipper for the Quakers, since head coach Dave Bass was out of town attending an educational conference. The first quarter of PC’s Friday game was not as lopsided as in the other semifinal, but Charter still forged a 17-9 lead and then pulled away smartly in a 16-4 second period. In the end, the Lady Ambassadors had no answer for the Quakers’ backcourt, as Fox tossed in five three-pointers and amassed 25 points in all, and fellow ninth-grade guard Ayanna Matthews scored 17. Both of these young talents were already starting for PC last season.

Immediately before the girls’ championship game on Saturday, a longstanding tradition was observed with the annual presentation of the tournament’s Community Service Award. The 2012 recipient is Carlotta Fariera, Coordinator of the St. Luke’s Food Cupboard based at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, which is located just across Germantown Ave. from the GFS campus.

The Tigers opened the scoring in the final with a lay-up by Ross, who hit a free throw a little later on but then was held in check by the Quakers the rest of the way. With Fox penetrating to score and Napoleon and Matthews finding the net from the foul line, Charter held an 8-5 edge at the quarter.

Early in the second round, freshman point guard Lizzie Becker hit the first of her two three-pointers to keep Germantown Friends in the running, but a little over two-and-a-half minutes into the period there was cause for concern on the home bench when Myran picked up her third personal foul.

Still, with Mankoff cashing in on a call against PC by netting two free throws, the Tigers only trailed 12-10 with 4:20 to go until halftime.

However, the Tigers had also been fouling enough as a team to put the Quakers into the bonus. Charter began to get some separation with one made free throw by senior forward Katie O’Malley and two by Fox. In the last 80 seconds before halftime, Fox followed up with a 15-foot jumper while O’Malley and Napoleon each added a lay-up, completing a 9-0 spree that had their team leading 21-10 at the break.

“I think there were some mental errors on our part,” said first-year GFS coach Ashley Webster. “There were some turnovers, some three-second calls when we weren’t paying attention, and some offensive rebounds that we let get away. But the girls played hard, and I’m proud of their effort.”

Keeping the official book at the scorers’ table, GFS junior Oliver Fox was in a win/win situation. He’s the older brother of PC’s Hannah Fox, so even if his own school couldn’t rally for a victory, he could be happy for his sibling’s success.

The second-half scoring began with a mid-range jumper by Mercuris of GFS, but less than two minutes in the Tigers took a personnel hit when Myran once more heard a ref tweeting in her direction, and she had to come off the floor with her fourth personal foul.

“I had to sit her for most of the third quarter, and her presence in there makes a difference in our team,” Webster remarked. “She brings the intensity up and makes everybody around her better, so it hurts us when she’s not in there.”

The Tigers’ Mankoff picked up a little of the slack on offense, scoring four of her six total points in the third quarter. With Fox and Matthews combining for a dozen points in the period, Penn Charter was able to increase its lead slightly, and was ahead 35-22 going into round four.

GFS missed its final free throw of the third quarter, and went one-for-four from the stripe early in the fourth. The Tigers could’ve used every one of those possible points, since an inside score by Napoleon and a pair of three-pointers by Fox pushed the Quakers’ lead out to 18 points (43-25) with three minutes left to play.

The hosts were able to narrow the gap going down the stretch, as a trey and two free throws by Becker and a lay-up and a pair of fouls shots made by Myran fueled a 9-2 finish for the Tigers.

Fox had a game-high 21 points, and PC got an even dozen from Matthews, eight from Napoleon (along with 12 rebounds), and four from O’Malley. Becker led the Tigers with 11 points, followed by Myran with seven, Mankoff with six, Mercuris with four, and Ross and Walden with three points apiece.

Becker, just a few games into her varsity career, had handled the ball with poise while scoring a third of her team’s points in the game.

“I thought she played really well,” Webster said. “She’s a freshman and she’s still learning. She played under control, and she didn’t have any unforced turnovers. Every game she’s getting more confident.”