by Tom Utescher

Both the host team from Germantown Academy and the girls of Penn Charter were in action last weekend at GA’s 16th Annual Make-A-Wish Tournament. Also known as Teams for Dreams, the event drew a record crowd this year. As always, the proceeds were donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses.

Lawrenceville’s Jacquie Klotz (left) tries to prevent GA senior Kiernan McCloskey from leaping for a lay-up. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

Instead of employing a regular tournament bracket, the games were all prescheduled to avoid the possibility of Inter-Ac members GA and PC playing one another before their two official league games in 2013.

GA senior Kiernan McCloskey, a superbly athletic 6’1” forward who signed with Lehigh University last month, gave a bravura performance in the two-night engagement, scoring a total of 47 points in two intense victories. On Friday evening the Patriots (3-3 overall) fought off a late run by Lawrenceville School to win 49-43, and the following evening the tourney hosts had an even closer scrape, shading Shipley School 45-41. GA junior Margaret Ann Hubbell, a sturdy 5’9” forward who transferred in from Central Bucks East High School this year, scored 17 points in the tournament and hauled down a total of 25 rebounds.

Although Penn Charter did not face GA, the Quakers had their hands full with the other two tourney teams, first falling to Shipley, 48-29, and then losing to Lawrenceville on Saturday afternoon, 64-24.

Shipley was 3-2 overall after the tournament. The Gators lost their season-opener to New Jersey’s Blair Academy, a member of the Mid-Atlantic Prep League along with Lawrenceville, and in their Friends Schools League debut they defeated Germantown Friends. In the Pa. Independent Schools Tournament last season, Shipley knocked off then-defending champ Germantown Academy in the semifinal round before going on to beat top-seeded Hill School in the championship game.

“We didn’t talk about that, because at this point in the season we’re just trying to go out and get better each game,” said Patriots head coach Sherri Retif. “After the game it was nice to think about last year, but not going into it.”

Penn Charter has a young squad that is dealing with a number of graduation gaps, and after last weekend’s set of games the Quakers were back to the .500 mark at 3-3 overall. At the GA tournament, the simple truth is that Charter ran into two very talented teams, and there were no miraculous upsets.

The Quakers went into Friday’s tourney game fresh off of an intense league opener, in which they edged out an improving Baldwin School squad, 43-41. A few minutes into Friday’s tilt, Charter was hanging just one point behind the Gators at 6-5, but the Quakers’ offense dried up and Shipley slowly pulled away.

The tally was 10-5 at the quarter, and by the time it reached 13-5 early in the second round PC was already coping with six team fouls. When the half ended, Shipley was up 19-12, with Charter getting a late boost from freshman point guard Hannah Fox, who hit a free throw and a pair of three-point field goals.

Shipley spread the score to 33-16 by the end of the third quarter, then a pair of driving lay-ups by Penn Charter freshman Ayanna Matthews touched off a modest rally for the Quakers. Duplicating her second-quarter output, Fox funneled in two more three’s and one free throw.

Two foul shots by junior Kristina Kubach brought the gap back down into single figures with 3:09 left to play (38-29), but the Quakers got no closer as the Gators finished the game with a 10-0 flourish. Fox had a game-high 14 points while Matthews ended up with eight and sophomore forward Nicolette Napoleon scored five.

Point guard Tamesha “Sox” Alexander led the winners with 13 points and perimeter marksman Colleen Walsh scored all of her 11 points in the second half. Balancing things out in the frontcourt were Martine Fortune (a 6’4” sophomore) and Courtney Redcross (a freshman), with eight and seven points, respectively.

The next day the Quakers faced another team with superior size in Lawrenceville, which has one 6’3” starter (Cari Jenkins, who will attend the U.S. Military Academy) another player the same size (a Swiss import) on the bench. Although Jenkins has been playing through an injury and was nowhere close to 100 percent, the Big Red were taller than the Quakers at every other position, as well.

Fired up after suffering their first loss of the season in the game with GA the night before, Lawrenceville bolted to a 19-3 lead over the first five-and-a-half minutes. A “three” from Matthews accounted for PC’s points during this stretch, and even with Napoleon hitting a lay-up on an inbounds play later on, the gap was 18 points (23-5) at the quarter.

The scoreboard had climbed to 44-9 by halftime and to 52-12 at the end of the third period. Lawrenceville used its bench liberally and PC was able to double its total during the fourth quarter, but a 40-point gap remained at the final horn.

PC’s points all came from Matthews (11), Napoleon (seven), and Fox (six), while the Big Red was led by juniors Megan Reilly (14 points), Amanni Fernandez (13), and Jacquie Klotz (nine). Eight points apiece were added by Kennedy Guest-Pritchett, a sophomore from Georgia, and senior Julia Bretz, a senior who has committed to Duke for crew.

GA entered Friday’s bout against Lawrenceville with an overall mark of 1-3. The Patriots launched their 2012-2013 campaign and began the defense of their Inter-Ac League title all on the same day, drubbing Baldwin School, 64-16. Two losses followed when Germantown faced a pair of powerful Baltimore teams on a jaunt below the Mason Dixon Line, and the team suffered a 42-29 setback in an Inter-Ac outing at Episcopal Academy.

“The competition’s been tough and it’s been a baptism by fire, but I think that’s okay,” said Retif. “With the tournament in Maryland and the busy schedule I think we’ve averaged one practice a week, so the games have sort of been practices for us also.”

Back home once more on Friday, GA was tied up 12-12 at the end of the first period of play against Lawrenceville, which arrived at the event with a 2-0 mark. The Patriots moved ahead in a 15-7 second period and stayed there, although the Lady Larrys did not fade away.

Lawrenceville closed within two points both in the middle of the third quarter (27-25) and one minute into the final frame (37-35).

GA went up by a dime at 47-37, then the Big Red closed it up to 47-42 in the final minute but couldn’t get any closer. A 25-point showing by GA’s McCloskey was supported by eight points apiece from Hubbell (12 rebounds) and from 5’10” freshman guard Kendall Grasela (seven rebounds).

Rounding out the total were four points from senior guard Fran Sweeney (who will play at Emory University), three from sophomore guard Olivia Gorman, and one from 5’11” freshman forward Lauren Oeth (Oeth’s brother James, one year older, is a distance runner at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy). Klotz and Reilly led Lawrenceville with 14 points apiece, and Fernandez added nine.

GA raced to an 8-0 lead as Saturday night’s game got underway, but Shipley said “not so fast” and ran off nine straight to take the lead. After each team scored again, GA senior Dempsey Cooper (a University of Rhode Island signee) struck from the left edge of the foul circle to nudge the hosts ahead 12-11 for the start of the second round.

Scoring on a follow, Shipley’s Fortune posted the first points in the new period, and even as close as the game was in the final seconds, this 13-12 edge was actually the Gators’ last lead of the night. In a two-minute stretch, the Pats’ McCloskey packed a pair of three-pointers around a lay-up to fuel an 8-2 Germantown run.

After that, GA’s Grasela and Gorman traded three-point buckets with Walsh and fellow Shipley junior Asia Baker to make it 26-21. In the final seconds, the Patriots’ Hubbell converted two of her 13 total rebounds into lay-ups, the second one coming right at the buzzer for a 30-21 count at the half. McCloskey had a dozen points in the book already, and Baker led the Gators with seven.

The only double-digit gap of the evening appeared on the board when McCloskey scored in transition to start the second half, putting the hosts up 32-21. Like GA’s early eight-point advantage, this bulge was quickly diminished by the Gators, who got a driving lay-up and a short jumper from sophomore Nia Holland as part of an 8-0 rally.

Several times when Germantown appeared to making a decisive move in the game, the Patriots opened the door back up for Shipley through turnovers, committing 21 of them during the game, or one every 90 seconds.

Retif remarked “Alexander’s so quick she can guard the ball and guard the catch at the same time. She had a real nice game and she threw us off a number of times.”

Holland was adept at picking the Pats’ pockets, too, and GA also lost possession more than once by failing to consider the height and reach of Fortune on the inside.

Shipley’s 8-0 surge in the middle of the third quarter ended when GA’s Grasela netted two free throws, which resulted from a third personal foul against the Gators’ outside ace, Walsh. After McCloskey romped coast-to-coast for a field goal, Alexander made two foul shots for the visitors to end the quarter at 36-31.

The Gators guard was back at the charity stripe at the start of the fourth frame, hitting one of two shots on a shooting foul called on Grasela, her third personal.

Earlier, there had been some rough and tumble antics involving GA’s Hubbell and Shipley’s Redcross, who were both lectured by one of the officials. Now, Hubbell scored a transition lay-up off a pass from Cooper and drew more of a garden-variety foul from Redcross. The GA junior completed the traditional three-point play to put her ballclub up 32-39 with 7:08 on the clock.

Other than that, the Gators had an excellent opportunity to take the lead in the early stage of the fourth quarter, receiving a three-pointer from Walsh and making a total of four trips to the foul line, including the initial one for Alexander. However, with a four-for-eight performance on free throws, Shipley could not quite get over the hump, making it a one-point game, 39-38, with under two minutes to go.

In the last few minutes of the affair, it was GA who failed to capitalize on free throw shooting chances. The Pats were two-for-seven over the final two-and-a-half minutes, and with the missed first shots of one-and-one’s taken into account, they netted two of a possible 10 points.

Some of these foul calls came when the Gators missed three-point shots on three consecutive possessions and Germantown rebounded the ball. Using a spin move to free herself for a lay-up, McCloskey made it 41-38 with 1:11 remaining. On a drive down the lane with half-a-minute left, Alexander was called for a charge, and on the next Shipley foul, the team’s 10th, McCloskey hit the second of two tosses for a four-point lead.

Shipley missed both a three-point shot from the right baseline and an attempted lay-up off the rebound, but the ball leaked out to Baker on the opposite side of the baseline and she canned a trey, closing it up to 42-41. A second later, with 10.3 ticks to go, McCloskey made the first of two foul shots and missed the second, but she dashed in to grab the rebound of her second attempt and scored a lay-up to put the 45-41 final score up in lights. Shipley’s Alexander missed a shot from above the keytop at the buzzer, but still finished with a team-high 12 points. Baker scored 10 for the Gators, who received nine from Holland, six from Walsh, and four from Fortune.

McCloskey’s game-high 22 points came with a dozen rebounds and two steals, and Hubbell had nine points, 13 boards, two steals, and two assists. After that the scoring went five-four-three-two for Grasela, senior forward Angela Upright, Gorman, and Cooper.