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  December 25, 2008 Issue                                       

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©2007 The Chestnut Hill Local

Penn Charter rally falls short
by TOM UTESCHER

Trailing by as many as 13 points a few minutes into the third quarter, the Penn Charter girls cut their deficit to three points near the end of last Sunday’s basketball game against Shipley, but the Gators held on to beat the Quakers, 64-57.

The non-league meeting occurred at Philadelphia University in the Quaker City Girls Basketball Tournament, which benefits the One Child Saved Organization founded by Philadelphia sports broadcaster Don Tollefson.

Earlier last week the Quakers had won their Girls Inter-Ac League opener over visiting Episcopal Academy, 48-32, and Sunday’s close loss resulted in a pre-holiday record of 5-2 for a Charter squad that is one of the youngest around.

“None of my players even has a driver’s license,” said PC coach Diana Caramanico, whose roster includes one junior and not a single senior.

The PC basketball family will grow even younger in early February when Caramanico, a Germantown Academy and Penn alumna, delivers her first child.

On Sunday her ball club squared off against a Shipley squad that was coming off of its first loss of the season; a day earlier the Gators (9-1) had fallen to GA, 79-51 (see article this issue).

Shipley coach Sean Costello remarked, “We faced great competition yesterday and that kind of geared us up. This was a good stage for us to play on and I thought we did real well. Coming in today I told the girls as long as we exerted the effort and energy, things will work themselves out.”

Shipley was led by 6’2” senior forward Alex Lennon, who was named game MVP after scoring 19 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. The other Gators who posted double figures were guards Alex Davis (16 points) and Brianna Ross (15). The high scorer of the game was PC freshman Danielle Thomas, a sturdy six-foot forward who recorded 17 of her 25 points in the second half while also pulling down six rebounds.

Spurred by the sting of the previous day’s loss, Shipley came out strong and had built up a 15-point lead (23-8) nine minutes into the game. With Thomas scoring eight points and fellow frosh Brianna Butler adding six before halftime, Charter kept the contest from getting completely out of hand and trailed by 10 points at the interlude, 34-24.

When the Gators stretched the score to 41-28 in the early minutes of the third quarter, Caramanico called timeout and exhorted her team to step it up on defense.

“It was the little stuff, boxing out, talking better on defense,” she said. “We’re young and we’re going to make mistakes, but a month into the season we’ve got to start learning from them.”

Thomas shouldered much of the load on offense along with fiery sophomore guard Aleesha Powell (five rebounds), who netted eight of her 12 total points after halftime. By the three-quarter mark, PC was within five points, at 46-41, and in the fourth quarter most of the scoring came from the free-throw line as both teams got into the bonus and the Quakers eventually had to start fouling for ball possession.

Powell hit a pair from the line to make it 57-54 with 70 seconds remaining, and after Shipley widened the gap again, a driving lay-up and a free throw by Thomas got it back down to three points (60-57) with 17.2 ticks on the clock. The Gators were able to pass the ball over the PC press to Lennon for a transition lay-up, and with less than a second to go Shipley’s Jordyn Turner (five points total) tacked the final two points on the board from the foul line.

Butler wound up with eight points for Charter, which also got four points apiece from Nikki Guynn, MaryKate O’Brien, and Kendall Stokes.

“Sometimes you dig yourself a hole you can’t get out of,” Caramanico concluded. “Credit goes to our kids because they fought and came back, but in my mind we shouldn’t have allowed ourselves to get into that position in the first place.”