GA basketball goes 2-2 in busy final week

by Tom Utescher
Posted 3/3/21

Last week, Germantown Academy closed out the abbreviated 2021 girls' basketball season with a four-game homestand over the course of five days. Victories over Agnes Irwin (on Wednesday) and Episcopal …

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GA basketball goes 2-2 in busy final week

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Last week, Germantown Academy closed out the abbreviated 2021 girls' basketball season with a four-game homestand over the course of five days. Victories over Agnes Irwin (on Wednesday) and Episcopal Academy (on Thursday) were sandwiched between losses to Penn Charter and the Academy of Notre Dame.

The Patriots' final record of 5-4 placed them third in the Inter-Ac League standings. They had won the league championship for six years in a row (2015-20), but severe personnel losses through graduation and attrition sent them into the truncated COVID-19 season as a relatively young and inexperienced franchise.

Last Tuesday, Germantown Academy and visiting Penn Charter met for the second time this season, with the host Patriots hoping to avenge their first loss to the Quakers (on February 3) in seven years. Instead, PC doubled down, winning 54-43 by once again staging a decisive fourth-quarter rally against the Pats.

"Penn Charter played a very physical game, and I thought we matched that for more than three quarters," remarked GA head coach Sherri Retif. "I was proud of our defense most of the game, because they scored 64 points on us the first time. On offense, we're having a little trouble at point guard, with taking care of the ball."

GA held a two-point lead heading into the final period, but the Quakers then swept past the Patriots by outscoring them 21-8 in the fourth quarter.

When the teams first met in the Inter-Ac League opener back on February 3, host Penn Charter had come from behind to knock off Germantown, 64-60, thanks to a 21-5 effort in the final eight minutes.

The Quakers had not swept a season series against the Patriots since the Inter-Ac went to a double round of league games in the 2006-07 campaign.

For PC guard/forward Kelsey Best, the first game against GA in early February had ended when she was injured early in the second quarter. In last week's rematch the sophomore went the distance, recording a game-high 17 points while her classmates, point guard Aleah Snead and forward Bella Toomey, scored 16 and 14 points, respectively.

Freshman guard Sam Wade paced the Patriots with 12 points, while sophomore center Kendall Bennett had 10 points and senior guard Jessica Moore and sophomore forward Josie Munson put up nine apiece.

GA collared the opening jump, but Penn Charter immediately stole the ball and Bess got right to work with a three-pointer from the right wing. Toomey added a shorter jumper to make it 5-0 before GA's Wade followed in a teammate's shot to put the Patriots on the board.

Freshman Jenna Aponik and Bennett found the basket to give the hosts their first lead at 6-5. A second trey by Bess and then a basket in transition by Germantown's Munson tied the score at 8-8. The contest was tied at 10-10, 12-12, and 14-14 and the period ended at 16-14 after Snead banked in a short shot in the lane for the Quakers.

Moore struck from the right corner for the Patriots' first three points of the second round. The hosts never led by more than four points over the next few minutes, and in the middle of the quarter Snead stole the ball and scored for the Quakers to level the score at 22-all.

Both teams were missing some shots, even lay-ups, but PC was doing so more because of GA's defensive pressure than the other way around. Overall, though, tough, diligent defense was being played by both teams, with the offenses earning their points though deft passes between teammates who have learned to read each others' moves and communicate with and without words.

PC's Snead committed her third personal foul with a few minutes left in the second half (she would not foul again), but Bess nudged the Quakers ahead, 24-22, with two made free throws. GA's Wade made one of two shots from the stripe, and at the other end Toomey stuck a pull-up jumper for the visitors. Germantown missed a transition lay-up in the final seconds and trailed at the half, 26-23.

The Patriots inched ahead early in the third stanza, and the tally was 30-28 when Penn Charter called a time-out with 3:05 remaining. A three-pointer by senior Ava Coyle and a free throw by Bess switched the lead, then GA went back up by two points with consecutive lay-ups by Bennett.

The two ball clubs traded single free throws late in the period and round four began with the Pats leading, 35-33.

 As in the first meeting between the teams, PC made a decisive move in the fourth quarter. Four minutes in, the Quakers had gained a double-digit lead at 48-37, limiting GA to a lone lay-up by Wade on an inbounds play.

"It had been a two-point game, and we threw the ball away and let them make a 6-0 run," GA's Retif noted. "I thought we had played a great game up to that point, and then we just kind of fell apart. They got turnovers from us and got points at the foul line."

The Quakers had gotten to the free throw line to take several dozen shots the first time the teams played, but last week Charter only took eight foul shots over the first three quarters. In the last period, though, the visitors went 10 for 12 at the stripe.

An inside bucket by Toomey had touched off the Charter rally, and later in the opening minute, Snead and Bess had each canned two free throws as the Patriots committed their sixth and seventh team fouls of the half. Over the next three minutes Snead hit a trey, a transition lay-up, and a free throw, while Toomey made one toss from the line and made good on a baseline drive.

Bess did not score from the field in the second half, but was four-for-four from the foul line in the fourth quarter.

In the Quakers' first encounter with GA, Bess had left the game with a concussion early in the second quarter. She returned to action in the middle of February, participating in games against Episcopal Academy and Baldwin School.

After Tuesday's game at GA, Quakers head coach Joe Maguire said, "Kelsey finally looked like her old self. In the Baldwin and Episcopal games, you tell she was not quite back 100 percent. I know she's been eager to come back and make her presence felt to help the team."

Germantown Academy hosted winless Agnes Irwin the following day, winning 57-24 after going out 22-4 in the first eight minutes. Moore and Bennett rang up 15 and 11 points, respectively, leading a list of nine GA scorers. On Thursday Episcopal arrived at GA, leaving later on with a 61-42 setback on its record. Moore was again the leading scorer, with 16 points, followed by Bennett and Aponik, with 14 apiece, and Munson, with 11.

Next, Notre Dame came in for a Saturday matinee, stinging from a loss at Penn Charter after leading the Quakers by 15 points in the fourth quarter [see separate article].

A little more than five minutes into the game, the visitors had a 9-7 edge. Notre Dame shooting guard Maeve McErlane, a junior, then pocketed back-to-back three-pointers, helping the Irish finish the first quarter with a 10-2 surge for a tally of 19-9.

Next, offsetting offensive spurts for each squad had the margin still at 10 points (25-15) with under four minutes left in the first half. The Irish accelerated away after that, hitting both long and short jump shots and going five-for-six from the foul line. The count was 39-16 at halftime, when McErlane already had 18 points in the scorebook.

In the third stanza, GA's Moore made a lay-up and a jumper and shot three-for-four at the foul line, but the visitors continued to widen the gap. The final period began with the teams separated by 30 points (58-28).

The Notre Dame lead peaked at 36 points (66-30) with a little less than four-and-a-half minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. McErlane stopped scoring at this stage; she already had 33 points in the book, more than the Germantown Academy team.

By the end of last weekend, McErlane had announced her commitment to DePaul University in the Big East Conference. The Blue Demons had signed Germantown Academy's Alexa Gallagher back in 2012.

On Saturday Moore led the GA scoring with eight points, while Bennett and freshman guard Isabella Casey finished with seven apiece. Among those filling in around McErlane's game-high output for Notre Dame were senior Izzy Casale, with 10 points, and sophomore Katie Halligan, with eight.

The GA Patriots were a young team this season and they have a significant upside going forward. It must be noted, however, that their chief rivals in the league have most of their top talent returning for at least one more year.

"We have to improve defensively, and on offense we need to take care of the basketball and see the court better," concluded Coach Retif.

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