by Tom Utescher
Going into their last pre-holiday basketball game with a 1-5 record, the Germantown Friends girls could easily have been intimidated when the Mastery Charter School team walked into their gym. Coming from just a few blocks away on Wayne Ave., the Lady Pumas hit the floor for warm ups with some obviously quick guards, good-sized forwards, and a 6’5” center, sophomore Kayla Thomas.
To make the situation more daunting, the Tigers were missing starting forward Julia Mankoff, who was already away on vacation.
The initial impression that GFS was in for a long afternoon last Thursday appeared validated when Mastery deposited its first two field goals in less than 30 seconds, but the host Tigers held their ground. They scored the next nine points and stayed ahead the rest of the way, delighting home fans with a 48-34 victory.
“You look at their big girl and you can’t help but say ‘Oh my gosh’,“ admitted first-year GFS coach Ashley Webster. “But we’ve been telling the team you can’t play scared; if a team’s aggressive, you have to be aggressive right back. They did what I told them to do, which was attack her from the beginning, and she sat most of the game in foul trouble.”
A balanced offense produced three double-digit scorers, freshman Lizzie Becker (13 points) and sophomore Imani Ross (10) both guards, and junior forward Caroline Myran (11 points), who at 5’10” is the Tigers’ tallest starter. Senior captains Katherine Walden and Sophie Mercuris scored six and five points respectively, and sophomore Lydia Harvey had three.
“Our defense has been consistent all along, but we just haven’t been scoring,” Webster related. “I told them it doesn’t matter how good our defense is, if we’re scoring 20 points a game we’re never going to beat anyone. Today we were really attacking the basket and getting shots off.”
Mastery Charter (3-2) was unable to utilize Thomas effectively since she was one of several Lady Pumas who picked up early fouls. Ultimately, the visitors had one player foul out and had four others finish with four personals. Nyeelah Rouseau, with 11 points, and Stephanie Reed, with nine, led the offense, and Mastery got five points from Delina Adams, four from Thomas, three from Jean Sheared, and two from Nyshae Wimberly.
Scoring nine points early on, Myran led GFS out to a 15-11 advantage by the end of the first quarter, when the Tigers were already in the foul bonus. In all, they would net 15 points from the line.
Becker scored steadily throughout the game, and bagged a three-pointer in the second period to help forge a 28-20 halftime lead. Playing with poise and confidence, the Tigers outscored their guests in each of the last two periods, as well, with Harvey and sophomore forward Schuyler Alig contributing off the bench. Limited to no more than four points in a row throughout the contest, Mastery was unable to mount a serious rally.
“We’ve played a tough schedule so far,” Webster remarked, “and I think this game will boost our confidence going into the break.”
On December 27-29, GFS will compete in the long-running eight-team holiday tournament presented by West Chester University.