GFS junior Schuyler Alig (#2) bars the path of Baldwin’s Alex Brittingham (at left) during last week’s playoff game. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

GFS junior Schuyler Alig (#2) bars the path of Baldwin’s Alex Brittingham (at left) during last week’s playoff game. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

In the opening round of the Pa. Independent Schools girls basketball tournament, there proved to be a pretty even match-up between the seventh-seeded Germantown Friends Tigers and number 10 Baldwin School last Friday evening.

The visiting Bears got an early jump on GFS, but the Tigers were still just one point behind late in the third quarter. Later, Baldwin scored the last three points of the night from the foul line during the final 30 seconds, winning 40-33 and moving on to face second-seeded Shipley School in the next round.

Scoring all of her 11 points in the second half, GFS sophomore point guard Lizzie Becker shared game-high scoring honors with Baldwin forward Jen Motter. Junior Julia Mankoff helped keep the Tigers in the hunt by scoring eight points over the first two quarters, and she came away with 10 points for the night, as did Bears guard Kejohna Hammond.

In her final performance for Germantown Friends, senior forward Caroline Myran registered six points, and rounding out the scoring for the hosts were juniors Imani Ross and Schuyler Alig, with four and two points, respectively.

Third among the Friends Schools League teams this year, GFS posted a 7-9 overall record during the regular season and earned the right to host a first round contest in the Indy Schools tournament. Baldwin brought in an overall record of 7-12, but a closer look at the Bears’ results revealed a number of close losses to strong teams. They had opened their season with a four-point setback against eventual Friends League runner-up Abington Friends, and within their own Inter-Ac League, the Bears had lost one contest against champion Episcopal Academy by six points, and had taken second-place Germantown Academy into overtime in one of their two encounters.

Two lay-ups in the opening minute by Imani Brown (seven points total) started Baldwin off last Friday, then the visitors sandwiched a fast break basket by Hammond and a baseline jumper by Motter around a GFS time-out, making it 8-0 with less than two minutes elapsed.

GFS pulled back from the brink thanks to a short jumper by Mankoff and two free throws deposited by Myran. The Tigers were down 12-4 at the end of the opening period, but a much more productive second quarter began with Ross scoring off of a steal by Alig.

Following a lone free throw by Myran, Ross went coast-to-coast for a lay-up, then Mankoff also scored in transition. Baldwin went back up 17-11, but in the last 20 seconds of the first half Mankoff made a jumper from near the foul line and then hit both shots on a one-and-one bid.

The scoreboard paused for the intermission at 17-15, reflecting a strong recovery for the Tigers after a slow start. In the first half Baldwin collected nine team fouls to Germantown’s two, but at least the Bears didn’t have any one player with more than two personals.

In the third round, home fans were happy to see Becker start scoring, first on a lay-up off of a Baldwin turnover, and then on three-point shot from the left wing. Later on, a pass from Ross set up a transition lay-up by Mankoff that had the Tigers back within one point of the visitors, at 24-23.

The Bears’ Alex Brittingham then drove for a lay-up to give her team a three-point edge heading into the final period. The Bears’ 6’3” center, Danielle Hammond, had started to come to life in the third quarter, and would net seven of her nine total points in the second half.

Just over a minute into the fourth quarter, Baldwin had spread the score to 30-23, but GFS gradually pared down its deficit. Two triples by Becker and a pair of free throws by Myran made it a four-point affair (35-31) with a little over two minutes to go.

An inside strike by the visitors’ Danielle Hammond was answered by Alig with a baseline jumper, then GFS had a chance to draw within two points but came up empty on a one-and-one with a minute remaining.

The Tigers were now committing fouls themselves to keep Baldwin from running out the clock, and the tactic was successful at first as two one-and-one’s produced no points for the Bears. The problem was that GFS couldn’t make a dent at the offensive end, missing a lay-up and a three-point shot on two of their possessions, and seeing a third end with a turnover out-of-bounds.

With 22 seconds to go, Germantown’s ninth team foul sent Brittingham to the line to make one of two tosses, then Baldwin’s Motter cashed in on a double-bonus situation, sinking both of her free throws to put the final score on the board with 15 seconds to go.

The Tigers now had to look forward to next year. They will certainly miss the intensity of Myran (who will attend Smith College), but they’ll have their other key players returning. Head coach Ashley Webster would like to see them play together more outside of the three months or so of the high school season.

After a league playoff loss to Abington Friends, she had observed, “It comes down to basic skills, and we need to play more basketball together in the off-season. When we go up against teams like Abington Friends, you can see they have more basketball intelligence. It’s not effort or pure athletic ability, it’s knowing the game better, and that comes with playing experience.”

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