After a missed shot led to a rebounding opportunity, both Germantown Academy sophomore Lilly Bolen (right) and Archbishop Ryan’s Danielle Skedzielewski had trouble getting a grip on the ball. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

After a missed shot led to a rebounding opportunity, both Germantown Academy sophomore Lilly Bolen (right) and Archbishop Ryan’s Danielle Skedzielewski had trouble getting a grip on the ball. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

In a holiday tradition that draws together fans, families, and alumni, Germantown Academy presented its 18th annual Make-A-Wish Basketball Showcase last Friday and Saturday.

The girls of the host GA Patriots raised their record to 4-2 with a pair of victories, handling Lower Moreland High School, 59-29, on the first day of the showcase, and then knocking off Archbishop Ryan on Saturday night, 52-37.

The event, held for the benefit of the Make-A-Wish Foundation (which grants ‘wishes’ to children with life-threatening medical conditions), is not a regular tournament, featuring prescheduled games rather than a progressive bracket. This is done largely to avoid a meeting between host GA and longtime participant Penn Charter, Inter-Ac League rivals who play a home/away series at other points in the winter season.

For all intents and purposes, Friday’s contest against Lower Moreland was over early, as GA stormed to a 15-2 lead in the first quarter and then outscored the Lions in each of the other three periods, as well. The Patriots’ lone senior, guard Olivia Gorman, rang up a game-high 17 points, and leading the 10 other Patriots who scored in single digits were a pair of forwards, junior Lauren Oeth (eight points, six rebounds) and sophomore Lilly Bolen (six points, six rebounds). Freshman forward Alexa Naessens led the winners in rebounds, with eight, and registered three points and four steals.

High scorer Gorman was asked if she finds it difficult being the only senior on the squad.

“Last year I was the only junior and there was only one senior, so it’s really not that different,” she explained. “The juniors have experience and they kind of take up the slack.”

On Saturday, Gorman and her teammates had a special visitor in their pre-game huddle. Offering some words of encouragement was 2010 GA graduate Maggie Lucas, the former Big Ten Player of the Year at Penn State who is now playing in the WNBA and is competing in France in the off-season.

The game began with a series of runs by each team. Gorman opened the scoring with a three-pointer from the left corner, and later added a lay-up and a free throw to help the Patriots seize an 8-0 lead in two-and-a-half minutes. Archbishop Ryan also got going with a “three” thanks to Shannon Glenn, then a field goal by Danielle Skedzielewski and an “and-one” sequence for Ashley Smink finished the Ragdoll’s own 8-0 spurt to tie the game.

GA’s Oeth, who had scored earlier off of a rebound, now hit a transition lay-up (assisted by sophomore Abby Starzecky) and three free throws, and another forward, Naessens, scored from the paint as the Pats closed the quarter with a 7-0 run.

Junior guard Kendall Grasela hooked up from beneath the top of the key to make it 17-8 early in the second round, then three-point buckets by Smink and Skedzielewski helped Ryan rally again. The long-ball is one of Ryan’s primary weapons, but the rest of the way Germantown would only allow three of them, the last one coming when the reserves were on the floor at the very end of the game.

However, the slaphappy Patriots were accumulating fouls at a disturbing rate in the first half. Five GA players would have two personals apiece at the intermission, and during the second quarter the Ragdolls kept up with their hosts by hitting six of eight free throws. The period ended in a 14-14 draw thanks to a baseline buzzer-beater by Germantown’s Starzecky.

The Patriots’ Gorman said that at halftime, “We talked a lot about playing good basic defense, because a lot of us had a couple of fouls. Ryan is a good three-point shooting team and a good driving team, so we had to play smart, and use our feet on defense and not use our hands.”

Foul troubles aside, GA took a 29-22 advantage into the second half, and the Pats would widen the gap significantly in a 13-4 third quarter. Oeth and Gorman had paced the offense in the first half, now in the last two quarters Grasela scored nine of her 13 total points and Bolen bagged all six of her points for the evening.

Trailing by 16 for the start of the final period, Ryan managed a modest rally that included three’s by Skedzielewski and Rodriguez and brought the ‘Dolls’ deficit down to a dozen points (46-34) with under four minutes to go. Germantown’s Starzecky then knocked down another timely baseline shot, and one free throw by Gorman and a perfect one-and-one by Grasela raised the tally to 51-34.

With a little over a minute-and-a-half remaining both teams sent in their subs. Ryan finished up with a three-pointer by Kelsey Tyrrell, but the last point was scored by GA, on a free throw by freshman Maddie Cooper.

Oeth netted a double-double with game highs in both points (14) and rebounds (12), and joining her with double-digit scoring were Grasela (13 points, six assists) and Gorman (10 points). Bolen contributed six points, and Stazecky and Naessens each scored four. Skedzielewski and Smink led the Ragdolls (4-2 overall) with 12 and nine points, respectively.

Assessing the Patriots’ progress in the month leading up to the holiday break, Gorman said “I think we’re starting to play well together, and it took a little while for that to happen. We had a couple of new freshmen who can definitely help the team; they just had to get the nerves out and get to know the rest of us.”