Germantown Academy celebrates after claiming sole possession of the 2015 Inter-Ac League championship with a home court victory over Notre Dame. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

Germantown Academy celebrates after claiming sole possession of the 2015 Inter-Ac League championship with a home court victory over Notre Dame. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

With an overtime victory over two-time defending champ Episcopal Academy on February 7, the Germantown Academy girls had assured themselves of at least a tie for the 2015 Inter-Ac League title, but the Patriots felt they still had work to do.

In order to claim the championship outright, they had to defend their home court against the Academy of Notre Dame last Tuesday, and after leading by a single point at halftime, 17-16, GA rocketed away from the visiting Irish in a 16-2 third quarter and went on to win, 44-29.

As in the Episcopal game, where she scored 20 points after the halftime break, senior guard Olivia Gorman stepped up for the Patriots at a critical time. After hitting one three-point field goal over the first two quarters, Gorman added another trey and three regular field goals during the pivotal third period.

She scored a team-high 12 points, while Notre Dame junior Alex Kane hit two three-pointers in the fourth quarter to emerge with a game-high 13.

Gorman’s effort was supported by nine points from freshman Alexa Naessens and eight from sophomore Lilly Bolen, while a third GA forward, junior Lauren Oeth, scored seven points and controlled the boards for 16 rebounds. Completing the scoring for the champions were three guards, sophomore Abby Starzecky, with four points, and juniors Kendall Grasela (four assists) and Erin Lindahl, with two points apiece.

Germantown, which emerged 19-5 overall and finished the Inter-Ac schedule with an 11-1 record (reflecting a split with Episcopal), was part of a three-way tie for the championship back in 1999, and after that the Patriots won the title outright every year up through 2012.

Leaving GA at 11-12, 7-4, Notre Dame would wrap up its league schedule two days later at Penn Charter, where outright possession of third place or a tie for third (with PC) would be the options for the Irish. Overall, they’d adapted well to the loss of talented junior guard Caitlyn Clark, who was sidelined by an ACL injury before the season even began.

Before Tuesday’s action got underway at GA, the Patriots bid a ceremonial farewell to their lone senior, Gorman, who plans to play both basketball and softball at Wesleyan University. The Pats had to chase down the Irish several times in the first quarter, and Bolen and Naessens each logged a lay-up and a free throw as the quarter concluded with a 6-6 tally.

From out on the right wing, Gorman lobbed in a “three” to launch the second quarter, and Naessens followed up with a transition bucket off of an Oeth pass. Three-balls by juniors Kristen Rogers and Leanne Purcell kept the visitors right on GA’s shoulder through, and the Pats held just a one-point lead at the half.

As in the second period, Gorman opened the third round by sticking a triple, and this would prove to be part of a decisive 14-0 run by the home team. Gorman would add six more points herself, and the Patriots would receive baskets from the paint by Bolen and Grasela and a free throw from Oeth, who picked up her third personal foul during the period.

With 15 seconds left in the third round Notre Dame finally scored, with Kane netting a pair of free throws. GA had the last word in the quarter, though, as a strike by Starzecky made it 33-18 to start the fourth frame.

After Naessens scored inside, Notre Dame’s Kane hooked up from the three-point loop – it was the visitors’ first field goal in more than 10 minutes on the game clock. The period ended up in an 11-all draw, and that was fine with the GA ballclub and its fans, who applauded Gorman as she left the court with 50 seconds to go.

It was the last game of the week for the Patriots, who drew the number one seed and the bye that went with it in the Pennsylvania Independent Schools tournament. They open play at home in a Tuesday quarterfinal against ninth-seeded Abington Friends School.