Penn Charter head coach Joe Maguire (left background) looks on as freshman Kaitlyn Hnatkowsky gets off a jump shot. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

On their second day after returning from the long Thanksgiving weekend, the girls of Penn Charter were playing basketball for real, hosting Friends Central in the season opener for both schools.

With a significant height advantage, the visiting Phoenix owned a slim 18-17 edge at halftime, but in a nice early-season display of teamwork and discipline, the Quakers gained the lead by the end of the third quarter and then pulled away to notch a convincing 57-40 victory.

Sophomore guard Carmen Williams scored 10 of her game-high 15 points in the third quarter to help Penn Charter go ahead for good. Freshman Kaitlyn Hnatkowsky also hit double digits with 10 points, and sophomores Hayley Hunt and Kait Carter and freshman Laila Hamiter scored eight, seven and six points, respectively.

Joe Maguire is entering his third season as PC head coach, and has back familiar assistants Amber Gooden, Linsday Teuber and Fran Costello. New to the coaching staff is Maddie Hinchey, a Norwood Fontbonne and Springside Chestnut Hill Academy alum who graduated from Penn State earlier this year.

PC sophomore Lizzie McLaughlin opened the scoring last Tuesday with a three-point bucket, but later in the opening quarter she left the court with a broken finger and could not return. Hunt hit a lay-up and a “three,” and a trey by Hnatkowsky late in the period helped the Quakers end the frame with an 11-7 lead.

Friends Central, which won the Friends Schools League championship in 2015 and 2016, moved ahead early in the second round. Scoring on a breakaway, Carter pulled PC back into a tie at 14-all, then the Phoenix forged ahead once more. Emma Maley, PC’s junior point guard, hooped a pair of free throws at the end, but the hosts still were down a point at the interlude, 18-17.

PC sophomore Carmen Williams (with ball) works in the paint between towering Friends Central defenders. Behind her are Charter freshmen Kaitlyn Hnatkowsky and Laila Hamiter (#32). (Photo by Tom Utescher)

PC had been forced to shuffle players around unexpectedly, as three different athletes picked up two personal fouls over the course of the first half. The Quakers played more focused, disciplined defense in the second half, and that had a lot to do with the turnaround after halftime.

In the third quarter, Williams first stuck a baseline jumper and then added a pair of lay-ups while going four-for-four from the foul line. Hamiter, one of the ninth-graders, also gave a solid performance at the free throw line. She fought hard for possession of loose balls in the paint, and was fouled several times in the process. She made two free throws at the end of the third stanza to send PC into the fourth with a 36-33 edge, and then she went three-for-four at the line in the first 90 seconds of the final period.

This kept the margin at three points – now 39-36 – and then Penn Charter started to open things up. Hunt hit a three-pointer from the right corner, and Maley stole the ball back and fed Carter for a lay-up in transition.

When Friends Central sandwiched two field goals around a short jumper from the lane by Williams, the count was 46-40 in the middle of the period, but the Phoenix would not score again. Really clicking on offense going down the home stretch, the Quakers cruised to victory.

Sophomore India Barnes contributed four point to the cause, and freshman Kait Haughey scored two.