by Jonathan Vander Lugt
For the past two seasons, Germantown Academy head coach Jim Fenerty has had a squadron of seniors to lead his team. Heading into 2015-16, it was Devon Goodman, Gabe Alter and Bailey Whitman. Last year, Kyle McCloskey and Evan-Eric Longino led a quintet of solid 12th graders.
Each time, the Pats won at least a share of the Inter-Ac league title. In 2016, it was their fourth in a row. Last year marked the fifth.
This season, GA has just one senior (Jordan Keys), and only one player with significant varsity experience (Brian Basile). In his 29th season helming the Patriots, head coach Jim Fenerty has at least one more multi-year project on his hands.
“One of the things that keeps me in coaching and one of the things that I’ve always loved to do is build,” Fenerty said. “My wife always busts on me – she says I should have been an architect. Our players always come back and just say, ‘look, now it’s your turn.‘ You have to build a tradition, and you have to hope that tradition stays.”
Saturday afternoon’s 67-52 season-opening win over Cristo Rey seems like a good way to start the year, both in that the Patriots performed well – a 15-point win is never a disappointment – and that Fenerty found some things to work on.
In particular, he was pleased with the way junior guard Timmy Dion played. Early in the first quarter while the Pats were struggling to find a rhythm, Dion knocked down six points in a hurry, settling the team.
“Timmy plays within himself – he doesn’t do too much,” Fenerty said. “He knows his job is just to run the offense, and get the ball to Jordan [Longino] and Brian [Basile]. [Dion] put his work in for two years. Now, he’s a big part of what we do and it allows us to move Jordan off the ball.”
The younger Longino, (his brother, Evan-Eric, is playing ball at West Chester after a 1,658-point career for GA) put his precocious talent on full display in a 17-point first half, and finished with 20 for the game.
The roughest stretch for the Pats came late in the third, where Cristo Rey cut what had been a nearly 20-point lead down to just 11. The Blue Pride pressed the young offense, and Longino, Basile and company had to learn how to react on the fly.
“I have a feeling that, because we’re so young, we’re going to be pressed for a while,” Fenerty said. “We’ve only had nine practices, and there’s so much to teach the kids. I can only give them some of it at once. That kind of stuff we can fix. With this group, all I want them to do is walk off the court, whether it’s in practice or a game, being able to say that they worked hard to get better.”
Basile (pronounce Bazz-ill) found his shooting touch to lead the GA comeback-that-wasn’t-technically-a-comeback with 11 fourth-quarter points, half of his team-leading 22. Zach Anderson filled in the gap between the Longino and Basile outbursts by scoring all eight of his points in the third.
“We’re trying to find out who we are right now,” Fenerty said. It’s clear too, because each quarter had one clear contributor for GA. In the first, it was Dion. Longino took control with 12 in the second, while Anderson and Basile did their parts in the second half.
The Pats take on the Perkiomen School in their next contest on Wednesday, Dec. 6.
“We’ve got a lot of really young guys out there,” Fenerty said. “Right now we just have to bite your tongue and live with the mistakes you know are going to happen.”
Elsewhere, Penn Charter has started the season 2-0. The first win came against Germantown Friends, 59-32; the second, a 54-49 victory, came against the Academy of the New Church. Senior Mason Williams paced the Quakers with 22 and 20 points, respectively, in each.
La Salle College High School is busy preparing for a season that starts on December 9 against the Haverford School.