by Tom Utescher

Last Saturday Philadelphia University was host to a high school hoops-a-palooza, an all-day basketball showcase that included performances by Germantown Academy, Mount St. Joseph, and Penn Charter. In all, the 10th Annual Play-by-Play Girls Classic encompassed a dozen high school games played on two adjacent courts.

GA led off the schedule with a snoozer, knocking off Central High School, 70-24, for an overall season record of 12-2. Next, the Mount Magic remained undefeated (14-0) turning back a legitimate challenge from Spring Ford High School, 49-40.

Toward the end of the day, Penn Charter faced one of the top ballclubs in the Philadelphia Public League, Prep Charter. Coming off a draining loss to GA the night before and losing junior standout Brianna Butler to a sprained ankle, the Quakers still took the game down to the wire before succumbing, 44-43.

To those who know anything about the local basketball scene, a meeting between GA and Central was bound to be a mismatch, even with the Patriots playing their second game in about 18 hours. Germantown stepped out on Central 28-4 in the opening quarter as senior Alexa Gallagher and junior Jaryn Garner put up nine and seven points, respectively, during those initial eight minutes.

Even with a liberal sprinkling of GA subs added to the game, the Inter-Ac League leaders enjoyed a 47-14 halftime lead, and went on to win by 46 points. With her future DePaul University coaches looking on from the baseline bleachers, Gallagher finished up with a game-high 24 points.

Garner checked out with 14 points, and next on the list of 10 GA scorers was sophomore Kiernan McCloskey, with nine. Najah Jacobs led the Lancers (6-5 overall) with five points in the contest.

Over the last few years, a number of clashes between the Mount and Spring Ford (most of them coming at one of these showcase events) have turned into nail-biters at the end. There was not quite as much excitement this time around, but after the Magic obtained a 40-26 advantage early in the fourth quarter, their fans had a few anxious moments as the Rams made a little run in the middle of the period.

Holding a 13-12 edge a few minutes into the second quarter, the Mounties expanded the lead to seven points by the intermission (23-16), when Mary Jo Horgan had 11 points in the book and fellow senior Steph Smith had eight. Ahead 35-26 at the start of the fourth quarter, Mount St. Joe received a lay-up and free throw from Smith and a short jumper from junior Maddie Kohler to go up by 14.

Starting with Nikki Lynch’s three-pointer from the right corner and concluding with a perfect one-and-one by quick guard Sammy Stipa, the Rams outscored the Magic 10-2 in a four-and-a-half minute span, tightening the count to 42-36. At this point, though, only a minute-and-a-half remained and the Mount was in the foul bonus.

Fruitful one-and-one efforts by junior Bridget Higgins and Smith were sandwiched around a drive by Stipa, then Higgins hit the first shot of a double-bonus opportunity. The Mount now led 47-38 with just 14 seconds to go, and after Spring Ford’s Stipa stuck a jumper with six ticks on the board, MSJ’s Horgan had the last word, nailing a pair of free throws.

She led all scorers with 19 points, one ahead of Smith. Higgins added seven points for the winners, while Spring Ford received 14 points from Stipa and seven from Meg Yates.

The Rams, missing injured guard Sammi Haas (normally a starter), slipped to 12-2 on the season.

The architect of Prep Charter’s successful program (10-0 this season) is Paul Reiser, who from 2004 to 2006 was the women’s basketball coach at Chestnut Hill College. Nevertheless, after scoring the opening basket on Saturday, the Huskies found themselves trailing Penn Charter most of the night as the Quakers scored their first eight points in succession.

In the absence of their injured teammate, Butler, senior Aleesha Powell and junior Dianna Thomas-Palmer came up big, pacing the Quakers to a 29-22 halftime lead with 14 and nine points respectively. Both players became mired in foul trouble in the third quarter, as did junior MaryKate O’Brien, who fouled out early in the fourth frame.

Prep Charter pulled even at 33-all just over a minute into the final period. Later, the Huskies led 42-36 with three minutes to go, but Powell then sank four out of four free throws and scored on a drive to tie the game. A baseline jumper by Kahleah Cooper put Prep Charter ahead for good, and the 44-43 final score went up on the board when the Quakers’ Thomas-Palmer netted one of two free throws with 11 seconds to go.

Powell finished with 23 points and Thomas-Palmer scored 12 for Penn Charter (12-2), while Cooper chalked up 14 points and Tiffany Johnson led the Huskies with 17.

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