by Tom Utescher

Sophomore Isabel Ballaster goes to the hoop for Germantown Friends. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

At Westtown School last Tuesday, full-court defensive pressure by the home team disturbed the girls of Germantown Friends School, but the visiting Tigers were still able to take home a 31-25 victory.

The next afternoon, a more effective press applied by Pennington School laid the Tigers low on their home court. GFS got off to a 5-0 start on the afternoon, but the Red Raiders scored 17 of the next 18 points and continued on to win, 53-29.

Fortunately for Germantown (5-9 overall), the setback against the New Jersey club on Wednesday did not affect their Friends Schools League record, which had risen to 3-5 with the victory over the Westtown Quakers.

In that contest in Chester County, the Tigers pounced, 9-2, in the opening quarter, and held a 23-11 lead at the three-quarter mark before the Quakers cut down their deficit a bit in the final frame. Sophomore Caroline Myran and freshman Imani Ross led the way for the visitors with eight and seven points, respectively, while senior Alex Clarke and junior Sophie Mercuris each added half-a-dozen.

Back home the next afternoon, GFS got off to another strong start. Ross drove in for the first field goal of the day, then made a pair of free throws. With 4:27 still to go in the first period, Pennington committed its fourth team foul, and Myran made the first of two free throws to put the Tigers up, 5-0.

Later in the opening stanza, the Red Raiders’ Shaun Stevenson sandwiched two transition lay-ups around a free throw by the Tigers’ Ross, but the home team still took a lead into the second round, up 6-4. As the new period got underway, Pennington’s press began to squeeze the ball from the Tigers as they came up the floor, and guard Brittany Richards hit from beyond the three-point line three times in as many minutes.

“We practice the press-break every day,” noted GFS coach James Jordan, “but the thing is that a lot of the other teams just have more real basketball players, and our girls are playing a lot of different sports. Our girls work hard in practice and they fight hard in the games, but sometimes the experience that the other teams have just takes over.”

The visitors were ahead 17-6 before sophomore Isabel Ballaster scored Germantown’s second field goal of the game with 4:14 to go in the first half. Pennington led 25-12 towards the end of the half, but the Tigers cut the lead to eight before the intermission, thanks to a trey by Ballaster and a basket that Clarke converted from an offensive rebound.

Clarke, the Tigers’ only senior, scored twice in the same fashion early in the third quarter. With two-and-a-half minutes remaining in the period, GFS was still in the hunt, trailing 29-23, then the Raiders ran off a dozen straight points to close out the quarter. Pennington kept pulling away in the final round.

Tops for the Tigers were Ross, with seven points, and Clarke and Mercuris, with six points each. Richards rang up 16 for Pennington, and the visitors got a big second half push from Stevenson, who tabbed 11 of her 15 points during the last nine minutes.

Coming in sixth in the FSL standings, the Tigers have fallen short of the four-team league championship tournament, but almost all of their current players will be back next season.

“To move up, the girls need to play over the summer or just try to find a way to get more experience playing basketball,” Jordan said. “If you always leave it till November, a lot of the other teams will be too far ahead of you.”

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