by Tom Utescher
For the second year in a row, the Germantown Academy girls ended their basketball season playing against Shipley School in the Pa. Independent Schools Girls Championships. In 2011, GA defeated the Gators in the championship game, but this time around, Shipley knocked the Patriots out in the semifinal round, winning last Friday’s contest at Penn State Brandywine, 52-39.

Germantown trailed by 13 points a few minutes into the third quarter, but then tightened up the score to 38-35 early in the fourth round.

GA’s Jaryn Garner (left) tries to stop a drive by her childhood teammate Jordyn Turner of Shipley School. Both are seniors. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

“The kids battled hard and we cut it to three, but then they scored and eventually we had to foul,” remarked GA coach Sherri Retif.

Shipley put the brakes on the Patriot rally just in time, and took advantage of GA’s extensive foul problems to sink its final 14 points from the free throw line. Two players fouled out of the game for the Pats, and four others finished with four fouls apiece. The Gators were also affected by the analog twittering of the officials, ending up with four fouls on three different players.

“I think that’s part of having three officials [instead of two in regular-season games],” said Retif. “Between the three of them they blow the whistle a lot more.”

GA ended a rocky 2011-2012 campaign with an overall record of 18-11, but the team was still able to win the Girls Inter-Ac League title for a 14th straight year, based on its 10-2 record.

In the Independent tournament, both GA and Shipley enjoyed first round byes, and in Wednesday’s quarterfinal round the Patriots defeated sixth-seeded Penn Charter, 38-17, while the Gators squeaked past number seven Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, 50-49.

After Friday’s semifinal game, Shipley coach Sean Costello commented, “The girls played their hearts out and it was a great win.”

His team went on to capture the tournament championship the following day, when the second-seeded Gators felled top-ranked Hill School, 59-52. Hill had gotten by Episcopal Academy in Friday’s first semifinal game, 54-51.

Very young a year ago and still a youthful squad this season, Shipley defeated the Patriots in a mid-December meeting, 61-45. In last week’s rematch the final margin was in the same ballpark, 13 points instead of 16, but the game felt closer than that as third-seeded Germantown tried to battle back going down the stretch.

The Patriots’ Jaryn Garner and fellow senior Jordyn Turner of Shipley are former AAU club basketball teammates, and each player led her team in the first half. Garner, a University of Virginia signee, scored seven points, while Turner’s eight points helped pilot the Gators towards a 9-4 lead at the quarter and a 20-16 advantage at halftime. The first 16 minutes might have been a wash if the Patriots had shot better than three-for-nine at the foul line.

As round three began, Shipley picked up a pair of free throws from Asia Baker (10 points total) and a transition lay-up by another sophomore, Tamesha “Sox” Alexander (nine points, seven steals, three assists). GA junior Kiernan McCloskey netted one of two free throws, but the Gators went on to complete a three-minute, 10-1 run that put them up 30-17.

Shipley had capitalized on a number of turnovers it forced out of the Patriots. In addition, two GA players had each acquired a third personal foul during this short stretch.

“They immediately gained some momentum at the start of the second half,” commented GA’s Retif. “We made a good run near the end, but overall our turnovers killed us – I think we finished the game with 19.”

Following a time-out with 5:04 left in the third stanza, GA began to fight back with a three-pointer by Natalie Toner and a lay-up and a short jumper by her 11th-grade classmates, McCloskey and Mel Repella. The Patriots were back within seven points of the leaders with two minutes to go in the period, but by the three-quarter mark the Gators had pushed the margin back into double digits, 36-26.

What would be Germantown’s final rally began with a midrange jumper by junior Dempsey Cooper at the start of the fourth frame. Single free throws by Shipley sophomores Colleen Walsh (six points) and Aja Ellison (11 points, seven rebounds, three blocks) were sandwiched around a short baseline jumper by McCloskey to make it 38-30.

Garner hit a free throw and then scored a lay-up on an inbounds play. GA got a 10-second backcourt call against Shipley, then a fourth foul against the Gators’ Turner sent McCloskey to the free throw line. She bagged both shots for a 38-35 tally with 5:36 left to play.

After a fruitless possession for each team, Ellison scored in transition for Shipley’s last field goal of the evening with 4:38 on the clock. The Gators wrapped it up at the foul line, playing a solid possession game and making 14 of 18 free throws.

“They’re a good team and we knew they were going to make a run,” Shipley’s Costello said. “We told the girls all day yesterday and earlier today the question was how would we respond, and we responded well and got back in control.”

GA did a good job of keeping in mind which of its players still had fouls to give. Most of the Patriots managed to stay in the game, but Shipley remained steady at the charity stripe in the closing minutes.

Germantown was led by McCloskey, with 16 points and seven rebounds, and by Garner, with 14 points and five boards. Garner’s old friend, Turner, fueled the Gators with 15 points, eight rebounds, and four steals. GA received six points from Cooper (four assists, two steals), three from Toner, and two from Repella.

“Jordyn was a leader, as usual, and I thought that Colleen Walsh helped organize us defensively out there,” Costello commented. “Sox controlled the tempo a lot of the time in the second half, especially through her defense.”

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