Penn Charter junior Kristina Kubach (left) finds her path barred by Baldwin’s Kajohna Hammond. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

The host Quakers of Penn Charter and the visiting Baldwin School Bears each came away empty from a two-shot trip to the free-throw line in the final 23 seconds of last Friday’s Girls Inter-Ac League basketball contest.

That worked out well for the Bears, who were already up a point at the time, and saw their 42-41 margin certified as the final score. The two teams had played back on December 11 at Baldwin, where the Quakers made two late foul shots to secure a 43-41 victory. When the Bryn Mawr ballclub avenged that loss last week, each team was left with an Inter-Ac record of 1-6 after the first game in the second round of league competition.

Both schools were hoping to snap a losing streak coming into Friday’s affair. Earlier last week, Baldwin (6-9 overall) suffered its fifth and sixth straight defeats at the hands of Notre Dame on Tuesday (48-22) and Germantown Friends on Wednesday (37-33). Powering the GFS offense, senior Katherine Walden and freshman Lizzie Becker rang up 10 points apiece, helping the Tigers go 5-1 so far in the new year and moving them into winning territory for the season, at 7-6.

Penn Charter had beaten GFS early in December, 45-34, but recently the Quakers have found the going rough. They entered Friday’s game with seven straight setbacks, including 70-40 loss to defending Inter-Ac champion Germantown Academy on Tuesday.

In the game before the GA encounter, PC senior guard Kelly Kubach was sidelined with a concussion, and she was forced to sit out last week’s action. Baldwin, on the other hand, had a player available who had missed the first PC game, 6’1” freshman Danielle Hammond.

The Bears center made an immediate impact on Friday, netting three lay-ups (two in transition) and a free throw to help the visitors keep pace in the opening quarter, which ended 10-10. PC started off with a three-pointer from Kubach’s junior sister Kristina, also a guard.

Freshman point guard Hannah Fox also lobbed in a trey for the Quakers, and Kubach canned a pair of free throws later in the first frame.

Ayanna Matthews, another ninth-grade Charter guard, had deposited an early lay-up. Now she came on strong at the start of the second round, scoring on a drive, lobbing in a “three,” and going three-for-four at the foul line. When Fox penetrated for yet another PC basket, it created the largest lead of the game at 20-10, and forced a Baldwin time-out with 4:40 still to play in the first half.

The visitors stiffened on defense and only allowed Charter to score five more field goals the rest of the game. Offense from four different players helped Baldwin rally, but late buckets by Fox (a three-pointer) and freshman classmate Taylor Zahairagunn helped the Quakers hang on for a 27-23 halftime lead.

Kubach’s second trey of the day lifted the hosts to a seven-point margin in the second minute of the third quarter, then a lone free throw was all PC put in the basket for the rest of the period. There were no more “makes” from three-point range for the Quakers, and most times down the floor it was one-and-done as Baldwin made use of the height advantage provided by Hammond, fellow freshman Kayla Watkins, and junior Jen Motler.

The Quakers drew a number of fouls, but weren’t able to fully capitalize at the charity stripe. Including the hypothetical second shot on a fruitless one-and-one, PC could’ve collected 16 points at the line in the second half, and came away with seven.

Despite all this, the third quarter ended 31-31, and halfway through the final quarter the teams were still tied, now at 39-all.

Penn Charter enjoyed one last lead when Zahairagunn nailed a jumper from near the foul line, then the Quakers lost Kubach when she committed her fourth and fifth personal fouls against the Bears’ Kajohna Hammond. The Baldwin guard made three of the four resulting free throws, and the 42-41 final score was on the board as the last minute began.

Two offensive possessions for PC and one for Baldwin each produced one missed shot, then with 23 ticks remaining, the Bears couldn’t cash in on an opportunity to reinforce their lead. Charter’s 10th team foul sent Danielle Hammond to the stripe for two tries, but neither shot would drop.

PC talked things over during a pair of time-outs, the second one with 7.8 seconds showing. After Fox inbounded the ball, it went in and out of the hands of two other PC players and somehow got back to Fox. Below the top of the key, she was fouled while shooting, and stepped to the line with four-tenths of a second to go.

It was two free throws by the freshman that had allowed Penn Charter to slip by the Bears on their home court a month earlier, but this time her first toss missed, and PC had to hope it could force the game into overtime. The second shot by Fox was spot-on, but, seeing this, she crossed the line just before the ball reached the hoop, which is a violation. The apparent tying point wasn’t a point after all, and Baldwin carried the day.

The hosts received a dozen points each from Fox and Matthews and eight from Kubach, with additional scoring from Zahairagunn (four points), sophomore Nicolette Napoleon (three), and freshman Eileen Hennessey (two).

Watkins (eight rebounds) and Kajohna Hammond led the victors with 11 and 10 points respectively, with eight coming from Motler and seven from Danielle Hammond (seven rebounds). Baldwin also got two points apiece from Ali Thaler (six rebounds), Imani Brown, and Nellie Shields.

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