Sandwiched by Germantown Academy’s Dempsey Cooper (left) and Mel Repella (right), Springside Chestnut Hill’s Gianna Pownall rises for a lay-up attempt. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

It could be said that the girls of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy managed to catch lightning in a bottle with their basketball upset of Germantown Academy back at the beginning of January, but as the month drew near its conclusion the Lions were unable to generate a similar spark in last Tuesday’s rematch with the GA Patriots.

In the second encounter, host SCH had an 8-7 edge in the final minute of the opening quarter, then the Pats exploded for a dozen straight points and continued on to win, 45-29. With the victory, Germantown (13-8 overall) climbed into a tie with the Lions (10-11) for third place in the Girls Inter-Ac standings, each with a 5-3 record in league play.

SCH couldn’t stop GA junior forward Margaret Anne Hubbell in the paint, and she led all scorers with 23 points while pocketing eight rebounds. Senior forward Kiernan McCloskey pulled down 15 rebounds and she and sophomore guard Olivia Gorman each contributed seven points to the winning cause. GA was playing without one regular starter, since freshman guard Kendall Grasela had sprained her ankle near the end of practice the previous day.

SCH sophomore forward Olivia Byron was sidelined by injury, and illness had been affecting the Lions, as well, so much so that they’d had to reschedule a league contest against Baldwin School four days before the second GA game. A number of players for the host team coughed and snuffled their way through Tuesday’s contest; in particular, starting guards Gianna Pownall (a senior) and Julia Schumacher (a junior) were clearly not functioning at full capacity.

But for the most part, the outcome of the game was due to the fact that Germantown simply played better than it had the first time around.

“We were better prepared for their delay game in the first quarter,” commented Patriots coach Sherri Retif. “Defensively, we threw a lot of junk at them instead of allowing them to catch us off-guard with holding the ball from the tip. We got a good defensive effort not only from our guards, Olivia and Fran [Sweeney, a senior], but also, our post players were stepping in and filling up the paint.”

As a result, the Lions were rarely able to penetrate to the basket except in the offensive transition. On defense, SCH was not hurt too badly by Lehigh University signee McCloskey, who’d scored her 1000th point in a GA uniform exactly a week earlier.

What the Lions defenders couldn’t digest was a heaping helping of Hubbell. Once they discovered that SCH couldn’t stop the junior transfer (from Central Bucks East) except by fouling her, the Patriots just kept on feeding her the ball.

GA senior guard Dempsey Cooper, who signed with the University of Rhode Island last November, converted a steal into the first points of the game, then a three-pointer by Lions freshman Lindsay Hiner and a basket off a rebound by the Patriots’ McCloskey followed. Hubbell had the visitors up 7-3 midway through the first quarter, going three-for-four at the free throw line on back-to-back fouls.

Senior Maddi Hinchey, an SCH guard out of Norwood Fontbonne Academy, knocked down a “three” for the hosts, and when a steal by Pownall was converted into two points by Schumacher, the Lions led 8-7 with 47 seconds left in the opening stanza.

Hubbell had the final word in the first period to give GA a 9-8 edge, but the worst news was still to come for the Lions, who watched the Germantown junior score four more baskets in succession as the second quarter unfolded. A jumper from near the foul line by Cooper rounded out a run that put the Patriots up 19-8.

SCH junior Madi Sehn, another former Norwood player, broke the string with a three-pointer for the hosts, but the Lions never really recovered from the 12-0 outburst by their guests. They made a comeback attempt later in the second round, when a baseline drive by Schumacher and four-for-six foulshooting by Pownall made it 24-18 in the closing minute, but in the final seconds a drive by GA’s Gorman upped the advantage to eight points for halftime.

The scoreboard moved in slow motion through a 4-4 third quarter, then the Pats pushed their lead into double digits and kept in there by out-pointing the Lions in the fourth period, 15-7.

Germantown’s total was rounded out by six points from Cooper and two from freshman forward Lauren Oeth. Pownall and Schumacher scored nine and eight points, respectively, for the home team, while Sehn finished with four. The Lions also got three apiece from Hinchey and Hiner, and two points from freshman guard Drew Kevitch.

“I think we’ve gotten to a place where everybody’s got each other’s back out there,” said Coach Retif, whose team had logged its sixth straight victory. “They’re starting to trust each other more, and that’s a good thing to see.”

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