Alexa Naessens (right), an incoming freshman post player at Germantown Academy, protects the ball from double-teaming defenders. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

Alexa Naessens (right), an incoming freshman post player at Germantown Academy, protects the ball from double-teaming defenders. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

Germantown Academy hoopsters were in action last week in the Gwynedd Mercy Academy Girls Basketball Summer League, which is only in its second year of existence but has attracted 16 teams for its 2014 season.

Many of the contests are highly competitive, too, including GA’s clash with Central Bucks West High School last Wednesday evening. The contest looked a little lopsided early on, as the Patriots fell behind by nine points to a Bucks bunch coached by former GA assistant Terry Rakowski. GA came back to take the lead in the middle of the second half, but University of Michigan recruit Nicole Munger ignited a late C.B. West rally that led to a 49-39 victory.

With many comings and goings during the summer, few teams are at full strength on a given night in any of the high school leagues. C.B. West was missing a few players, while GA went without its lone rising senior, shooting guard Olivia Gorman, and without sophomores Lilly Bolen (forward) and Abby Starzecky (point guard), who both saw a lot of varsity action last winter.

Among those on hand for the Pats were returning starters Kendall Grasela and Lauren Oeth along with another rising junior, Leena Kardacz. Sophomore Erin Lindahl is also a veteran starter, and her classmate Jessica Sheridan played last Wednesday, as well.

In addition to Oeth, a post presence was provided by a student athlete who will be new to GA, six-foot freshman Alexa Naessens. Fellow ninth-grader Maddie Cooper and eighth-grader Rachel Balzer rounded out the GA contingent last Wednesday.

Like Germantown Academy, Central Bucks West was a young team last winter, but was runner-up in the Continental Division of the Suburban One League. Seeded fifth for the District 1 Class AAAA playoffs, the Bucks lost in that tournament to eventual state runner-up Spring-Ford, then were knocked out of the state tournament by 2014 champ Cumberland Valley.

After C.B. West opened the scoring last Wednesday at Gwynedd, field goals by Grasela and Naessens and a free throw by Kardacz had the Patriots up 5-2, but the Bucks charged back to score a dozen consecutive points. They were up 18-7 two minutes before halftime arrived, but GA got back within four by the break. The late spurt started with a drive by Cooper, then Kardacz scored on a breakaway and followed that play with a three-pointer from the left corner as the half wound down, making it 18-14.

Despite a three-pointer and an and-one lay-up by Grasela, Germantown was still down by four points about six minutes into the second half. The Pats called time-out with the count 26-22, then returned to the floor to have Sheridan sink a trey and a short jumper. Balzer scored in transition, and then a three-point shot from the top of the key by Lindahl extended the Patriots’ run to 10 straight points and put them up 32-26 with 10 minutes left to play.

Over the next five minutes, C.B. West’s Munger came alive and became active all over the court, creating turnovers and going hard to the hoop. She deposited seven points as the Bucks countered with a 10-0 surge of their own, and the future Wolverine’s ballclub stayed in the lead after that.

It was 40-37 going into the final minute, but GA fouls helped C.B. West finish with a 9-2 flourish, with all of the points for both teams coming on free throws. Grasela put up a dozen points in the losing cause, with Kardacz adding nine and Lindahl and Sheridan scoring five apiece.

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