by Tom Utescher
At the annual Germantown Academy basketball showcase benefitting the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Penn Charter encountered two of the toughest opponents it has faced this season. Although the Quakers came away with losses to undefeated Archbishop Ryan (47-40) and to New Jersey’s Pennington School (63-48) last weekend, facing challenges like these should help prepare PC for the start of the Inter-Ac League season.
Coming into the Archbishop Ryan game, Penn Charter had gotten back to 3-3 on the season, having just avenged a loss to Westtown School at the Friends/Inter-Ac Challenge by winning at home over the Moose, 52-46. Ryan arrived at GA with a 3-0 mark.
Receiving early offense from sophomore guards Carmen Williams and Kait Carter, PC stayed in stride with the Ragdolls up to 8-8. A baseline drive by freshman forward Laila Hamiter and three-pointers by guards Lizzie McLaughlin (a sophomore) and Kaitlyn Hnatkowsky (a freshman) gave the Quakers a 16-14 lead in the final minute of the first quarter, but a score off a steal by Ryan’s Annie Cashman sent the two teams into the next round on an even footing.
Over the first half of the second period Charter slipped behind, 23-18, and Ryan led by four points at the half, 27-23. In the middle of the third quarter the Quakers got a quick boost from junior guard Emma Maley, who hit a lay-up off an inbounds play and then stole the ball right back and put in a short jumper.
PC was back within two points of the leaders by the end of that frame, and as the fourth quarter began Hnatkowsky connected on a midrange jump shot to tie things up at 36-all. The next Charter field goal, a short baseline shot, would also come from Hnatkowsky, but when that happened only 16 seconds remained in the game.
In between, all the Quakers could collect were two points from the free throw line by Williams; these came during an 11-2 run by Ryan that featured a lay-up and three made foul shots by Taliyah Rahman and a three-pointer by Cashman.
PC was led by Carter, with 11 points, Hnatkowsky, with nine, and Williams, with eight. Four points apiece from Maley and Hamiter, three from McLaughlin, and one from sophomore forward Hayley Hunt rounded out the Quakers’ total, while Ryan received double-digit production from Rahman (19 points) and Monee Moore (10).
In Saturday’s game, Penn Charter just did not have enough weapons to cope with Pennington, which had taken event host GA down to the wire on Friday evening. However, PC made a game of it in the early stages and the Red Raiders from the Garden State did not go ahead for good until the middle of the second quarter.
Williams did a lot to make that possible by scoring 15 of her game-high 27 points in the first half. She netted four free throws, a short jumper, and a three-pointer in the first quarter. Her classmate, Carter, tacked on four, and at the buzzer yet another 10th-grader, Hunt, banked in a jump shot to get PC out of the period with a 15-14 edge.
Over the first four-and-a-half minutes of the second stanza, a 15-footer, a driving lay-up, and a flawless one-and-one by Williams had Charter ahead, 21-18. After that, though, Pennington limited the PC offense to a pair of free throws by Hamiter for the rest of the first half.
At first, the Quakers had done a good job of containing Pennington perimeter shooter Carly Rice, but now Rice got open for a pair of three-pointers, and another trey came from point guard Diamond Christian as the Raiders moved in front to lead 32-23 at the intermission.
In the third quarter two big Pennington forwards, sisters Ayanna (senior) and Leah (junior) Johnson went to work on the inside, helping the Jersey girls pull away to 46-30 by the end of the period. PC gained back a point in a high-scoring fourth quarter for the 63-48 final.
Following Williams in the Penn Charter scoring column were Carter and Hunt, with seven points apiece, sophomore India Barnes, with three, and Hamiter and Hnatkowsky with two points each from the free throw line.
The Raiders displayed good balance between the front court and back court, as the Johnson sisters had 30 points between them and guards Rice and Christian combined for 28.