Junior Katie Reagan (left) and senior Mo’ne Davis are Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s basketball captains this season. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

In one of the Friends Schools League/Inter-Ac League Challenge games in girls’ basketball, Germantown Friends and Springside Chestnut Hill Academy faced one another last Friday evening in the season opener for both teams. On a neutral court at The Baldwin School, the two squads were tied at 4-4 early on, but then the SCH Blue Devils steadily pulled away and posted a 53-15 victory.

Florence “Flo” Hagains, who has coached basketball in many different settings and at many levels, is back for her second season as head coach of Springside Chestnut Hill. Another seasoned basketball mentor, Antowine Graham, also returns for the Blue Devils, but Ruth Sherrill, an assistant last season, is now playing professional basketball in Europe.

A new addition to the staff is Tiffany Davis, who played in the NCAA at Manhattan College and Dowling College. Davis spent two seasons as head coach at Germantown Friends from 2014-16, then stepped down to focus on earning a doctoral degree in Education.

Her successor at GFS, Assistant Director of Athletics Mike Lintulahti, is a former University of Pennsylvania men’s basketball assistant who is entering his third season heading the girls’ program for the Tigers. Assistant coach Justin Minter came on board when Lintulahti took over as skipper, and a new assistant this year is Lauren Postell, who hails from Matawan, N.J. and played college ball for Baltimore’s Morgan State University.

GFS graduated four-year varsity players Corin Grady and Maya Keren from last year’s team, and Lintulahti heads into the 2018-19 campaign with many of the older players on the squad primarily focused on sports other than basketball.

Two younger Tigers who play hoops in and out of school, sophomore Desiree Norwood and freshman Martina Kiewek, are the team co-captains this season.

Kiewick played varsity ball for GFS as an eighth-grader last year, and Norwood was with the varsity during her eighth-grade season before she was sidelined with a knee injury last winter. A second freshman who performed with the varsity as an eighth-grader last year, 6’2” Clare Meyer, has also become involved with AAU basketball.

For last Friday’s opener, Germantown Friends started the two captains along with Meyer and a pair of seniors, Kelly Zhang and Andy Regli.

Facing them, the starting unit for Springside Chestnut Hill included Mo’ne Davis and Caroline Clark, fifth and fourth-year varsity players, respectively. Alongside them were juniors Becca Arnold and Katie Reagan and eighth-grade shooting guard Ava Chavez. Arnold and Reagan are members of SCH’s two-time Inter-Ac League champion softball team (Reagan has made a verbal commitment to Penn for that sport).

Already varsity veterans, freshman Martina Kiewek (left) and sophomore Desiree Norwood are basketball team co-captains for Germantown Friends School. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

The Blue Devils’ roster this winter includes two athletes who played basketball in the 2016-17 season, but not last year. One of them is senior Kara Kniezewski (a Norwood-Fontbonne Academy graduate who excels in golf), and the other is 6’3” Maya Gerlach, who plays both scholastic and club volleyball. Gerlach was at a volleyball event last Friday, so the tallest player on hand for the Blue Devils was 6’1” freshman Layla Sawyer, who is relatively new to the game of hoops.

In the early minutes of Friday’s opener, two free throws apiece by Clark and Chavez were balanced by GFS lay-ups by Meyer and Norwood. After that, though, the Tigers would manage just one point (a Kiewek free throw) for the rest of the half.

To move SCH up out of the 4-4 tie, Davis made one of two free throws, then grabbed a defensive rebound and went coast-to-coast to score the Blue Devils’ first field goal of the game. Davis then fed Arnold for a lay-up in transition, and the tally was 9-4 at the end of the first quarter.

People who laud Davis’ skills sometimes forget to mention what a good passer she is. Her keen awareness of the court and her teammates led to a game-high five assists and indirectly contributed to additional point production.

The veteran Clark has always been a strong outside shooter, and the young Chavez proved accurate from the arc, as well. Each would hit three three-point field goals in the contest.

Chavez would net all of her treys in the third quarter as Springside Chestnut Hill built upon an 18-5 halftime lead. Germantown’s Norwood had a little burst of offense in the middle of the period, with two lay-ups and a pair of free throws, but the Tigers were trailing by 20 at the three-quarter mark (33-13) as the Blue Devils continued to pull away.

Clark combined a game-high 17 points with five rebounds and three steals, while Davis recorded 11 points, six boards and five steals. Chavez also finished with 11 points, and Kniezewski collected her six points with a pair of treys late in the fourth round. Arnold (three assists) and freshman Caroline Chilberti each added four points.

Norwood and Meyer scored eight and six points, respectively, for GFS.