by Tom Utescher
The Germantown Academy Patriots began the new year in the same manner they’d finished out 2018, remaining undefeated as they won three games in New Orleans to become the champions of the 2018 Allstate Sugar Bowl Classic.
The key game for the Patriots (13-0) was their 52-48 semifinal victory over defending tournament champion John Curtis Christian School, which is also the reigning Louisiana Division I state champion. In the finals last Saturday, GA cruised past North Caddo High School, 65-35.
Averaging 15.3 points and six rebounds per game, junior forward Elle Stauffer was named Sugar Bowl MVP, while senior shooting guard Rachel Balzer and sophomore center Becca Booth were named to the All-Tournament Team.
Longtime GA head coach Sherri Retif was brought up in New Orleans and coached girls’ basketball there. In between, her own collegiate athletic achievements would eventually result in her induction into the Tulane University Hall of Fame. The Patriots had played in the Sugar Bowl tourney before, but hadn’t won it.
Under Louisiana’s high school athletics governing body, traditional public high schools participate in a “Non-Select” category that includes seven enrollment-based “classes,” while private and parochial schools are grouped in a “Select” structure made up of five “divisions.”
After getting a chance to settle in down in New Orleans thanks to a first-round bye, the GA Patriots opened up against Baton Rouge’s McKinley High. A magnet school assigned to the state’s Select category, McKinley was the runner-up to John Curtis in the 2018 Division I championships.
Germantown Academy romped to a 22-4 lead during the first quarter and never looked back. Junior guard Jaye Haynes booked 17 points (with three three-point field goals) and four rebounds in the Patriots’ 57-39 victory, while Balzer (four three-pointers) added 14 points and junior point guard Maddie Vizza scored 11.
This moved GA into Friday’s semifinal round to face John Curtis, whose strong athletic program also produced a state champion football team last fall. The school is located just a few miles west of New Orleans proper.
The Germantown offense struggled for traction early on as the local team, also nicknamed the Patriots, bolted to an 18-4 lead over the first eight minutes.
Once the GA girls got their bearings, they roared back to win the next two quarters handily, 16-5 and 20-9, entering the final round ahead 40-32. John Curtis made a run during the fourth quarter, but was held at bay down the stretch as Stauffer made four free throws to cap a game-high 17-point performance.
Stauffer pulled in five rebounds and Booth brought down six boards while scoring seven points. Balzer knocked down four treys as part of a 14-point effort, and Germantown received four rebounds apiece from Haynes (four points) and junior classmate Maddie Burns (two points).
GA’s opponent for the finals, North Caddo, hails from the north side of Shreveport, not far from the Texas border. Although the Rebels won the state’s Non-Select Class 2A title last season, they fell behind 23-10 in the opening quarter. Stauffer smacked them with 21 points and eight rebounds as the Patriots proceeded to a 30-point victory.
Booth (six rebounds) and Haynes each scored a dozen points, with Vizza contributing nine points and Burns bringing four points and five rebounds. GA’s winning total was rounded out by three points apiece from junior Lindsay Putnam and sophomore Charlotte DiLello, and one point from junior Sarah DiLello.
This week, the Patriots will be back home, but not back playing in their own gym. Following Inter-Ac League bouts at Episcopal Academy and Baldwin School, GA will face always-dangerous Archbishop Wood at 4 p.m. on Sunday in the Play-by-Play Maggie Lucas Classic at Jefferson University.