by Jonathan Vander Lugt
“Every time I think we’re making strides,” Germantown Academy coach Jim Fenerty said, “We take four steps back.”
“That’s what we’re doing right now,” he continued, after GA’s 92-68 loss to Malvern Prep Friday night.
The game wasn’t even as close as that score indicates. The Friars led at every juncture; outside of the game’s opening minutes, MP’s 41-27 lead at the half represented the lowest it would be all game. By the end of the third, GA was down 74-45.
The fourth quarter was simply a formality played mostly by each team’s subs. The Pats’ 68 points disguises a poor showing on offense, as no player other than Jordan Longino scored in double figures. GA’s sophomore star finished with 26 – enough to lead either team – but it meant little without help.
“We came out and thought, ‘Well Malvern’s good and we’re going to struggle,’” Fenerty said. “That’s exactly what happened. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
All this after a run that had given Fenerty hope that his team was putting pieces together. Germantown Academy (now 6-5, 0-1 in the league) had won three of four after a disappointing loss to George School last month, with Brian Basile reaching double figures in each game. Luke Traina scored at least 10 in two of them, and freshman Jake Hsu scored 10 against Strath Haven, the most recent game before Friday night.
It appeared that the Pats had found consistent second and third options.
“We thought we did, but obviously it wasn’t there tonight,” Fenerty said. “As soon as things start to go south on us, the team seems to think ‘only Jordan can get us back in it,’ and that’s not fair to him.”
Hsu scored the second-most with nine points Friday. The freshman is clearly talented – Fenerty doesn’t run freshman out unless they are – but with youth on offense comes mistakes.
He manned the point to start the game but ran the offense at a hundred miles per hour, constantly dashing around, driving and not taking any time to assess the situation in a half-court offense. Fenerty pulled him quickly and Juan Adames served as the point guard for most of the rest of the game.
“It’s extremely frustrating for everybody,” Fenerty said. “We lost to a good team tonight, and we just didn’t compete – that’s the worst part.”
“Unless you feel you can compete, that stuff is going to happen to you,” he went on. When stuff goes bad, you find out which guys are ready to compete. Right now, we don’t have many guys who are.”
This isn’t the first time Fenerty has had to coach a struggling team, but it does present him with the biggest challenge he’s faced in a long time. Last year’s team (which finished 9-17 overall and 2-8 in the league) had the excuse of being young and inexperienced, but finished the season on an upward trajectory. This year’s roster is almost identical, so he figured those gains were going to continue.
“The record didn’t show it, but we felt that we had gotten a lot better by the end of last year,” he said. “That success has to carry over. It hasn’t yet.”
Only time will tell whether Fenerty can reach into his bag of tricks compiled over nearly 40 years to pull his Patriots out of their current rut. The last time he truly had to dig to turn a team like this around was before his stint at GA, when he coached at Bishop Egan (now Conwell-Egan Catholic). There, his teams lost more often than not but Fenerty helped transform a moribund program into one that, at the very least, couldn’t be slept on.
“100 years ago when I was the coach at Bishop Egan, we had to go up against the likes of Roman Catholic, Bishop Neumann and Archbishop Carroll without the benefit of recruiting,” he said. His first season was 1982 – not 1919 – but in high-school years, 37 seasons almost constitutes a millennium.
Back then, schools in the Catholic League were required to roster kids that came only from the area parish, much like the way public school districts pull from their own catchment. Fenerty’s challenge was that he only had a portion of the then-even-more-rural Bucks County to farm, compared to his opponents fielding teams in areas as dense as they are now.
“That’s where I learned how to coach because I really had to over-prepare,” he said. To succeed now he’s going to have to find that mindset again, and tread in a part of his coaching brain that he likely hasn’t visited in a long time.
“Those teams were throwing out Division-I players whereas I had a few kids named Harry,” he went on. “Those Harrys are good guys, but as a coach you really need to come up with something.”
“We did then,” he said. “We’ll see if we can do it now.”
“We’ll see,” he said again, his voice trailing off.
GA: 12 15 18 23: 68
MP: 28 13 33 18: 92
Germantown Academy: Jordan Longino 10 3-4 26; Jake Hsu 3 3-3 9; Luke Traina 4 0-0 8; Juan Adames 2 2-2 6; Tim Dion 1 0-0 3; Mike Rowan 1 1-2 3; Lacey Snowden 1 0-0 3; Tayshaun Mack 1 0-0 2; Tom McDonnell 0 1-2 1; Casey Traina 0 1-2 1.
Malvern Prep: Deuce Turner 9 4-4 24; Fran Oschell 10 1-1 23; Rahdir Hicks 6 2-3 15; Spencer Cohen 5 2-3 13; Tygee Leach 2 1-2 5; Joe McElwee 2 0-0 5; Ashton Canavan 1 0-1 3; Spencer Cochran 0 2-2 2; Cooper Frankenheimer 1 0-0 2.