GA basketball edges Charter, 63-62, to take lead in Inter-Ac

by Tom Utescher
Posted 2/14/24

Early in the Inter-Ac League girls' basketball season, it became apparent that three teams were clearly better than the other four.

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GA basketball edges Charter, 63-62, to take lead in Inter-Ac


Early in the Inter-Ac League girls' basketball season, it became apparent that three teams were clearly better than the other four, and that those three would battle one another for the 2024 championship.

Last Friday, late in the season, Germantown Academy earned an advantage over rivals Penn Charter and the Academy of Notre Dame. Bucknell-bound Izzy Casey, a senior guard, made the first of two free throws with half-a-second remaining in the fourth quarter, giving the visiting Patriots a 63-62 victory over Penn Charter, the two-time defending champions.

In the round-robin between the Patriots, the PC Quakers, and the Irish of Notre Dame, Penn Charter was now finished at 2-2, having split home-away contests with the other two contenders. Notre Dame was sitting at 1-2, having lost to the Patriots in the season opener, while on Friday GA avenged an earlier loss to Penn Charter and was now 2-1 in the three-way battle.

If the Pats win their final game on the road at Notre Dame, they could clinch the Inter-Ac title with an overall record of 11-1. PC (9-2 after Friday's loss) would play its last game against fifth-place Agnes Irwin, while Notre Dame had reached a 9-2 mark in the league with a win over Baldwin School last Friday.

In the clash at Penn Charter, the superb backcourt combo of freshman Ryan Carter and junior Kaylinn Bethea would account for 39 of the Quakers' 62 points, as they scored 20 and 19 points, respectively. The Patriots would wind up with five players in double figures; Casey, with 17 points, junior Gabby Bowes, with four three-pointers and a total of 14 points, and with seniors Jessica Aponik and Sam Wade and junior Jessica Kolecki scoring 10 points apiece.

Carter, Bethea, and senior Ashlie Johnson staked the Quakers to an early 8-4 lead, then Casey made a pair of free throws for the Patriots and Bowes followed up with her first "three" of the day. The visitors had an 11-10 lead at the end of the first quarter, and they'd expand it early in the second.

With Wade begging a three-pointer from the left wing and Casey and Kolecki scoring closer in, GA went up 21-13 with 3:30 left in the first half. However, even the best players on each team were missing some relatively easy shots, feeling the supercharged atmosphere in the gym, with its stands packed with fans from both schools in full cry.

Freshman Laila Sharp started PC on the road to recovery with a drive along the right baseline, and the Quakers defense would limit the Patriots to two points for the rest of the second quarter. Charter's Johnson, honored before the game as the only senior on the Quakers' squad, made two free throws and scored off a rebound down the stretch. Bethea nailed a trey during the Quakers' rally, and later, after the hosts pulled even at 23-23, single free throws by sophomore Liv Vieira and by Carter afforded PC a 25-23 halftime lead.

Bowes opened the third quarter with a trey from the right corner to nudge GA ahead, and after that the score was tied four times until the tally reached 34-all just after the four-minute mark. Later, the Patriots' Wade leveled the scoreboard a fifth time (38-38) on a drive with two minutes remaining, and she then cashed in on a foul called on the play to make it 39-38.

Bowes and PC's Carter each made two free throws, and early in the final minute Casey put in two foul shots. Next, the Quakers' Vieira hit a lay-up on an inbounds play at the baseline, trimming the visitors' lead to one point (43-42) for the start of the fourth quarter.

In that final frame, Germantown's one-point edge would be preserved in a tense 20-20 standoff. GA had led most of the way in its first Penn Charter game on January 18 before finally being tracked down and overtaken by the Quakers. The Patriots had appeared to wear down a bit; could they sustain their intensity this time?

GA scored from the paint and made one free throw to start off the last eight minutes, but Charter brought the margin down to one point on a triple from the right corner by sophomore Marleigh Jackson. Almost halfway through the period GA got a turn-around jumper from Aponik, and then the Pats called time-out with 3:42 left to play, leading 48-45.

The only two starters to finish the game with four fouls belonged to GA, but in the middle of the fourth quarter PC lost some personnel flexibility when two of its reserves fouled out of the game less than 20 seconds apart. This resulted in two made free throws apiece for Aponik and Casey.

Later, as the two-minute mark ticked by, Germantown was up 57-51. PC freshman starter Mia DiBenedetto, who been out on the bench, returned to the floor and stuck a three-pointer from the right corner, but Bowes answered in kind at the other end, her ball bouncing high up off the rim at first, but then falling back down through the net.

Attacking aggressively, PC's Carter drew two fouls and made four free throws. After she made the second pair, the Quakers called their final time-out, now just two points behind at 60-58 with 29 seconds remaining. Jenna Aponik, Jessica's twin, was fouled and made her two shots from the stripe, but Carter drove the lane to score what would be the final field goal of the evening.

With two time-outs left, Germantown called one of them with 14.6 seconds showing, still ahead at 62-60. Each team now fouled the other, but while the Patriots came up empty at the line, PC's Johnson made both of her shots, tying the contest at 62-all with 6.8 seconds to go.

GA called its final time-out, then came up the floor to launch an off-target shot. As players went for the rebound, the ball was tipped in the air a few times and then grabbed by Casey just beyond the right edge of the backboard.

She was fouled, the final buzzer sounded, and then the officials put half-a-second back on the clock and sent the GA senior to the free throw line for two shots. At this juncture, fans from both schools had long since bitten off their fingernails and were almost down to the first knuckle.

Casey made her first toss to give GA the lead for good. When she missed the second PC's Carter grabbed the rebound and made a desperate heave down the court, one that fell far short of the target.

The victorious Patriots would now go into their final Inter-Ac game with a chance to win the league title outright.