GA basketball tops Notre Dame in league opener

by Tom Utescher
Posted 1/10/24

Entering the contest, GA was 9-2 and Notre Dame was 8-2, and both teams had lost to the same two opponents.

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GA basketball tops Notre Dame in league opener


In girls' basketball, there was no easing comfortably into the new year for Germantown Academy. The Patriots started right out on January 3 by hosting their league opener against another prime contender for the Inter-Ac championship, the Academy of Notre Dame.

Entering the contest, GA was 9-2 and Notre Dame was 8-2, and both teams had lost to the same two opponents (GA by smaller margins), Friends Central and Cardinal O'Hara.

Adding yet another element to the longstanding rivalry between the teams was the fact that Germantown Academy's first-year head coach, Lauren Power, had come to GA directly after leading the Notre Dame squad for five successful seasons.

The Irish have been taken over by Power's former assistant, Terry Mancini. Mancini himself had produced outstanding results as head coach of St. Basil Academy up until that school closed for good in 2021.

Last week at GA, the Irish never led in the Inter-Ac opener, as the Patriots broke out of an early 2-2 tie with a 7-0 run. After the hosts led 23-16 at the half, they earned a double-digit lead during the third quarter. The period ended with a buzzer beater that sent the Patriots into the fourth frame with a 36-24 advantage.

The Irish clawed back within seven points (41-34) with two minutes remaining in the game, but GA finished with an 8-4 spurt to clinch the victory.

Even with a halftime lead, Coach Power noted, "We told the girls that good teams are going to go on runs and we had to handle their runs. I thought we did that well."

Senior guard Izzy Casey, who is bound for Bucknell University, led the winners with 11 points, while junior Gabby Bowes scored eight of her 10 points during the second half. Senior Jenna Aponik scored nine points and her twin sister Jessica (who has signed with Kutztown University) had six. Junior point guard Jessica Kolecki put up eight points and senior Sam Wade scored five.

Notre Dame received a game-high 15 points from senior guard/forward Lizzie Halligan, who will go on to play for Division III power University of Scranton. Freshman Riley Davis netted eight points, but another strong performer for the Irish, freshman center Grace Nasr, was held to three points.

First off the bench for Notre Dame was the school's highly-regarded soccer goalie, junior Sophie Hall, who has made a verbal commitment for that sport to the University of Delaware.

Preparing for this important 2024 debut, GA's Power didn't want her past history with Notre Dame to become a distraction.

"It was all business, and it had to be that," she stated. "I had to take all of the other stuff out of it and focus on what their team does really well and what we could do well against them. It all started with rebounding and the hard work our girls did on the defensive end. We needed to disrupt what they were trying to do and key in on their three best players."

After GA's Casey hit a short jumper and AND's Halligan drove in for a lay-up to produce a 2-2 tie, Bowes pushed the Patriots ahead for good with two free throws and a three-pointer. Kolecki cashed in on a fast break to make it 9-2 three-and-a-half minutes into the contest.

Halligan sandwiched two lay-ups for Notre Dame around one by the Pats' Jessica Aponik, then Casey's "three" from the top of the key raised the tally to 14-6. The Irish missed two free throws at the end of the first period, but Jessica Aponik had picked up two personal fouls. She would have to retire to the bench after committing a third in the second quarter.

Meanwhile, her sister Jenna hustled for rebounds and loose balls on the offensive end. She scored two lay-ups and later stuck a three-pointer from the right corner. By halftime, though, Notre Dame had shaved a point off of its deficit to trail 23-16. Halligan led all scorers at the break with nine points, while Nasr, Catie Kelly, and Chloe Knox scored from closer range for the Irish.

Halligan converted off an offensive rebound to open the second-half scoring, but after that she would add only four points the rest of the way. Casey and Bowes continued to provide points for the Patriots, and when Wade drove in to score with two minutes left in the third round, Germantown had a double-digit lead at 32-22.

However, the numbers had also continued to rise for GA in the personal fouls column. Casey and each of the Aponiks would finish the game with four, and Bowes ended up with three infractions. It wasn't the first time the Patriots had hampered themselves in this way.

Coach Power admitted, "We're fouling more than we need to, and sometimes we foul too far from the basket. We know that's one of the things we need to clean up and I think we'll do that. I'm not too worried about it."

After the teams traded points to make it 34-24 late in the third frame, Kolecki launched a buzzer-beater from near the foul line, banking the ball in to put the Pats up by a dozen for the start of the fourth period.

As Power noted, fourth-quarter letdowns had contributed to the losses against FC and O'Hara, so this time the team resolved to stand strong in the final eight minutes. The Irish would outscore their hosts in the last stanza, but only 14-13.

The visitors made their closest approach when a GA turnover led to a lay-up by Davis and Notre Dame called a time out with 2:08 remaining, now back within seven points of the leaders at 41-34.

Now paroled after serving time on the bench for her personal-foul problems, Jessica Aponik came through with back-to-back transition lay-ups while AND missed a three-point shot in between. In the final 90 seconds Halligan got loose to score her last two lay-ups for Notre Dame, but Casey and Bowes each made two free throws to keep the margin at 11 points for the conclusion of the contest.