The Patriots and the Irish were playing for two-out-of-three, as well as the chance to keep their basketball season going. The girls of Germantown Academy and the Academy of Notre Dame had each won …
The Patriots and the Irish were playing for two-out-of-three, as well as the chance to keep their basketball season going. The girls of Germantown Academy and the Academy of Notre Dame had each won one game in their home/away Inter-Ac League series. With 9-3 records in league play, they had tied for second place, behind undefeated champion Penn Charter.
Last Saturday in a Pa. Independent Schools quarterfinal game, fourth-seeded GA met number five Notre Dame, and what was reasonably expected to be a close game wasn't one.
The Patriots scored the first eight points and went on to lead 21-7 by the end of the first quarter. After GA uncreased its advantage in each of the next two periods, Notre Dame gained three points back in the fourth frame, losing 60-37.
Senior Kendall Bennett, a 6'2" post player bound for Binghamton University, got the Germantown offense rolling and later finished with a game-high 13 points, along with seven rebounds. Two juniors were close behind in double-digit scoring. Guard Sam Wade produced a dozen points and chased down 10 rebounds, and guard/forward Jessica Aponik deposited three three-pointers and a total of 11 points.
Germantown Academy had been one of the top four PAIS tournament seeds to receive a first-round bye. Notre Dame had played on Friday against Episcopal Academy, the 12th seed. Although the Irish won the contest 69-48, EA had been much closer as late as the three-quarter mark, when it was 53-46. It was rougher going than the Irish had expected, and the next day they faced a GA team that was finally all healthy and brought good depth of talent to the fray.
As early as the first quarter, GA head coach Sherri Retif subbed in four players at a time.
She later observed, "It's unusual to go nine deep on your first sub. We had great practices this week, and the starters and the bench players worked so hard and kept making each other better. They developed a mental toughness in each other, and a deep trust and respect."
Notre Dame rang down the curtain on its 2022-23 season with an overall record of 17-11. GA would take a 19-10 mark into the PAIS semifinal round, facing top-seeded Westtown School, the defending champ. Westtown had advanced with a 79-24 win over Shipley School, the eighth seed.
In the other two quarterfinals last Saturday, Penn Charter, the 2022 PAIS runner-up, defeated number seven George School, 62-39, and third-ranked Friends Central won 57-25 over Perkiomen School, the sixth seed. GA and Westtown have not played each other this winter, but Penn Charter and its semifinal opponent, Friends Central, squared off early in the season. Here, the PC Quakers won a close one on their home court, 55-52.
In January, GA had won its first game against Notre Dame, prevailing 48-43 on the road. In the rematch at GA on February 3, The Irish led 37-36 at the end of the third quarter, then pulled away to win, 58-50. For GA and Coach Retif, there were some definite takeaways from that contest.
"They came out on fire last time," she said. "They were 19-for-35 from the field and we knew this time we had to get up and get in their face.
"We didn't take advantage of our height in that game," she continued, "and this time we did use it to get up and pressure the ball. We also did a much better job of switching this time. Stepping up our defense led to some quick baskets on offense."
The GA mentor noted that assistant coach Jim Roynan had worked with the players last week in practice on defensive rotation and help defense.
The Patriots' Bennett scored the first points of the afternoon off of an offensive rebound. She quickly added a lay-up and then a free throw. Aponik bagged a three-pointer from the left wing to make it 8-0 just two minutes into the game.
Retif remarked, "Kendall gives us rebounding and scoring on the inside, and her defense makes players change shots. Jessica Aponik started on fire in the first quarter, as well."
Aponik would log eight points in the first round. After her first "three", Notre Dame got on the board with a back door lay-up by junior Lizzie Halligan, but GA's Wade got going with a score off a steal, a free throw, and a three-pointer. The Pats were up 19-5 before the Irish had senior Annie Greek drive the lane for a late lay-up.
In the second quarter Bennett and Aponik kept scoring, and sophomore Gabby Bowes and junior Izzy Casey joined in. GA was up 30-7 before the Irish posted their first points of the period from the foul line, and freshman Addi Levensten scored back-to-back lay-ups to make it 34-9.
Retif was happy with the way her reserves performed, including Levensten, junior Jenna Aponik (Jessica's sister), and sophomore forward CeeJay Thomas.
"Jenna came in for Sam [Wade] and ran the point well," she said. "CeeJay got a start last Friday and she came in focused today, and Addi came in and sliced right through for two baskets."
Notre Dame needed to start chopping away at the GA lead right at the start of the second half, but instead the Irish were outscored by Bennett, 6-2, over the first four minutes. Only in the fourth quarter were the visitors able to outscore the Patriots, 12-9, by posting the last four points of the game.
Jenna Aponik wound up with seven points, Casey with six, and Bowes with five points for the winners. Levensten scored four points and sophomore Jessica Kolecki added two. Notre Dame was led by Greek and fellow senior Katie Halligan, with nine points apiece, and Lizzie Halligan had seven.
For GA, Wade had excelled in almost every aspect of the game.
"She had one of her best games ever for us," Retif commented. "She ran the offense and showed great leadership."
The coach summed up, "Everybody was focused and just locked in today; it was a good team win."