STORY WRITTEN BY ANDREW ROBINSON, PA PREP LIVE - FEB. 18, 2023
WHITEMARSH >> Sam Wade wasn’t interested in a repeat of her team’s last game against Notre Dame Academy.
The tenacious Germantown Academy guard had fouled out of the Patriots’ home loss to the Irish on Feb. 3 but fate, or more accurately, the PAISAA tournament bracket, provided a chance at redemption on Saturday. Kendall Bennett, GA’s Binghamton-bound senior center, felt much the same way, eager to make her last home game a good one.
GA came out firing and never gave Notre Dame a chance to get its feet set, the No. 4 seed Patriots running away from the No. 5 Irish in a 60-37 quarterfinal win Saturday afternoon.
“Last time we played them here, we lost, so it was a big chance at a comeback for us and having the score be like that, it was big for all of us,” Bennett, a first team All-Inter-Ac selection, said. “We’ve been preparing for this. Our defense was something we were working on all week, just to be solid and our shots, they were just falling today.”
Bennett got the scoring started with five straight points, the senior leading the way on the day with 13 points and eight rebounds while also keeping the Irish from getting much in the paint. The Patriots led 8-0 before Notre Dame got on the board then used a 10-0 run with Wade, Jess Aponik and Isabella Casey either scoring or assisting every point to put the Irish down 21-5 and nearly out of luck.
A 9-0 run to start the second quarter, capped with the defense forcing a turnover that led to a Gabby Bowes hoop on the other end, gave GA a 30-7 lead and the Patriots continued to pour it on with their combination of shooting, passing and defending just staying at a high level. The Patriots went nine deep in the first half, the team usually subbing in four fresh players around either Bennett or Wade – who had a great game defensively and running the point – with seven of them getting in the book by halftime.
“We came out so ready, personally, I fouled out last time so I came out for revenge, I wanted it all,” Wade, who had 12 points, eight rebounds and four steals, said. “Everyone played well together, we shared the ball. Having everyone, even at practice, we’re all pushing each other to the fullest, we all know each other’s strengths, weaknesses and bring it together to play as a team.”
GA ended up taking the season series 2-1, having won at Notre Dame in the teams’ first Inter-Ac meeting before the Irish won two weeks back. The difference between the second meeting and Saturday’s rubber match in the independent schools’ state playoffs wasn’t anything earth-moving, just a lot of good preparation.
Patriots coach Sherri Retif said having five straight days of practice was a major boost, plus having a full-strength roster after a swath of midseason injuries. There wasn’t any drop-off when the coaches used their hockey-style line change subs even with the primary bench unit consisting of a freshman, two sophomores and a junior.
“They really locked in at practice, our bench players really made our starters better,” Retif said. “I think it translated into the way we came out today, we practiced with a really high level of intensity.”
Bennett started the second half as she did in the first, scoring GA’s first six points as the host side continued to build on its 38-15 halftime advantage. All but one basket in the quarter was assisted, a common thread in the game when the Patriots weren’t cleaning up their own missed shots for putbacks or getting out on the run after a caused turnover.
GA finished tied with Notre Dame for second in the Inter-Ac with 9-3 records, both trailing behind league winner Penn Charter, so aside from breaking their season tie the winner could also claim an unofficial second place finish.
Jess Aponik, one of the players who missed time earlier this season due to injury, connected on a three in the third quarter assisted by her twin sister Jenna as part of an 11-point game. The versatile junior felt also felt Saturday’s contest was a get-back game and a chance to defend their home floor after failing to do so earlier this month.
“Everyone came with their A-game,” Aponik said. “We all played really well. Everyone was doing their best, we all really wanted this.”
Notre Dame’s only two seniors, Annie Greek and Katie Halligan paced the Irish with nine points each in their final games.. Sophomore Chloe Knox didn’t get a lot of shots to drop for her five points but was aggressive on the glass with nine rebounds and Lizzie Halligan added seven points.
The win sends GA into the PAISAA semifinals on Tuesday against top-seeded Westtown. The Friends Schools League champions have been a juggernaut all year, something the Patriots witnessed last season when Westtown more or less ushered them out of the bracket in the semifinal round.
“Last year we played them and we weren’t really in the game,” Bennett said. “I know it’ll be a difficult game, but I am really excited to play them again.”
As a freshman, Bennett came into a veteran squad that featured three future Division I basketball players. She led a young team the next two seasons and now, with at most two games left in her high school career, knows the returning group will be able to keep the strong tradition going at GA.
“They have it in them, I’ve always said this, I’m doing it for me but I’m also doing it for them,” Bennett said. “I know how capable they are to succeed. I’ve tried to make a mark, I see them making a mark and I know they’re going to continue the legacy.”
Germantown Academy 60, Notre Dame Academy 37
Germantown Academy 21 17 13 9 – 60
Notre Dame Academy 7 8 10 12 – 37
Germantown Academy: Kendall Bennett 5 3-4 13, Isabella Casey 3 0-0 6, Sam Wade 5 1-1 12, Gabby Bowes 2 0-0 5, Jess Aponik 4 0-0 11, Jess Kolecki 1 0-0 2, Jenna Aponik 2 2-2 7, Addy Levensten 2 0-0 4. Totals; 24 6-7 60.
Notre Dame Academy: Chloe Knox 1 3-4 5, Catie Kelly 1 0-0 3, Lizzie Halligan 3 0-0 7, Annie Greek 2 4-4 9, Katie Halligan 3 3-5 9, Scarlett Henry 0 1-2 1, Sophia Hall 1 0-0 3. Totals: 11 11-15 37.
3-pointers: GA – Jess Aponik 3, Jenna Aponik, Wade, Bowes; ND – Kelly, L Halligan, Greek, Hall.