FORT WASHINGTON >> At times, Jim Fenerty sees himself as much a foreman as he is a basketball coach.
That’s very much the case this year as the veteran Germantown Academy boys basketball boss works with one of the youngest and most inexperienced rosters he’s ever had. This year’s team has just one senior, no returning starters and only one rotation player back from last season’s Inter-Ac champions.
The Patriots have a lot of building to do, but they did set down a good foundation Saturday afternoon when they opened their season with a 67-52 win over Cristo Rey.
“One of the things that keeps me in coaching and one of the things I love to do is build,” Fenerty said. “My wife always busts on me, she thinks I should have been an architect or something. I like to build programs.”
Fenerty’s built a pretty good one at GA, which has won at least a share of the Inter-Ac five straight years. The torch has also been passed in that time, with Tim Guers giving it to Devon Goodman and Goodman flipping it to Evan-Eric Longino and Kyle McCloskey last season. That’s another part of what a well-built program is about, while the current pieces may change, the old ones remain a part of the structure.
A team full of mostly freshmen and sophomores and juniors just cracking the varsity lineup will understandably struggle at times. Fenerty hasn’t needed to do all of the talking though, with last year’s leaders stopping by during their holiday breaks to share some wisdom.
“Over the past week, we had every one of the five starters come back,” Fenerty said. “You build a tradition and hope that tradition comes back on down. We had a six-team scrimmage the Saturday after Thanksgiving and we looked awful. I didn’t have to tell the guys because my alums were there.”
Longino’s torch passing didn’t even leave the house. His younger brother, freshman Jordan, had an impressive debut on Saturday with 20 points, four rebounds, six assists and five steals. With Evan-Eric, now a freshman playing at West Chester, in his ear, Jordan already looks like a major contributor.
Brian Basile, a junior forward who was GA’s sixth man last year, scored a team-high 22 points. As the lone player with significant varsity experience, Basile talked with McCloskey about being the guy, but also making sure to keep the rest of the team included.
GA got off to a bit of a slow start against Cristo Rey and trailed 9-4 two minutes into the game. Junior Tim Dion, in his first season as a varsity player, came off the bench and sparked the Patriots with six points to end the frame and handing GA a 14-10 lead.
“What he does and what I’m very pleased about, he plays within himself,” Fenerty said. “He doesn’t try to do too much. He’s the kid that asks ‘what do you want me to do?’ and I can tell him to just run the offense and get the ball to Jordan and Brian.”
Longino took off in the second quarter and the team followed his lead. The freshman dropped in 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting in the frame while also dishing out an assist. A smooth outside shooter with an already solid off-the-dribble game, Cristo Rey had no answers for the 6-foot-4 Longino as he led GA to a 21-point quarter and a 35-22 halftime lead.
Sophomore Zach Anderson was the spark guy early in the third quarter, scoring six of his eight in the first 2:30 of the period. GA pushed its lead out to 47-27 midway through the quarter before Cristo Rey opted to go to a press, which was quite effective.
“We’ve had nine practices, I’ve had this incredible sense of urgency, I know there’s so much I have to teach these guys, but I can’t give them too much,” Fenerty said. “Right now, they’re worried about how to put on a varsity uniform the right way so I don’t want to give them too much. That kind of stuff we can fix, if they don’t play hard or it’s a lack of enthusiasm, that we can’t fix.”
While Cristo Rey’s press did force a number of turnovers, the Blue Pride never really threatened GA’s lead. Even after Cristo Rey closed the third quarter on a 9-2 run, Longino and Basile connected on a great play to open the fourth quarter. Longino drove and whipped a behind-the-back pass to Basile on the left wing for a 3-pointer that helped restore order.
GA heads to the Perkiomen School on Wednesday, where Fenerty expects a tough and physical test, then plays in Souderton’s Jim Church Classic tournament next weekend. With the Inter-Ac loaded with returning players, going for a sixth straight title will be a tall task for this group, but as the guy laying down all the plans will say, they haven’t even looked that far ahead yet.
“You win it five years in a row, everyone expects you win it a sixth and I’ve been around long enough to know that every one of them is really hard and we’re in a league with some really good teams,” Fenerty said. “I never talk to my kids about championships until we actually win one. All we want, especially with this group, is to walk off the court after every practice or game and say they worked hard to get better. I like them, they’re good guys and young kids who want to learn and they’re not out there trying to make mistakes, they’re trying to make a play.”
GERMANTOWN ACADEMY 67, CRISTO REY 52
CRISTO REY 10 12 14 16 — 52
GERMANTOWN ACADEMY 14 21 14 18 — 67
Germantown Academy: Brian Basile 8 4-5 22, Jordan Longino 7 3-4 20, Hans Lillis 1 0-0 2, Lucas Traina 1 0-0 2, Diego Carrasco 0 1-2 1, Colten Smith 2 0-0 4, Tim Dion 2 1-2 6, Jordan Keys 1 0-0 2, Zach Anderson 3 1-1 8. Nonscoring: Juan Adames, Lacey Snowden, Tayshaun Mack, Tom McDonnell. Totals: 25 10-14 67
Cristo Rey: Aiken 8 10-15 28, Smith 2 5-7 10, Hardee 1 0-0 2, Warner 1 1-2 4, Ellis 3 0-0 6, Devore 0 0-1 0, Jackson 1 0-2 2. Totals: 16 16-27 52.
3-pointers: GA – Longino 3, Basile 2, Dion; CR – Aiken 2, Warner, Smith.
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