Bryn Mawr >> Encouraged by what she saw from her young team toward the end of last season, Baldwin girls’ basketball coach Danny Furey couldn’t wait to see how they would fare against a challenging non-league schedule to open up this season.
Facing a Friends’ Central team that made their league semi-finals a year ago; a much-improved Westtown team; and the Country Day School of Sacred Heart, who captured the 2016-17 PIAA Class A District One championship, were exactly the tests Baldwin needed to prepare for the upcoming Inter-Ac schedule.
After defeating Westtown in their season opener, Baldwin’s youth showed against Friends’ Central. The Phoenix jumped out to an early lead before having to fend off the feisty Polar Bears.
“The Friends’ Central game taught us a lot about what we are capable of,” said Furey following the Sacred Heart contest. “It gave us the confidence that a young team needs.”
Hoping that game would serve as a lesson, Furey was eager to see how her team would bounce back. The following day, Baldwin defeated Germantown Friends before suffering a tough loss against Hill School.
With Baldwin showing continued glimpses of growth, Furey was eager to see her team against Sacred Heart, who plays a similar style to her Polar Bear squad.
Gaining confidence with each game played, the Polar Bears jumped out to early lead on the Lions, thanks to the play of freshman point guard Amaris Baker, who likes to set the pace. With junior Simi Bleznak and freshmen Anajah Brown and Taylor Levinson controlling the boards, the Polar Bears clawed their way to a 20-13 halftime lead.
“Pressure is how we learn from each other,” said Baker. “Whatever pressure our opponent gives us we have to give right back.”
Following the halftime break, Baldwin’s youth started to show, as they were unable to score for the first six minutes of the third quarter. Despite their offensive struggles, Baldwin was able to hold Sacred Heart to only seven points.
With the game knotted at 20-20, Baldwin regained its scoring touch as Baker scored twice and Levinson once to give Baldwin a 26-20 lead after three. Baldwin’s defense came up big in the final stanza to help the Polar Bears register a key early-season win.
“The first week taught us a lot,” said Bleznak, a co-captain. “As Amaris mentioned, it allows us to see our strengths and weaknesses and build up as a team. I want to pass on the message just put in the energy and the work and if you do that in practice you will do that in games.”
“Towards the end of last season, we managed to hang with good teams (Notre Dame, EA) but couldn’t finish the game,” said Furey. “Today, Sacred Heart kept on coming back, especially in the third quarter when we didn’t make a shot for about six minutes, but we managed to finish the game strong.”
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