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Shorthanded Germantown Academy relies on depth to top Penn Charter

Germantown Academy's Elle Stauffer goes up for a shot against Penn Charter during their game on Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

WHITEMARSH >> Germantown Academy girls basketball coach Sherri Retif wasn’t quite sure how her team was going to start Wednesday’s game with Penn Charter.

After playing four straight games in Arizona at Nike’s Tournament of Champions two weeks ago, the GA staff had given the players seven days off. They’d gotten a little practice in, but were also down a starter and a key rotation played with the Quakers visiting.

Any fears were quickly erased as the Patriots used their depth, defense and chemistry to take down Penn Charter 55-31 in their Inter-Ac opener.

“We can usually go three to four practices without ever having the starters together because there’s so much talent and depth and I always like to challenge them,” Retif said. “I was confident Caitlyn (Priore) could step in and she did. We always say we have six, but today we proved we have seven starters on this team.”

Germantown Academy’s Jaye Haynes turns for the basket past Penn Charter’s Kait Carter during their game on Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

GA (10-3, 1-0 league) scored the first nine points of the game with the team’s platoon of super sophomores doing a lot of the heavy lifting on both ends of the floor. Jaye Haynes continued her strong start to the season with 16 points to pace the Patriots, who played just two upperclassmen in the game.

Senior forward Alexa Naessens (illness) and sophomore point guard Maddie Vizza (injury) did not play on Wednesday, but Retif was confident Naessens, a Colgate recruit, would be back soon. With games against Episcopal Academy on Friday and Sanford (Del.) on Sunday, it would certainly help GA.

Wednesday however, it was Naessens’ understudies who picked up the slack. Sophomore Elle Stauffer posted an extremely efficient line, going 5-of-5 from the floor for 10 points and adding 11 rebounds with five assists.

“We did a good job of diving into the lane and used our teammates to get wide-open passes,” Stauffer said. “It’s a huge boost because we have bench players we know that can play and we can count on them to do anything we need in the games.”

Priore, another sophomore, made her first varsity start and shot 3-of-3 from the field for six points and four rebounds while freshman Becca Booth made her only shot while playing supporting minutes with Priore and Stauffer. Senior Cat Polisano scored eight points with four assists and junior Rachel Balzer had seven points and three steals.

Germantown Academy’s Cat Polisano shoots over Penn Charter’s Laila Hamiter during their game on Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

Stauffer, a 5-foot-11 forward, was looking to build off the Arizona trip, where GA went 2-2 against some top-tier competition from across the country.

“We were really excited to get back on the floor, especially after coming off two losses and this being our first league game,” Stauffer said. “We worked well as a team and we’ve really built good team chemistry.”

GA led 14-5 after the opening quarter and 33-10 at the half with its defense doing its job for the most part. The Patriots held Penn Charter (5-8, 0-2) to just two made field goals in the first half, but some of their rust showed defensively where they were called for a lot of fouls and gave the Quakers 15 free throw attempts.

Stauffer, who was only slowed by the foul trouble she found herself in, said a lot of the fouls could be prevented with sharper communication and teamwork defensively. A terrific athlete, Stauffer got some invaluable experience defending some much larger players in the desert and let it build her confidence.

“She’s been playing exceptionally well, on the press break, just getting to the rim and making good decisions for herself and pretty much just dominating the boards,” Retif said. “Elle is comfortable playing the four now despite her smaller frame after going up against some 6-4, 6-5 players out in Arizona. It extended her level of confidence. We joke about how high she gets up and how aggressive she is for her size and she’s just got a great demeanor and a beautiful attitude.”

Germantown Academy’s Elle Stauffer turns for the basket past Penn Charter defenders during their game on Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

Haynes, who leads the team in steals, only missed three of her nine shots in a calm, controlled offensive game. Retif also cited the sophomore’s strong defense and her knack for finding herself in the right place while also being open to coaching.

For a team with just three upperclassmen, GA often doesn’t play like it and they’re again looking to contend for an Inter-Ac title.

“They’re passing the ball well, they look to get the ball to the open person,” Retif said. “They want to share the ball and have great chemistry.”

GERMANTOWN ACADEMY 55, PENN CHARTER 31
PENN CHARTER 5 5 8 13 – 31
GERMANTOWN ACADEMY 14 19 11 11 – 55
PC: Kait Carter 2 5-11 9, Emma Maley 1 0-0 3, Carmen Williams 3 1-4 7, Hayley Hunt 1 1-2 4, Kaitlyn Hnatkowsky 1 0-0 2, Liz McLaughlin 2 0-0 6, Kaitlynn Haughey 0 0-3 0. Totals: 10 7-20 31.
GA: Jaye Hanes 6 3-4 16, Elle Stauffer 5 0-0 10, Cat Polisano 3 2-2 8, Caitlyn Priore 3 0-1 6, Rachel Balzer 3 0-0 7, Lindsay Putnam 2 0-0 6, Becca Booth 1 0-0 2, Jessica Moore 0 0-2 0.  Nonscoring: Maddie Burns, Sarah Diello. Totals: 23 5-9 55.

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