WHITEMARSH >> Cat Polisano absolutely knew her team could do it.
Maddie Vizza and Elle Stauffer didn’t quite have the same confidence at first, but halfway through the Inter-Ac season with their Germantown Academy girls basketball team still unbeaten, they saw what Polisano saw. GA captured its 17th Inter-Ac title last week, but still had a chance to finish the league undefeated for the first time in more than 10 years Tuesday.
The Patriots started slow, but turned it on and rallied to a 52-30 over visiting Episcopal Academy to finish 12-0 in the Inter-Ac.
“With this team, I definitely thought we could it,” Polisano, a senior co-captain, said. “I had really high hopes for this team, it was a goal that we had and I’m very happy we accomplished it.”
GA (24-4) also honored the architect behind the team’s success in the league with the announcement of coach Sherri Retif’s second All-Decade team. Polisano and Alexa Naessens, the only seniors on this year’s roster, were among the players selected.
Episcopal (11-11, 6-5) had a solid strategy and early in the game, looked like it wanted the win more. The Churchwomen were certainly looking to spoil GA’s accomplishment and they were more than happy to take advantage of the Patriots’ lax passing and bury the open looks GA was giving them.
After Polisano scored the game’s first points, the Churchwomen led the rest of the quarter and were up 17-10 after eight minutes.
“Once we start getting going and get all of our players going, we’re hard to stop,” Stauffer said. “It’s hard to play defense on us once we’re all going.”
Getting going meant ramping up the effort on defense and the glass. Throughout the second half of Inter-Ac play, the Patriots have seen most of their opponents try to slow the game down to keep GA’s athletes from thriving in transition.
The Churchwomen actually built a 17-6 lead late in the first before GA started to turn it on, getting a couple of steals and turning them into layups to hack the lead down to seven.
“We score really well out of transition so once we got rebounds and pushed the ball up the floor, we started to make a run,” Vizza said.
— Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3) February 14, 2018
One thing this GA team has proven through the season is that it is deep and it can handle whatever scenario a given game presents. With Naessens sidelined with an injury on Tuesday, it meant the Patriots had to spread the floor.
Retif opted to play Vizza and Polisano, both point guards, alongside each other in the backcourt. Cara Harty buried a three to put EA up 20-10 early in the second, then GA’s two point guard lineup took over.
Vizza buried a trey off a Polisano assist, Polisano fed Stauffer for a layup and the senior got fouled on a three, hitting two freebies to make it a three-point game. The defense also locked down too, with Vizza and Polisano poking away three combined steals as GA held EA to just five points in the frame.
“When an opposing team tries to guard us, there’s so many different options we just have to be good at reading and reacting,” Polisano said. “For this game, we needed two point guards on the floor. Maddie and I have always been good at communicating but we usually aren’t on the court at the same time. It worked well for us today and she did a really good job.”
Vizza finished with five points and two assists while Polisano chalked up seven points and three helpers.
“Cat’s an amazing ballhandler, she can penetrate and kick the ball out and we have great shooters on the team,” Vizza said. “We just seem to work really well together when we’re out on the court.”
They also started to open things up for Stauffer, the energizer sophomore forward who led GA with 16 points, seven rebounds, four steals and a block. On top of that, Stauffer had a couple great dishes of her own, twice finding Maddie Burns for layups at the end of a 6-0 run to close the second quarter to put GA up 23-22 going into the break.
After a rugged start, the Patriots felt good going into the break, but knew they had to keep attacking after halftime.
“Having two point guards in, I’m playing the four or five and it’s very helpful because they’re amazing guards who look up the floor and are able to create,” Stauffer said. “Playing like we know we can play and how we have played in our other games and wanting that 12-0 record in the Inter-Ac pushed us.”
Stauffer had six points in the third quarter as she attacked the basket over and over. Becca Booth also played well for GA as a post presence, recording 10 points and five rebounds. After conceding the 17 first quarter points, the Patriots gave up a combined 13 points the rest of the way.
Polisano’s vision came to fruition, even if some of her younger teammates needed a few games to see the same things she did.
“We had high expectations, we grew so much and progressed so much as a team and finished it out strong,” Vizza said.
“We graduated some really good players but once we figured out how strong our bench is and that we could play through our bench, we saw what we could be,” Stauffer added.
GIRLS BASKETBALL: @GAPatriots Cat Polisano cuts and scores off @stauffer32 pass to start Q3 against Episcopal Academy.
Polisano scored seven points before being named to GA’s All-Decade team after the game pic.twitter.com/5fbOLQJ1Od
— Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3) February 14, 2018
Polisano attributed the program’s success the last 20 years to the coaching staff’s ability to read the players well. There’s dialogue between the captains, Retif and the assistants and Polisano added the whole staff has a good makeup that allows players to be comfortable.
After missing her junior year with a knee injury, Polisano has put in a solid senior year and will go into the record books for a Top-10 single-season assists performance.
“It’s a really big accomplishment for me,” Polisano said. “I came into the year thinking get a little bit better every day with my knee and to be able to have gotten on the assist board and the All-Decade team, I’m very pleased.”
GERMANTOWN ACADEMY 52, EPISCOPAL ACADEMY 30
EPISCOPAL ACADEMY 17 5 5 3 – 30
GERMANTOWN ACADEMY 10 13 17 12 – 52
Episcopal Academy: Mamula 2 0-0 4, Dirks 2 1-2 6, Weaver 2 3-4 7, Keffer-Scharpf 1 0-0 2, Harty 3 0-0 9, Bush 1 0-0 2. Totals: 11 4-6 30.
Germantown Academy: Elle Stauffer 6 4-6 16, Cat Polisano 2 3-5 7, Maddie Burns 2 0-0 4, Jaye Haynes 1 1-2 3, Rachel Balzer 1 0-0 3, Maddie Vizza 2 0-0 5, Becca Booth 5 0-0 10, Caitlyn Priore 1 0-0 2, Sarah DiLello 1 0-0 2. Totals: 21 8-13 52.
3-pointers: GA – Vizza, Balzer; EA – Harty 3, Dirks.