Episcopal can’t find a way in loss to GA

NEWTOWN SQUARE — There was no one reason why Episcopal Academy failed to clinch the Inter-Ac League title Saturday afternoon in a winner-take-all showdown with Germantown Academy.

Senior guard Meghan Pickell took it to heart the most, but to say that any one individual was solely responsible just wouldn’t be fair.

The truth is EA had plenty of opportunities to seal its third consecutive league title. Germantown Academy clearly isn’t far and away the better team — the Patriots just made one more shot at the end and pulled away with a thrilling, 44-43 overtime victory

Kendall Grasela made the second of two free throws with 1.5 seconds to go in OT. How Grasela got to the line is another story.

With the score knotted at 43, the host Churchwomen had the chance to hold for the final shot. Pickell hustled for a rebound that Grasela gathered. Pickell was whistled for grabbing the arm of Grasela, a controversial call considering the circumstances.

“Honestly, it happened too fast,’ said Pickell, who had nine points. “I can’t remember.’

Grasela was in the starting lineup, but managed only two points on 1-of-5 shooting until that point. She bricked the first foul shot attempt then calmly swished the second. Dylan Higgins inbounded the ball, but EA didn’t have a chance at a desperation heave before the final buzzer.

“It just didn’t fall our way today,’ Pickell said. “In PAISAAs (Pennsylvania Independent Schools Athletic Association tournament) we just have to come back and play the way we’ve been playing all season, play hard and energized. That’s kind of what we do.’

While EA and GA could meet again for the third time (they split their regular-season meetings), the Churchwomen were attempting to win their third straight Inter-Ac title. The independent tournament has only been around since 2009, and quite frankly, doesn’t have the same glow as the Inter-Ac title.

“It’s a totally different game. We’ve been rivals since day 1,’ Pickell said, commenting on the GA-EA rivalry. “Coming out here we know what we have to do, we know we have to play tough and we know we have to play smart and get the job done. To beat GA is an amazing feeling. And even a loss, we know we can say that we played hard the whole time.’

For Episcopal (15-6, 8-2) to earn a share of the Inter-Ac crown, it has to take care of business against Agnes Irwin Tuesday and hope that Notre Dame can knock off GA.

“We know we still have a mathematical chance at the title. We have to hope something happens on the other end,’ EA coach Chuck Simmonds said. “We had our shot today, it was a good game. We would have liked to see it go into double overtime, but it was what it was. The independent tournament does give you a second life, but the league title is really what they wanted. They (his players) climbed back into it this season and I’m proud of them. We lost early to Penn Charter and we climbed back to get ourselves in the spot. I think if we play them 10 times, we’ll probably go 5-5 against them. They have players who can make plays as well.’

One of those players is Olivia Gorman, who exploded in the second half and overtime. The 5-6 senior guard scored all of her game-high 19 points after halftime and made four 3-pointers.

“When you game-plan against them, she’s your main focus,’ Simmonds said. “She also has a mentality that she wants to score.’

Gorman nearly won GA the game as time expired in the fourth quarter, but here one-handed runner rimmed in and out.

In the extra session Gorman and Pickell both made a pair of free throws. Gorman then uncharacteristically missed two foul shots and gave EA the ball with 21.3 seconds left. After a jump ball gave GA possession, junior point guard Margaux Paolino came up with a steal and was fouled immediately. Paolino couldn’t convert her freebies, either, which set the stage for Grasela’s chance at the other end.

Paolino scored just three points, but had a tremendous floor game. An All-American and All-Delco field hockey player, Paolino had three steals, two assists and one rebound.

“She does a ton for us,’ Simmonds said. “We’re a totally different team without Margaux. The steal at the end that she got fouled on was all her. She recognizes those plays … and she has a motor that never stops going.’

From an offensive standpoint, the game was an exercise in futility in the first half. EA and GA combined for 30 points on 13-of-52 shooting, but in the second half, the level of play went up.

Maria Kilcullen stepped up for EA. The senior guard, bound for Loyola, finished with 13 points and hit a pair of big 3-balls in the fourth quarter to keep the Churchwomen alive. Sophomore forward Elodie Furey added six points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots.

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