Germantown Academy loosens up, defense leads way past Episcopal Academy

WHITEMARSH >> It was only natural that Germantown Academy’s girls basketball team came out a bit tight against Episcopal Academy Tuesday night.

After all, the teams were first and second in the Inter-Ac standings, and GA edged the Churchwomen by just a point in last year’s Inter-Ac final. Once the Patriots settled down and started talking it out though, things started going in their favor.

A key run at the end of the first half spurred GA to a 44-25 win.

Bob Raines--Montgomery Media Germantown Academy's Abby Starzecky shoots over  Episcopal Academy's Katie Weaver Dec. 15, 2015.
Germantown Academy’s Abby Starzecky shoots over Episcopal Academy’s Katie Weaver during their game on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. (Bob Raines/Montgomery Media)

“Our defense is the key to what’s helping us this year,” GA guard Cat Polisano said. “Our teamwork helped us to beat them. Last year we only beat them by one in the Inter-Ac, so I was a little surprised.”

Polisano headlined the defensive effort with seven steals to go with 10 points. Erin Lindahl led GA with 11 while also picking up two steals. Senior guard Kendall Grasela put in nine points, pulled down 10 rebounds and had three steals of her own.

With EA looking for the 3-pointer, GA’s backcourt was able to jump a good number of passes, stealing 16 balls as a team. Polisano contributed it to defensive communication, something that wasn’t there at the very start of the game.

“It helps that we have a lot of chemistry with each other,” Polisano said. “The communication and energy really helps.”

It wasn’t an offensive showcase, as both teams struggled to score for much of the first half. The Patriots led just 16-15 with 1:48 left in the second quarter after EA split a pair of foul shots. GA was about to close the half out on a flurry.

Lindahl hit Lilly Bolen with a great pass for a layup, then Polisano sank two foul shots for a 20-15 lead with 15.1 seconds left. EA’s ensuing inbound pass was intercepted by GA reserve Maeve Connor, who put it right up for a layup and a big boost of energy.

“It was awesome,” Polisano said.

Taking a seven-point edge into the second half seemed to help GA get going. While the Patriots didn’t score a ton of points in the second half, matching their first half total, the defense ramped up a few levels.

Bob Raines--Montgomery Media Germantown Academy's Lilly Bolen puts up a shot past Episcopal Academy's Lily Kuntz Dec. 15, 2015.
Germantown Academy’s Lilly Bolen puts up a shot past Episcopal Academy’s Lily Kuntz during their game on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. (Bob Raines/Montgomery Media)

“In the first half, we were tight,” GA coach Sherri Retif said. “We’re playing the second-best team in the Inter-Ac from last year, so we were a little tight, we had too many turnovers.”

Retif said a key adjustment was denying EA shots in the paint. Episcopal forward Elodie Furey had her touches limited while the Churchwomen could only swing the ball around the perimeter looking for jumpers.

GA’s rebounding was also much better after the break. Grasela had eight rebounds in the second half, boxing out very well and attacking the ball in the air instead of waiting for it to come down to her. Polisano also had four steals after the break as the guards led the way on the defensive end.

“Cat, Erin and Kendall complement each other so well on defense,” Retif said. “All three of them are averaging about four steals per game each. They work as a tandem out there, they bring that intensity every day at practice.”

Polisano also scored half her points in the second half, hitting a layup off a sharp Lauen Oeth pass in the third quarter and draining a corner 3 midway through the fourth quarter to all but put the game out of reach at 39-21.
“Cat had a big game defensively and she hit that big 3 for us,” Retif said. “She had some beautiful passes in transition as well.”
Retif thought that once her team started to relax, it started to play better. GA’s offense did stall out at times with the Patriots settling for outside jumpers.
“When we’re taking outside shots, we’re just taking the first shot,” Polisano said. “That’s not what we need.”

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