Balzer’s hot shooting pushes GA past Episcopal

FORT WASHINGTON >> Just four seconds into Tuesday’s Inter-Ac clash with rival Episcopal Academy, Germantown Academy’s Lilly Bolen — charging hard to the basket — went down to the floor in pain, lost for the game with a knee injury.

“It was heartbreaking. Lilly’s one of the core players of our team,” sophomore Rachel Balzer said. “She’s a senior leader. It was a big loss for our team.

“But I’m hopeful she’ll get back and we’ll just continue to play for her. We came out, played for her and won for her.”

Bolen returned to the bench in the third quarter on crutches, watching her teammates go on to an inspired 52-42 victory over Episcopal, which had taken the first regular-season match-up between the two earlier this year (56-49).

“Our underclassmen were a lot more experienced this time around,” Patriots coach Sherri Retif said of her team, which has a freshman, sophomore and junior included in its starting five. “You could see their patience. They didn’t make the turnovers. They were just in full control.”

Germantown Academy’s Jaye Haynes takes off down court on a fast break against Episcopal Academy during their game on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

The Patriots (13-8 overall, 6-1 Inter-Ac) used a 13-0 run to build a 20-10 lead midway through the second quarter. Balzer hit back-to-back threes and GA had something going, up 30-15 at the half.

“I shot before the game for a while and I wasn’t hitting them. I was just hoping I’d hit them in the game,” Balzer said smiling, “and then I hit them. I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. They got me open with the screens and it was just a nice team win.”

Balzer nailed down five 3-pointers as part of a team-high 25-point effort. GA maintained a 14-point lead heading in the fourth and then held off the Churchwomen in the final eight minutes, despite the relentless inside play of Elodie Furey, who had the game-high with 29 points.

A three by Episcopal’s Luca Mamula brought Episcopal within 46-39 with two minutes to play, but that’s as close as the visitors would get, a pair of free throws by Jaye Haynes (11 pts) later extending the margin to 51-40.

“It was a huge win,” Balzer said. “I think the practice yesterday — the intensity, the energy was all there. I think before the game, Alexa and I, we were just pumped and ready to get it. We showed teamwork and we were all in it together.”

Germantown Academy’s Maddie Vizza makes her way past Episcopal Academy’s Reilly Wright during their game on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)

GA will wait to see the severity of Bolen’s injury, hoping it is not a season-ending one. Things got off to an ominous start for the Patriots on Tuesday but they battled through for a key league victory.

“They had Lilly’s back,” Retif said. “Alexa (Naessens) just tapped me on the back and said ‘coach, we got this.’”

GA will take on Archbishop Wood Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at Harriton High as part of the Blue Chip Showcase and Episcopal takes on Central Bucks South on Sunday.

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