FORT WASHINGTON >> It was exactly the way the Germantown Academy’s boys basketball team seniors wanted to close out their home careers.
It was a final meeting with arch-rival Penn Charter for the right to go to the PAISAA semifinals. As expected, PC gave all it had and had GA on its heels at times in the first half.
Then, GA’s two big guns in Kyle McCloskey and Evan-Eric Longino got going and the rest of the Patriots stepped up big time. A strong second quarter finish led to a big third and GA was able to open up a lead and take a 68-46 victory.
“We hit a couple shots, kind of caught them on their heels and took advantage of that and never let up,” McCloskey said. “We were down and came all the way back to go up and we felt momentum shift to us. That happened two games ago, our last game against them and every time, you can feel it and sense it.”
GA coach Jim Fenerty had a feeling Penn Charter was going to be his second round opponent last week, noting that while PC was the lower seed, the Inter-Ac was so tough this year it didn’t mean much. It also meant the Patriots, despite two wins over the Quakers this season, Monday’s match-up wasn’t a given outcome.
Of course, that’s a given when PC and GA meet in any sport. It’s a sure bet the records go out the window and the Patriot players knew the Quakers were going to come out aggressive.
“It’s always a good game when we play PC because they’re our biggest rival and we’re trained to go hard against Penn Charter and vice-versa,” GA senior Josh Brownstein said. “The last game against them, they really came out firing and we kind of expected it and didn’t want it to be a trap game.”
PC took a quick 6-1 lead to start the game on a pair of 3-point shots which the Patriots countered with a 7-0 spurt. The Quakers had a balanced attack with Mason Williams providing the bulk of the first quarter offense, which ended in a 15-15 deadlock. Dylan Burnett took up the mantle in the second as PC continued to give GA had some issues, especially from point guard Adam Holland.
Holland’s quickness and toughness allowed the guard to get into the lane plenty of times, regardless of who was guarding him. The point guard scored 11 points but also chipped in two rebounds, a steal and three assists. GA thrives in transition, especially with Longino and McCloskey but that all starts with their defense.
Holland wasn’t the only PC player giving GA trouble and the Patriots needed to tighten up on that end. Knowing he was going to need all five of his seniors to play a big role, Fenerty pulled Brownstein out of the game in the first quarter after the forward wasn’t matching PC’s Neeko Hnatkowsky’s energy.
“I felt like Josh was playing a little too tentative (in the first quarter) and the best motivator is the bench,” Fenerty said. “He sat for a couple minutes, looked at me and I said I need you to play aggressive defense. He sat about 30 more seconds then said, ‘I’m ready.’”
Penn Charter opened the second on a 6-2 run, with all its points coming from Burnett. Fenerty called a timeout with his side down 21-17 and the stoppage would prove just what GA needed.
Out of the timeout, Cole Storm found McCloskey for a 3-pointer, the first of the senior’s three treys in the frame, then after a Ryan Holmes hoop for PC, Brownstein scored five straight, including a pivotal shot with 3:08 left in the quarter.
McCloskey drove, sucking in four Quaker defenders and kicked out to Brownstein. The forward’s trey was on the mark, putting GA up 25-23.
“We work on that all the time in practice,” Brownstein said. “Evan and Kyle always play really well and score a lot of points, so it creates opportunities for us other guys to step up and make big plays.
McCloskey then broke a 25-25 tie with a 3-pointer of his own with 2:22 left in the half and the Patriots wouldn’t trail again. McCloskey scored nine points in the second with Longino adding five of his own. The two seniors combined for 46 points, with Longino scoring 21 and McCloskey pouring in 23 for the Patriots.
“They both play like men possessed, but we have other guys out there,” Fenerty said. “Josh Brownstein was huge tonight. Andrew Towne played excellent defense on Holmes, who is a talented scorer and Cole Storm runs the show for us and makes a couple big shots. Brian Basile comes off the bench and gives us good minutes.”
GA had a big third quarter, outscoring Penn Charter 17-5 with at least one basket coming from five different players. Storm and Towne each drilled a big 3-pointer, with Towne’s corner make putting the Patriots up 51-34 as part of a 7-0 run to close the frame. Longino capped the frame with a buzzer-beater, putting an exclamation point on the Patriots two-quarter surge.
“That was big, it was an energy builder going into the fourth quarter,” Longino said.
The fourth quarter had a couple chaotic minutes with a lot of fouls called before the game settled down with PC having sliced five-points off the lead. A three-point play by McCloskey with 3:48 left helped restore order and the senior put a cap on the game with a one-handed dunk with 3:03 remaining.
After a hoop with 2:10 left, Fenerty pulled his five seniors together, giving them one last ovation on their home floor. The Patriots lost quite a few talent players the last two seasons and plenty of people outside the program weren’t sure what GA was going to do this season.
An old acquaintance of Fenerty’s was talking with the longtime coach prior to the game and said he felt GA had overachieved this season. The coach didn’t quite agree.
“In all honesty, I didn’t see it that way, I knew the character of the seniors we have,” Fenerty said. “They never stopped working and never stopped saying ‘we’re not supposed to be good this year, so let’s go out and do it.’ I’m just real happy for them, they’ve risen to every challenge.”
GA’s next challenge is undoubtedly the most imposing it will face all season. Monday’s win sent the Patriots into a semifinal meeting with No. 1 seed Westtown School and its collection of blue-chip college prospects.
The Moose are headlined by senior center Mo Bamba, the top unsigned recruit in the country that many pundits are already pegging as a 2018 NBA Draft pick. He’s far from the only one. Westtown also boasts junior Cam Reddish, a top-five prospect in the class of 2018, Stony Brook recruit Anthony Ochefu, Arizona commit Brandon Randolph and high-level prospect Jake Forrester, among others.
GA and Westtown were both in a showcase out in Harrisburg in late January against different opponents and the Patriots got a look at what they’ll be facing.
“They played right after us, so our guys saw the first half and then went out and got autographs from their players,” Fenerty deadpanned. “We’re just going to show up and try to compete. A couple of people have said the prize is you get to show up and lose by 40 to Westtown. We don’t plan to lose by 40, we’re going to compete.
“It’s my job to come up with a game plan. I’m going to call Brett Brown and see what I can get.”
The GA players recognize the magnitude of the challenge, but they know at this point, it’s house money and they want to measure up against the best.
“Absolutely, you should look forward to playing against people who get all the news and all the rankings, the McDonald’s All-Americans and things like that,” McCloskey said. “It’s a great opportunity to leave it all out on the floor. To shock the world is our goal, nobody’s betting against them so we’re going to do everything we can this week in practice and on Friday to try and pull off that upset. It’s something you look forward to.”
McCloskey said the pressure is on Westtown to win a game it should on paper and that just helps GA.
“I think we don’t want to think about what they are, we just have to treat this as another game,” Longino said. “We have nothing to lose. We just have to go out giving it all we’ve got. We just have to be confident and don’t back down.”
Germantown Academy 68, Penn Charter 46
Penn Charter 15 14 5 12 – 46
Germantown Academy 15 22 17 14 – 68
Penn Charter: Mason Williams 5 1-2 12, Adam Holland 4 3-5 11, Dylan Burnett 3 2-2 8, Dylan Maloney 2 0-0 6, Nekko Hnatkowsky 1 0-0 3, Ryan Holmes 2 0-0 4, Justus Sanders 1 0-0 2. Totals: 18 6-9 46.
Germantown Academy: Kyle McCloskey 9 2-4 23, Evan-Eric Longino 7 6-7 21, Josh Brownstein 6 1-3 15, Cole Storm 1 0-0 3, Andrew Towne 1 0-0 3, Brian Basile 0 2-2 2, Zach Anderson 0 1-2 1. Totals: 24 12-18 68.
3-pointers: PC – Maloney 2, Williams, Hnatkowksy; GA – McCloskey 3, Brownstein 2 Storm, Towne, Longino.