UPPER DUBLIN >> All it takes is one shot.
That’s all Rachel Balzer needs to get into a zone shooting a basketball. It’s a nice trait for any player to have, but especially one with the anywhere in the gym range the Germantown Academy senior guard possesses.
Balzer came out shooting, and hitting, and it was more than enough to propel the Patriots to an 69-25 win over North Penn in the first game of Upper Dublin’s Cardinal Classic on Friday night.
“I wasn’t shooting well in warm-ups, so it was reliving to see that first one go in,” Balzer said. “I felt my whole momentum go a different way and it helped me get the team going.”
Balzer, a George Mason recruit, just missed out on a perfect night but still posted 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting with a spotless 6-of-6 mark from behind the 3-point line. Even with a North Penn player face-guarding her from the opening inbound of the second quarter, the senior was still able to impact the game for a well-balanced GA side.
The Patriots (9-0, 1-0 Inter-Ac) knocked down 26-of-44 shots as a team, 11 of them from behind the arc and did it as a group, assisting on 19 of those makes. Point guard Maddie Vizza, who led GA with five assists, called the shooting display a by-product of the team simply playing to its strengths.
“Pushing the ball in transition, everyone on the team gets out really quick so we’re able to get a ton of points in transition that way,” Vizza said. “I think our offense plays into it too, we set really good screens and know where the passes can go. We finished really well tonight.”
Balzer certainly tested herself on her first shot of the game. The senior caught a pass from Jaye Haynes deep on the right wing, rose and fired and hit nothing but cotton as she blossomed out the net for a 5-0 lead. She connected on another trey from Haynes with 3:41 left, giving GA a 10-0 lead, then scored the last 11 points of the quarter for the Patriots as they took a 21-2 lead after eight minutes.
She only took one shot inside the arc, a tough leaning pull-up jumper in the lane, but like her five 3-pointers in the frame, it splashed right through.
GIRLS BASKETBALL: @GAPatriots @rachelbalzer_24 starts her night from way downtown Q1 against North Penn
Balzer scored 20 points and shot 6-of-6 from 3-point range pic.twitter.com/Qp4oq3f34x
— Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3) December 29, 2018
North Penn (3-3, 1-1 SOL Continental) put a defender in Balzer’s face the rest of the game any time she came in. While she only got one shot in the second quarter, coming off a broken play, Balzer still drained it anyway.
“Even if I’m not scoring, we have so many scorers on this team that I was doing what I could to get them open,” Balzer said. “If they guard one of us, the next one is going to go off. It’s very hard to guard all five of us.”
Balzer thrives by coming off screens and was quick to note that her team has greatly improved in setting them since the season started.
“We practice them a lot, the key to a good screen is waiting,” Vizza said.
“We’re really good using the angles,” Balzer added. “The player we’re setting the screens for, we know where they want to go, which means we know what angle to set it at.”
North Penn didn’t have much go its way in terms of getting shots to drop, but the Knights were still able to fight on the glass, pulling down 10 offensive rebounds. Val McGriff led the Knights with 10 points and four offensive boards.
GA also showed off the depth the starters on the team usually mention when discussing their strengths. By the end of the first quarter, 10 different GA players had gotten on the court and 13 got time by the end of the game.
“They bring so much intensity and they hustle,” Vizza said of the reserves. “Everyone on the team is making each other better and I think that’s a really big factor in how we’ve been playing.”
Balzer hit her sixth and final three in the third quarter, but with North Penn still focused on her, she was happy to give way to her teammates. Elle Stauffer, who had a foul-plagued first half, scored eight of her 10 in the third while Haynes notched nine of her 11 points in the second half.
GIRLS BASKETBALL: @GAPatriots scramble off a loose ball ends with @maddie_vizza finding @rachelbalzer_24 for three Q2 against North Penn pic.twitter.com/YTCjcFj9JA
— Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3) December 29, 2018
Her bid for a perfect night ended in the fourth quarter, when the guard came up a bit short on a baseline runner.
“I kind of just chucked it up, it was a little bit of a foul if you asked me,” Balzer said with a laugh.
GA plays for the tournament title against Upper Dublin Saturday afternoon at 2:30 while North Penn tries to end the 2018 portion of its schedule with a win in the consolation game against Springside Chestnut Hill at 1 p.m.
“We’ve started the season 9-0, it’s a really big accomplishment and we’re just hoping to keep it rolling,” Balzer said.
GERMANTOWN ACADEMY 21 14 24 10 – 69
NORTH PENN 2 6 12 5 – 25
GA: Rachel Balzer 7 0-0 20, Elle Stauffer 5 0-0 10, Maddie Vizza 1 3-4 6, Jaye Haynes 5 0-0 11, Becca Booth 2 2-2 6, Maddie Burns 2 1-4 5, Lindsay Putnam 2 0-0 6, Jess Moore 2 0-0 5. Nonscoring: Sarah DiLello, Charlotte DiLello, Lilly Funk, Bri O’Hara. Totals: 26 6-10 69.
NP: Cayla Sharkey 1 2-4 4, Alli Lindsay 1 0-0 2, Alaian Mulally 1 0-0 3, Carley Adams 0 1-2 1, Val McGriff 5 0-1 10, Laynie Doran 0 2-2 2, Imani Plaza 1 1-2 3. Totals: 9 6-11 25.
3-pointers: GA – Balzer 6, Putnam 2, Vizza, Haynes, Moore; NP – Mulally.