Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3)
FORT WASHINGTON — Even though she had no chance of playing a second for Germantown Academy last year, Gabby Bowes just wouldn't stay away.
It wasn't from lack of ability or effort, it was more the fact GA doesn't allow its eighth graders to play up, so Bowes took her time waiting in stride, offering to be a team manager, showing up to every practice and keeping a constant presence in the gym. Now a freshman, Bowes not only gets to put on the team's uniform, she finally gets to play and has been working her way toward being a constant presence on the court.
Bowes had her breakout game Friday, scoring 26 points off the bench as the Patriots knocked off arch-rival Penn Charter 60-54 while handing the Quakers their first loss in Inter-Ac play.
Gabby Bowes (above) had a breakout game, leading all scorers with 26 points. (Photo: Andrew Robinson/CoBL)
"I've never beaten PC before," Bowes said. "It's my first PC win and obviously, that's huge here. I just trusted my teammates and wanted to come out to help them win this game. Even at the end, I knew we had this."
Veteran GA coach Sherri Retif could only laugh when it was mentioned how young her team still is even though a majority of her players were starters and big-minute rotation factors in last year's extremely abbreviated season. That inexperience showed in the first meeting, a 10-point PC win to open Inter-Ac play, and again Friday where the Patriots somehow survived 23 turnovers to close out the win.
Junior Kendall Bennett is GA's most experienced player in terms of games played, but she and sophomore Jess Aponik both fouled out in the fourth quarter, leaving it up to the newbies to finish it off. Bowes wasn't the only freshman impact player for the Patriots either, with classmate Jessica Kolecki getting the start at point guard and Ceejay Thomas playing plenty off the bench in reserve of Bennett, who was saddled with foul issues most of the game.
Bowes didn't start, but the 5-foot-10 freshman barely left the court after she first subbed in a few possessions into the first quarter. She was instant offense, hitting her first three shots for seven points in the opening quarter as Germantown Academy built a 12-8 advantage.
In big moments, the ball just kept finding its way to Bowes. For someone who'd only scored about 30 total points on the season, the freshman just kept delivering when it did.
"You wouldn't know she's a freshman watching her, she's already an incredible leader," Retif said. "There was no middle school season last year and even though our eighth graders don't play up, she came to every practice and asked if she could be the manager just so she could study everything we did.
"She brings that every day in practice, but we hadn't really seen it translate in a game until our last game. It did a little bit where she had nine points and we just said to her, 'it's going to come.'"
Bowes was in double figures a minute into the second quarter thanks to a traditional three-point play and she tacked on five more points by the end of the frame, a back-and-forth run that saw Penn Charter take a 31-28 lead to the break. It was generally a good night for freshman all around, with PC's talented ninth grader Kaylinn Bethea scoring 15 points and contributing greatly to GA's turnover issues with six steals.
After hitting her first four shots, Bowes missed three of her next four but it wasn't enough to stop the Patriots from giving her the second half start. Despite frequent pleas from the Penn Charter bench to stop leaving her, the freshman kept getting open looks and got right back to knocking them down in an eight-point quarter that helped GA regain the lead.
"Hitting my first shot definitely got my adrenaline running and I felt like I was on after that one and just said to myself, 'let's go,'" Bowes said. "I just kept up that high intensity.
"I told my teammates, 'don't force it to me.' Even if I'm hot, I want them to go take the shot if they're wide open too."
Luckily for Bowes, they listened. After Penn Charter cut the lead to 44-43 on a score by Bella Toomey, Aponik buried a three off a Kolecki assist to kick off a 10-0 run that was capped by Bowes drilling a 3-pointer of her own on her second shot of the possession after missing her initial look. The fact that Bennett, who came up with an offensive rebound and made the kick-out pass, would go back to Bowes after a miss told the freshman all she already knew about her teammates this year.
"That was huge. I trust Kendall so much and she trusts me, so it was a huge play being able to knock that down," Bowes said. "It was a big play for us to really get momentum going."
Bowes, who plays for the Philly Belles U15 national team, said Retif has constantly been telling her to trust herself and to keep pushing through, even on an off day.
"I really took that to heart and it's advice I'm always going to follow," Bowes said.
Penn Charter wasn't going out against their biggest rivals without some sort of rally and thanks to a superb game from Aleah Snead, the Quakers nearly stole the win back. Snead had 23 points, scoring seven in the final quarter as an outlet anytime Bethea or anyone else came up with a turnover.
After Isabella Casey, yet another sophomore in the GA lineup, scored on a reverse layup for a 56-45 lead with 2:13 left, the Patriots couldn't seem to keep hold of the ball for very long and PC started whittling away at the deficit. Casey, a reserve last year but now a starter, provided enough composure going 4-of-4 at the foul line in the final minute to give Germantown Academy enough of a cushion to see things out.
Friday's result also made the Inter-Ac race quite interesting going forward. Penn Charter, which defeated Notre Dame earlier this week, falls back into a tie with the Irish atop the table with one league loss each. GA, which is now 3-2 in the Inter-Ac, gets another chance at Notre Dame while the Irish and Quakers still have their second meeting.
"We just have to take that dog mentality and keep pushing," Bowes said. "We're not done yet. This is just the beginning for us."
Germantown Academy: 12 | 16 | 16 | 16 || 60
Penn Charter: 8 | 23 | 8 | 15 || 54
GA: Gabby Bowes 26, Isabella Casey 10, Jess Aponik 9, Ceejay Thomas 5, Kendall Benentt 4, Jenna Aponik 2, Jessica Kolecki 2, Sam Wade 2
PC: Aleah Snead 23, Kaylinn Bethea 15, Bella Toomey 8, Gracie Shoup 4, Maddie Shoup 2, Amani Rivers 2
Penn Charter boys eying Inter-Ac title
The Quakers feel like the Inter-Ac is theirs to lose this year.
If they wanted to get there, they first had to get a win on the road in front of a packed house in their biggest rival's gym. The best way to quiet an opposing crowd is to not let the home team score and that's just what PC did for the final 2:43 of the fourth quarter, leading to a 57-51 win.
After having their lead trimmed to three, the Quakers' defense locked down and only yielded a layup in the waning seconds with the outcome already decided to finish out the night.
"We've become a more disciplined team," PC junior forward Isaiah Grimes said. "I thought we couldn't win a game like that two years ago, but now, we can stay solid. We're not gambling and I think what we've been working on all summer and even having the COVID break this season, it only helped us with being more disciplined."
Grimes, who led Penn Charter with 12 points, was a catalyst on defense with his relentless play as the last man back any time a GA player went to the rim. While the Patriots were never out of the game, only facing a deficit as large as nine, it just seemed like everything they did get required more effort than usual to acquire.
On the perimeter, PC hounded whoever had the ball and the Quakers didn't give anyone much time to catch, let alone shoot. Then, the defense could collapse on any drive, leading to a lot of contested shots at the rim or tough midrange jumpers that didn't fall in at a high enough clip for the Patriots.
"We feel like this is our league to lose and we looked at this as a good statement game," Grimes said. "We had heard Malvern (Prep) lost, so that only reinforced that we needed to lock in and secure this win."
GA missed a 3-pointer that would have tied the game after cutting the lead to 52-49 and that was all the cue the Quakers needed to turn their defense up a level. Freshman Kai Shinholster had two huge blocks in the final two minutes, the second coming as a result of a contest by Grimes at the rim and every defensive board PC needed, it got.
"We just had to be us," Grimes said. "Nobody was trying to play hero ball, we just tried to stay within ourselves and we knew if we did that, we'd finish the job."
Penn Charter: 15 | 12 | 13 | 17 || 57
Germantown Academy: 14 | 10 | 11 | 16 || 51
PC: Isaiah Grimes 12, Keith Gee 11, Trey Shinholster 11, Mark Butler 8, Kai Shinholster 7, Kevin Cotton 6, Colin Schumm 2
GA: Blake Smith 16, Bryce Rollerson 11, Casey Traina 10, Jake Hsu 9, Luke Marvin 5