Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3)
PHILADELPHIA >> Sana’a Garrett is flourishing as both a facilitator and a finisher this winter.
Friends’ Central boasts an impressive frontcourt flanked by quick guards that mesh well together, the bigs able to step out and stretch the floor and the guards able to scoot in and attack from the perimeter. What the Phoenix really needed was someone to control it all, to establish the posts, find the shooters and when the moment called for it, bring the hammer down at the end.
Sana'a Garrett (above) has the job of keeping Friends' Central together on the court. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
FCS had the right person on the roster in Garrett, and the senior rose to the cause again Sunday by bringing relentless defense, keeping her teammates engaged and finishing off a 37-27 win over Spring-Ford at the Blue Star Invitational held at Jefferson University.
“She’s grown so much, I can tell, and I’ve been holding her accountable a lot,” FCS coach Vinny Simpson said. “That’s the key. I think in recent years, people weren’t holding her accountable, weren’t telling her right and wrong and I think she needed that wake up call.”
Garrett, a 5-foot-8 bundle of energy and toughness, is pretty much indispensable for Friends’ Central. The senior is the team’s only true point guard, so she spends very little time off the floor for a Phoenix team that’s not long on depth in its roster.
Sunday, it meant guarding the point of attack against a Spring-Ford team trying to rebound from its first loss of the season and trying to keep the probing paint attacks that fuel so much of the Rams offense in check. Chasing Rams point guard Anna Azzara around is a tough ask, but one Garrett took on.
“We had to keep them from the middle,” Garrett said. “That’s where they get most of their points from, so if we could stop them there, they weren’t really strong enough to score from anywhere else.
“I wanted to keep (Azzara) from the 3-point line. When we were watching film, that’s where she was getting the ball a lot so I knew if I could keep her off the three-point line and make her drive, there was my help.”
The game was a bit of an oddity, with neither team scoring through the first half of the opening quarter but Garrett kept defending and kept finding her posts and soon, the points came for FCS. Meanwhile, nothing was coming for Spring-Ford with the Rams being shut out 10-0 after a quarter and 15-0 before their first basket.
Garrett (above) scored all nine of her points in the second half. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Garrett didn’t score at all in the first half, instead deferring to her teammates. It’s something Simpson has harped on a lot with his senior guard: let the other players do the work early, get them the ball and stay engaged and wait for the right time to come.
“Our bigs can shoot, so they bring the other team’s defenders out and that opens the floor up for everyone else,” Garrett said. “I feel like I’ve grown a lot in that area. I have trust with my bigs, I feel like I can pass it to them and depend on them to score.”
After taking an 18-4 lead, the well dried up for FCS, which didn’t score over the final 4:02 of the first half and didn’t get a score until sophomore Logyn Greer got a basket midway through the third. Spring-Ford used the opportunity to whittle the lead down to 18-14, so after Greer’s basket and a stop, Garrett called her own number and hit a three that pushed the lead back to nine.
“I just want to bring the energy back and put us back on top,” Garrett said.
The senior has a host of Division II offers, but only interest from a handful of Division I programs. Her goal is to make it to the top level, and part of the deal is letting her coach be hard on her and hold her to task for any bad decisions or mistakes.
There’s give-and-take, Simpson said he’s the first one to let Garrett call him out if he’s in the wrong and he’s only pushing Garrett because he knows what his point guard can provide a program at the next level and needs her to see it too.
“She’s somebody I would love on my team,” Simpson said. “She’s a great defender, a great leader and a good person to be around.”
Late in the fourth quarter, Azzara converted a traditional three-point play that gave the Rams a lifeline down 30-23 with 1:35 to go. Garrett erased any remaining hope by scoring six straight points in a 30-second span that included a drive and score through contact, a swiped inbound pass for another hoop and an inverted big-to-guard play where she scored off a dish from post Amani Savage to ice the win.
“I told her the other day, you got 10 games left and I’m going to be on you to make the best of it,” Simpson said. “Opportunities are going to show, we had an opportunity to play in front of those coaches today and we’ll have opportunities to play for coaches the rest of the year. They’re going to come look at you, make the best of it.”
Friends’ Central: 10 | 8 | 5 | 14 || 37
Spring-Ford: 0 | 10 | 6 | 11 || 27
FCS: Logyn Greer 15, Sana’a Garrett 9, Sydney Williams 6, Nalla Bennett 4, Kaiya Rain Tucker 1
SF: Anna Azzara 13, Megan Robbins 4, Katie Tiffan 3, Mac Pettinelli 3, Sophia Allocca 2