All of the expert talking heads, it seems, stress the importance of momentum in sports. Well, if you don't believe them, read up.
For the first two quarters of Saturday's Pennsylvania Independent Schools Athletic Association championship game, Germantown Academy was in complete control. Could the Patriots have made a few more easily shots that they missed? Yes. Could they have taken better care of the ball at times? No question.
But they really couldn't do much wrong as they secured a seven-point lead over Shipley School heading into the locker room at halftime. And based on their play of late, there was little reason to believe it wouldn't continue.
The second half began and Shipley guards Sox Alexander and Nia Holland went to work. The duo combined for all 11 of the Gators' points in the third period as they closed the deficit to just two points heading into the final eight minutes.
With four minutes to go, though, the Gators stepped on the gas and pulled away to a 40-31 victory to earn the PAISSA state championship.
"I just thought we didn't get the stops early in the second half,' GA coach Sherri Retif said. "We normally can get defensive stops and we didn't and that changed the momentum.'
While the effort was still there, the nice first half passes that were leading to open looks, all of a sudden where being knocked off course by a fingertip. The shots that had been falling, now bounded around the rim and off or missed completely. The rebounds they had been controlling were caroming just out of reach or they couldn't maintain control. And the stubborn defense was now a split second slow and often resulted in fouls.
The Patriots shot a mere 2 for 19 from the floor after intermission.
"I'd say we went cold,' Retif said. "I know we didn't hit any threes and that's our game and especially against that much height. We knew that Sox would come out and try to put the team on her shoulders and they weren't going to roll over and die. That was one of the things we said, we knew that.
"It's just we're a young team.'
And they couldn't stop Shipley's momentum. GA hung tough and was still tied at 31-31 when Kendall Grasela hit one of two foul shots with four minutes left, but that it for the Patriots. Senior stalwart Margaret Anne Hubbell fouled out with 3:53 left, followed 32 seconds later by Lilly Bolen.
Shipley scored the game's final nine points, all from the foul line
Holland led the way for Shipley with 16 points, including hitting 7 of 8 free throws in the fourth quarter. Alexander added 14 points. Olivia Gorman paced the Patriots with 12 points.
"It's a hard way to end it,' Retif said. "But with the accomplishment they've done, I'm so proud of them. We won't focus on tonight, we'll focus on the 98 percent of the year that was outstanding. They are great young women, they are great athletes, they are a great team to be around and I'm proud of them.'
But at the same time, Retif doesn't exactly want her players to forget Saturday night.
"Hopefully there's a little fire in there and they sit with it and say, ' you know what, I get another shot next year,'' she said. "Everybody gets another shot. Hubs (Hubbell) doesn't, but she'll take tonight's experience and do great things in college and she'll take tonight's experience and do great things in life because it's not about the winning and losing, it's about the lessons learned in all of this. And I couldn't be more proud of a senior than what she's done this year with all of these young kids.'
And it is difficult to be upset about a trip to the state final in a season in which the Patriots had to deal with key injuries, yet still managed to come up big at the end.
"I thought we really battled back,' Retif said. "We really did great, we upset the Inter-Ac champions (Episcopal Academy on Friday). It's a good feeling. And there's so much more to come in the future.'
Germantown Academy (31): Grasela 2 3-4 8; Gorman 5 1-4 12; Hubbell 1 2-5 4; Lindahl 1 0-0 3; Oeth 2-2 2; Bolen1 0-0 2; Starzecky 0 0-0 0. Totals: 10 7-15 31.
Shipley School (40): Holland 4 8-10 16; Walsh 0 0-0 0; Redcross 1 0-1 2; Overton 0 2-2 2; Fortune 2 2-2 6; Alexander 5 4-8 14; Pressley 0 0-0 0; Bobo 0 0-0 0. Totals: 12 16-22 40.
Three-point goals: Grasela, Gorman 2, Lindahl.
Germantown Academy 8 12 6 5—31
Shipley School 9 4 11 16—40