By: Ed Morrone
PHILADELPHIA — Germantown Academy didn’t get to the top of the Inter-Ac girls basketball mountain by accident. The Patriots are as battled tested as they come, and the team knows how to win.
The higher the stakes, the calmer GA plays. With senior leaders like Maddie Vizza and Jaye Haynes running the show, it’s no wonder that this program continues to saunter on like a well-oiled machine, stepping over every team in its path on a collision course with another league title.
The Patriots didn’t clinch the Inter-Ac crown after Thursday’s dominant 68-50 win at Penn Charter, but the reigning champions did send an emphatic message to their biggest rival and challenger for that championship with just two weeks to go in the regular season.
Vizza connected on three three-pointers for a team-high 15 points and 4 rebounds and Haynes chipped in 14 points and 5 rebounds of her own. The Division-I bound hoop veterans — Vizza is committed to Northeastern, while Haynes is headed to La Salle — led a balanced attack that saw eight Patriots players score. GA shot the ball better than the Quakers and also dominated intangible factors such as loose balls, free throw shooting and rebounding, the latter led by Caitlyn Priore’s 14 boards.
“This team is so deep that you don’t know who’s going to step up in every game,” Vizza said. “It can be a totally different person or people every time. We have scorers up and down the lineup and we shot the ball really well today. Our strength is in our depth, and it really showed today.”
Additionally, the Patriots (19-4 overall, 8-0 league) got 10 points and 5 boards from junior Becca Booth, eight points from freshman Kendall Bennett and seven each from Priore and junior Jessica Moore. It was simply too much of an onslaught for the Quakers (20-3, 7-2) to counter, and the home team lost for just the third time all season, with two of those defeats coming at the hands of their ancient rivals.
Things were spirited and close for about half of the first quarter before GA began to exert its will. The Patriots held a 23-13 advantage after one, and after PC senior Kait Carter (13 points) hit a trey to pull the Quakers within 24-16 early in the second quarter, Vizza buried one of her own on the next possession to put her team up 11. Penn Charter never got within single digits the rest of the game.
“Like Coach (Sherri Retif) always says, we have stars up and down the lineup,” Haynes said. “It’s always a team effort, not just one person. This game is such a big rivalry and we’re always excited to play them. Winning today really boosts our confidence and energy going into the rest of the season. It’s a great win for us.”
A Penn Charter win would have moved the Quakers a half-game in front of GA with a few left to play, a scenario that would have muddied the waters in a big way.
Instead, the Patriots are now a game-and-a-half in front with two wins over PC in their pockets, meaning Vizza and company now control their own destiny in their chase for another league title.
“Going in we knew we had to bring the energy,” Vizza said. “PC always has a really good team. They’re well-coached and bring a lot of energy. It feels really good to get this win today, especially at their place. It’s a rivalry that goes back a long way, and a win really puts us in good position going forward.”
With a backcourt of Vizza and Haynes running the show, the Patriots feel good about their chances to win any game they play. The two bring out the best in one another, perfect complements to one another on the court. Vizza is a sharpshooter from deep, and possesses a point guard’s court vision. Haynes, meanwhile, is a gifted scorer in general, as evidenced by the 39 points she put up in Sunday’s 66-64 loss to mighty Neumann-Goretti.
Vizza is Haynes’ biggest fan, and vice versa.
“Jaye is an absolutely phenomenal scorer,” Vizza said. “She can get to the rim at ease. Just a great teammate to have. She hustles up and down the court and is a great defender. We usually put her on the other team’s best player and she just walks in and handles it.”
Haynes herself loves playing with her backcourt mate because Vizza’s skill set takes a lot of pressure off Haynes to feel like she has to score 20-plus points every game in order to have a chance to win. Against PC, Haynes had just five points in the first half and finished with 14 points, yet the Patriots still won the game convincingly.
“Maddie has such great court vision that she sees the plays and knows I’m open even before I do,” Haynes said. “She controls things out there too. If we ever start to panic, Maddie is the one who calms us down.”
The Patriots still have four regular season games remaining, as well as the PAISAA tournament, where the team will undoubtedly be the No. 1 seed. With just a bit more than a handful of games remaining together, Vizza and Haynes can see the finish line in sight.
Neither were ready to fully reflect on their legacies just yet since the final chapter is still being written, but both acknowledged it will be bittersweet when this run comes to an end and the seven seniors on the team go their separate ways.
“The end is definitely going to be bittersweet,” Vizza said. “These girls are so much fun to play with, especially these seniors. The whole team is really close, and to finish our careers out with another title would be absolutely awesome.”
“It’s an amazing group of girls and teammates,” Haynes added. “Some of us have been playing with or against each other since middle school, so we just want to build off every game we have left together. Just continue to work hard and cherish every single moment together.”
For Penn Charter, the result was a major what-could-have-been gut punch. Carter and Carmen Williams each have scored 1,000 points in their careers at Penn Charter (they crossed the milestone about three minutes apart in the same game), and both wanted so desperately to dethrone the Patriots in their final season together.
After Tuesday, that most likely won’t happen in the regular season, although the Quakers very well could meet GA again in the PAISAA tournament.
“I told them if they want one more shot at GA, it’s up to them to do it,” PC head coach Joe Maguire said. “We’re in a good position to get the two seed if we win out and finish 23-3. If we want to play them again, it’s up to us to get to that game, because I think GA will get to that game. We seem to get in our own heads against this team, like we have some kind of mental block. Every time we play them, it’s like that. Their players really stepped up today. They hit shots and made plays that we weren’t able to capitalize on our side of it.”
A Penn Charter-Germantown Academy showdown to end the Inter-Ac season would be fitting, but the victors weren’t focusing on that scenario just yet. After all, there are still four regular season games and one more league title left to win.
“I’m very proud of how everyone contributed at important times today,” Retif said. “That said, we don’t plan on taking much of a rest.”