By: John Knebels
Photos: Zamani Feelings & Patty Morgan
PHILADELPHIA – Taylor Levinson is one week away from ending her basketball career. Sometime late summer, she will board a plane and head west to Claremont, CA, where she will attend Harvey Mudd College and expects to play soccer.
Baldwin Senior Taylor Levinson - Photo courtesy of Baldwin Athletics
In the meantime, the Baldwin School senior is enjoying the Polar Bears’ steady improvement.
“There’s such a huge importance on how well our team works as a unit,” said Levinson. “In our first game (a 36-30 loss to visiting Episcopal Academy on Feb. 4), I definitely think that we came out a little rusty. Once we got into the groove though, I think our team has been doing really well at working together and being able to handle tough opponents to the best of our ability.
“One thing I love about our team this year is that each player brings different strengths, and it’s fun to see them all play out in the game.”
When they hosted perennial Inter-Academic League champion Germantown Academy on Feb. 12, the Polar Bears knew they were facing a young but strong and always well-coached squad. In the past, Baldwin might have stiffened with apprehension, but the Polar Bears hung with the Patriots before succumbing, 57-46.
After scoring a game-high 17 points to help offset Germantown Academy senior Jessica Moore (16 points) and sophomore Josie Munson (15 points), senior Anajah Brown assessed the defeat.
“GA has always been an extremely tough team for us,” said Brown. “But this year, we knew that with a lot of their starters graduating last year, that they were really young and it would be a year where playing them would be a lot more competitive for us.”
Baldwin coach John Bernhardt observed several positives.
“The big thing was that we made shots and our pace was a lot better than in games past,” said Bernhardt. “Obviously it’s frustrating to lose, but I was happy with our energy and how we fought until the end. We just made too many mistakes down the stretch.”
Despite a handful of turnovers in the third quarter, the Polar Bears only trailed by six going into the fourth quarter when their shooting went cold.
“All in all, there were definitely some positives we took away from the game with our flow and pace being a lot better and the fact our shot selection was better,” said Bernhardt. “We also shot the ball a lot better from three-point land. We just need to limit the turnovers, and our rebounding needs to be a lot better.”
It is not uncommon for athletes to ignore a current opponent because they are looking ahead to the next. Penn Charter, however, did not fall victim to that dangerous malady.
With a meeting with undefeated Notre Dame looming in two days, Penn Charter took care of business by beating visiting Episcopal Academy, 65-49, on Feb. 16.
“There are stretches in the game where everything comes together and we are creating turnovers with our press, and sharing the ball on offense and getting everyone touches,” said Penn Charter coach Joe Maguire. “Other times we have mental lapses where we turn the ball over and miss some defensive assignments. We need to not let those mental lapses stretch for an extended period of time.”
No. 3 Bella Toomey scored 20 points in Penn Charter's victory vs. Episcopal - PSD Photo by Zamani Feelings
Sophomore Bella Toomey’s 20 points, sophomore Aleah Sneed’s 17, sophomore Kelsey Bess’ 11, and junior Maddie Shoup’s nine paced the offense while seniors Kait Hnatkowsky and Kait Haughey were, according to Maguire, “outstanding on defense and did all the little things to help us win” and improve to 4-1.
Bess was returning from an injury suffered on Feb. 3.
“It was great to have her back,” said Maguire. “She’s such a smart player who helps balance us out.”
Toomey applauded the Lady Quakers’ ability to squash EA’s occasional momentum.
“A couple of times Episcopal would start catching up to us, but every time they did, we were able to refocus and get our defense together,” she said. “This was an important win.”
Notre Dame Academy was rolling right along at 4-0 and would have played every single day if asked. But a lull in the schedule was compounded by a key contest at Penn Charter being twice postponed courtesy of yet another batch of Mother Nature’s fury. The game is rescheduled for Feb. 25.
So the Irish will need to endure a formidable challenge during the last week of the season when they take on Episcopal (Feb. 22), Baldwin (Feb. 23), Penn Charter (Feb. 25), and Germantown Academy (Feb. 27), a rare stretch of four games in six days; five in eight when adding in their contest versus Agnes Irwin on Feb. 20.
“The girls remain laser focused,” said Notre Dame coach Lauren Power. “It’s not ideal to have this much time without a game, especially in a shortened season, but our motivation in practice is high and we’re just really eager to play.”
On Feb. 13, Power was able to provide numerous substitutes with quality time during a lopsided victory over Springside Chestnut Hill. Led by junior Maeve McErlane’s 13 points, 11 different players made the scorebook, including senior Avery Thomas (11), freshman Lizzie Halligan (eight), and sophomore Annie Greek (seven).
“I love to see everyone play because of how hard these girls work and how bad they want it,” said Power. “The competitor in me lives for the close games, but it’s also really gratifying watching all of the players get their opportunity and make the most of it.
“Being on the bench is a lot of fun in these games. It brings out the best in our team – camaraderie, high energy, and unselfish play.”
4-0 Notre Dame
4-1 Penn Charter
3-2 Germantown Academy
1-4 Springside Chestnut Hill
0-3 Agnes Irwin
Agnes Irwin at Notre Dame, 11
Baldwin at Penn Charter, 12
Episcopal at Springside Chestnut Hill, 12
(Contact John Knebels at Jknebels@gmail.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.)