WILDWOOD - South Jersey's top-ranked girls' basketball team has speed, depth, experience, and a double dose of all-around excellence in its backcourt.
Washington Township also has the "X factor."
That's what Sacred Heart coach Steve DiPatri calls Ashley Giedemann, the only junior starter for the senior-laden Minutemaids.
Giedemann had a career game yesterday in the opening round of the Mayor's Cup bracket in the Boardwalk Basketball Classic at the Wildwood Convention Center.
The 5-foot-10 center collected 26 points and 15 rebounds as Washington Township beat seventh-ranked Sacred Heart, 55-40.
"People tend to forget about her," Washington Township coach Jen Natale said of Giedemann, who scored all 12 of Washington Township's points in the first quarter.
Washington Township is a veteran team that features senior twins Dana and Shawna Wert, a formidable pair of 5-8 athletes who excel at both ends of the floor.
The Minutemaids also have another talented, experienced senior guard in Alyse Maiden, as well as solid senior forward Rachel Armor. And the team's first two substitutes yesterday were seniors as well.
But Giedemann is a vitally important player for Washington Township, which is ranked No. 1 in South Jersey by The Inquirer. With a deft touch around the basket and surprising range on her jump shot, Giedemann is the most dependable half-court option for a team that relies on its defense and transition game to generate much of its offense.
Against a speedy, talented opponent such as Sacred Heart, Washington Township couldn't create many turnovers with its pressure and couldn't shake loose for many fastbreak opportunities.
But Giedemann gave the Minutemaids a focal point for their half-court offense. She finished 11 for 17 from the field and 4 for 7 from the foul line, and scored a crucial basket after Sacred Heart closed within 41-38 with fewer than four minutes remaining.
"She's a post player who is very offensive-minded," Natale said. "She might not be as tall as some other post players, but she's worked hard to make herself a more complete player in terms of her footwork and using her skills."
Giedemann said her big game was an example of the team's balance.
Much of the focus yesterday was on the backcourt, where the Wert sisters and Maiden spent the game chasing Sacred Heart's sensational senior guard, Ashley Durham (24 points on 7-for-28 shooting).
But Giedemann made the difference on the scoreboard with a series of short jumpers and strong post moves. She had 17 points in the first half, as Washington Township took a 28-23 lead, and she scored four down the stretch as the Minutemaids closed the game on a 14-2 surge.
"Everybody on this team steps up," Giedemann said. "We're not a one-player team. We're a whole team, and to beat us you have to beat the whole team."
The Wert sisters are well-known because they have been impact players since their freshman seasons, both on the basketball court and the soccer field.
But their twin reputations can obscure a player such as Giedemann, who also has been a varsity player at South Jersey's largest high school since her freshman year. Giedemann averaged 12 points and eight rebounds last season as a sophomore, and appears poised to improve on those numbers.
"People think we're all about the Werts, and we love having them," Natale said. "They do so much for this team.
"But we have a lot of other players too. Ashley Giedemann is a phenomenal player and I think people tend to overlook her."
Giedemann said she is comfortable in her role on a team with a pair of senior stars and a bunch of other seniors. But a few more games with 26 points and 15 rebounds and she'll be the one casting the shadow, not playing in it.
"They're like my sisters," Giedemann said of the seniors on the Washington Township team. "I love playing with all of them."