In the middle of a fourth-quarter timeout, over the humming of a vocal, packed Gloucester Catholic gym, girls' basketball coach Lisa Gedaka sat her Rams team down and opened with a simple message:
"This isn't grade school anymore," she said.
No, it wasn't.
Neumann-Goretti, a big, athletic, and imposing team from South Philadelphia, was mounting a furious comeback.
And the Rams' promising group of freshmen either had to come up big or chalk the first nail-biter of their careers up to a learning experience.
The end result, a 49-48 overtime win, validated much of the hype surrounding Gloucester Catholic's young stars.
"In the beginning of the game, we still kind of get nervous seeing such big players, but once the game gets going, we just let it go," said 5-foot-11 freshman forward Mary Gedaka, daughter of Lisa Gedaka. Mary led the team with 15 points, along with 16 rebounds and three blocks.
Fellow freshman Maggie MacIntyre also came up big for Gloucester Catholic (3-0), ranked No. 6 by The Inquirer. The 5-foot guard netted 14 points, including four three-pointers.
"We're a team that doesn't have a lot of experience, but I think we gained a lot today," Lisa Gedaka said. "They came right at us, and we didn't panic. We just fought and fought."
Neumann Goretti (1-2) spent most of the second half erasing a 32-14 halftime deficit.
But with two minutes left in regulation, MacIntyre drained an open three to give her team a 46-44 lead. With 30 seconds left, Mary Gedaka, in a sign of the physical presence she was throughout the game, swatted away a potential go-ahead layup to send the game into overtime with the score tied at 46.
It set the stage for a game-winning three-pointer by junior Emily Lyons with seven seconds left in overtime.
Lyons is a three-point specialist with plenty of big shots on her resumé.
"I'm a shooter," she said, shrugging her shoulders. "That's what I do."
But for the Rams' young starters, the win was an early statement for a group expected to be among the area's best for the next four years.
"It comes down to the hard work we put in," MacIntyre said. "It's been an adjustment, but we're progressing. This win makes us believe."
Gloucester Catholic 1121773-49
NG: Ka'ryne Benson 11, Sianni Martin 17, Alisha Kebbe 3, Madison Bright 2, Stephanie Brown 13, Tanesha Sutton 2.
GC: Carly Todd 2, Cara McHenry 4, Becky Pund 4, Emily Lyons 8, Mary Gedaka 15, Maggie MacIntyre 14, Abby Murphy 2.