By: John Knebels
Photos: Zamani Feelings, Evan Easterling & Mike Gray
PHILADELPHIA – One of the most satisfying bonuses of following sports is the ubiquitous conversation – usually heated, but hopefully civil – concerning which players are better than others. Doesn’t matter the sport, and it doesn’t even matter the age. A debate is a debate, and subjectivity almost always pummels objectivity and ultimately results in a “let’s agree to disagree” handshake.
Take, for instance, Philadelphia Catholic League girls’ basketball.
For the past 10 seasons, including the current 2019-20 campaign, the PCL has produced countless standout female basketball players. While more than 200 of them have been recognized by league coaches as first-team, second-team, or honorable mention All-Catholics, only a distinct few have been elevated to a particularly high perch.
In the spirit of having entered 2020, here is one person’s Philadelphia Catholic League girls’ basketball all-decade team. Keeping in the spirit of 10, that’s precisely how many players were chosen. No honorable mention list is included, because as the list grows, is there really a distinct difference between, say, 15 and 25, or even 30?
In addition to the 10 selections, all of whom played at least three seasons in the PCL, there is also a separate list of three players who have yet to graduate and might very well garner consideration as an all-decade performer. That provided a modicum of much-needed slack.
Without a doubt, copious disagreement with some of the selections, or perhaps more accurately, the non-selections, will abound. Keep in mind that the exploits of these players occurred during high school; how they succeeded in college is irrelevant to this list.
The selections are listed in alphabetical order. Let the chastisement commence.
Sarah Curran Scored 1,098 points during her career at Archbishop Carroll and was the 2013 PCL MVP - Photo courtesy Arch. Carroll Parents.
Sarah Curran (Archbishop Carroll ’13) – Scored 1,098 points and corralled 436 rebounds . . . Catholic League Most Valuable Player, 2013 . . . First-team All-Catholic as a senior and junior . . . Second-team All-Catholic as a sophomore . . . Two-time All-State selection . . . Beach Ball Classic Most Valuable Player, 2012 . . . Scored eight points in Carroll’s 40-38 win over Archbishop Wood in the 2012 Catholic League championship . . . Markward Basketball Club Overall Player of the Year, 2013 . . . Played at Drexel University . . . Currently playing European basketball in Holland.
Curran: “I was really lucky to play at Archbishop Carroll because I played alongside other great basketball players, and I had an amazing coaching staff my four years. Chuck Creighton and Renie Shields really brought out the best of me and taught me skills that I could use not only on the court, but off the court. My teammates throughout my four years became some of my best friends...
“Overall, playing at Carroll was more than just playing basketball, and I am grateful for all I learned and for everyone that supported me throughout those years. I really enjoyed playing in the Catholic League. Games were always high in intensity and I played against great competitors. It helped develop me into the player that I am. There is also a lot of history in the Catholic League, like being able to play in the championship game at the Palestra, and it was very cool to be a part of that long history.”
Former Archbishop Carroll Coach Chuck Creighton: “Sarah was very coachable and a great teammate. She was a tremendous offensive player that could score in the post or step out and make a three.”
Kenzie Gardler (Cardinal O’Hara ’18) – Scored 1,128 points . . . First-team All-Catholic as a senior and junior; second-team All-Catholic as a sophomore . . . First-team All-State as a senior; third-teamer as a junior . . . Helped lead Lions to consecutive PCL titles in 2017 and 2018, during which they amassed a 46-9 record and gave legendary coach Linus McGinty his 10th and 11th PCL titles . . . In 2018 PCL championship, collected 17 points and eight rebounds; shot 8 for 10 from the line . . . Markward Club Overall co-Player of the Year along with teammate Maura Hendrixson, 2018. . .Currently playing at Villanova University.
Gardler: “Playing for Cardinal O’Hara was an honor and such an amazing experience considering I had a ton of family members involved with the basketball program there. Playing in the Catholic League was definitely a tough league to play in, and I think it helped me a lot to prepare for Villanova. It taught me to always make hard cuts and never take any plays off, because every single possession counted because of how difficult the Catholic League was.”
Former Cardinal O’Hara Coach Linus McGinty: “Kenzie never had a bad practice in four years. She scored her 1000th point at St. Hubert’s, where her mom (former St. Hubert and St. Joseph’s University star Katie Curry Gardler) played. She was also a great shooter and relentless defensive player who often guarded much bigger girls. Great woman.”
Kenzie Gardler helped lead O'Hara to back-to-back PCL titles in 2017-18 - PSD Photo by Zamani Feelings
Bailey Greenberg (Archbishop Wood ’16) – First-team All-Catholic as a senior and junior; third-team All-Catholic as a sophomore . . . Three-time All-State; first-team All-State, 2016 . . . Scored 1,134 points in three years at Wood . . . Markward Club Catholic League Player of the Year, 2016 . . . Four-sport athlete . . . In a composite three Catholic League championship games, scored a total of 54 points . . . Her 16 points and 10 rebounds helped Vikings defeat Neumann-Goretti, 40-36, in 2016 PCL championship, thus ending N-G’s 53-game winning streak . . . As a junior, scored 21 points in 50-45 Catholic League championship game loss to N-G . . . As a sophomore, bucketed 17 in 55-46 Catholic League championship loss to N-G . . .Garnered 14 points, 13 rebounds, and two each of assists, steals, and blocks in 46-29 win over Erie’s Villa Maria High School in the 2016 state championship . . . Currently playing at Drexel University.
Greenberg: “My favorite memory has to be my senior year at the Palestra. When we won the championship there, I played with my sister (Nicki Greenberg) and two cousins (Shannon and Katie May). My Aunt Kathy (May) was on the coaching staff, so it was really special. We are a big basketball family. When we were young, we grew up running around the Palestra because our Aunt Kelly (former Wood and LaSalle University star Kelly Greenberg) used to be the (University of Pennsylvania) head coach in the early 2000’s. I love the Palestra. It’s my favorite gym ever because I have so many great memories there.
#21 Bailey Greenberg scored 1,134 points in three years at Archbishop Wood - PSD Photo by Evan Easterling
“Overall, playing for Wood was a great experience. I still get to play with two of my former teammates at Drexel today, which is pretty cool. With the three teams I played with at Wood, we always had fun on and the off the court.”
Archbishop Wood Coach Mike McDonald: “Bailey Greenberg’s athleticism and size combined with her fundamentals and high IQ made for an all-around versatile game that looked effortless at times. She has an explosive first step and incredible footwork. She was a great teammate and became a great leader at Wood. She has an ability to take over a game while still trusting her teammates, and that led us to a Philadelphia Catholic League Championship and state championship her senior year. She was dynamic and exciting to watch, and I was extremely lucky to coach her.”
Jabria Ingram averaged 19.7 points as a senior, earning her the 2018 PCL MVP title - PSD Photo by Zamani Feelings
Jabria Ingram (Neumann-Goretti ’18) – Key contributor to each of N-G’s four straight state championships from 2015-2018 . . . In 2018 state championship win, recorded 10 steals and nine points . . . Three-time All-State selection . . . Catholic League Most Valuable Player, 2018 . . . Averaged 19.7 points as a senior point guard . . . Has been described as “a student of the game . . . unselfish . . . fierce competitor” . . . Currently playing at the University of Hartford.
Ingram: “Being in a Neumann-Goretti uniform and playing in the Catholic League is a great honor. The family atmosphere at N-G makes a great environment to play. Every year we face the top teams from across the country and have opportunities to travel and compete against the best, to prepare us for the PCL and states. Knowing that the ultimate goal is to play at the Palestra in front of thousands of people speaks for itself.”
Neumann-Goretti Coach Andrea Peterson: “One of the toughest athletes I have coached. Very coachable and was able to overcome so many injuries and never let that affect her game. Her passion for the game was different.”
Alisha Kebbe (Neumann-Goretti ’16) – As a senior, averaged 15 points, nine rebounds, three steals, and three blocks . . . Catholic League Most Valuable Player, 2016 . . . Second-team All-Catholic as a junior . . . Key member of the Catholic League championship teams in 2014 and 2015 . . . In 2014 Catholic League championship win over Archbishop Wood, scored 17 points and drilled three three-pointers . . . Also helped N-G advance to 2016 PCL final . . . During her sophomore, junior, and senior years, N-G went an outrageous 88-2, including 30-0 in the 2014-15 season . . . Southeastern Pennsylvania Player of the Year, 2016 . . . McDonald’s All-American Nominee, 2016 . . . Two-time PIAA state champion . . . Currently Playing at St. John’s University.
No. 4 Alisha Kebbe won back-to-back PCL titles in 2014 & 2015 with the Neumann-Goretti Saints - PSD Photo by Evan Easterling
Kebbe: “Playing for Neumann Goretti was a life-changing experience. Not only was I given the opportunity to play in one of the best leagues in Philly and the entire country, but I met some really amazing people who I consider my family. With two amazing mentors, Letty Santarelli and Andrea Peterson, I knew that I was in good hands and supported in anything that I wanted to do in life and in basketball.
“The Catholic League is a very competitive league with a great group of talent. There were a lot of really good players in the league when I played, but to be considered as a player of the decade is an honor. It shows all the hard work and time I put in, so thank you!”
Neumann-Goretti Coach Andrea Peterson: “Alisha is a great student-athlete who understood the game in high school. Tremendous all-around athlete. She was the key to our success here at Neumann-Goretti.”
Sianni Martin after winning the PIAA state championship her senior year. - Photo courtesy of Sianni Martin
Sianni Martin (Neumann-Goretti ’15) – Four-year starter . . . First-team All-Catholic as a senior; second-team as a junior; third team as a sophomore . . . Finished career with 1,126 points . . . Helped carry Saints to back-to-back Catholic League championships in 2014 and 2015 . . . In 2015 final, scored 11 points and her late three-point play proved pivotal . . . Scored 16 points in 2015 state championship victory – the school’s first . . . Sparked N-G to a combined 59-1 record as a junior and senior . . . After playing at Towson University, is currently playing at the University of Central Florida.
Martin: “Playing for Neumann-Goretti was nothing short of amazing. My first two years we struggled, but in my junior and senior year, we had a big turnaround. We went 29-1 in my junior year and 30-0 in my senior year. I still share the same bonds and memories with all my teammates and coaches. We built a legacy at NG that is clearly continuing each year.”
Neumann-Goretti Coach Andrea Peterson:“Sianni was a tremendous player all-around. Tough to guard because she could do a little bit of everything. Positive attitude and love for the game made those around her better.”
Alyssa Monaghan (Bonner-Prendergast ’15) – A three-time, first-team All-Catholic as a senior, junior, and sophomore . . . Catholic League Most Valuable Player as a sophomore (2013) and senior (2015), and was MVP runner-up as a junior (2014) . . . Second-team All-Catholic as a freshman at Cardinal O’Hara . . . Finished as B-P’s all-time leading scorer with 1,440 points . . . Despite missing almost a month to a severe ankle sprain, averaged 18.2 points and 4.5 assists while hitting on 41 three-pointers as a senior . . . First-team All-State as a senior and junior, and a second-teamer as a sophomore . . . Led B-P to first-ever PIAA state tournament win in 2015, a ride that lasted until a quarterfinal defeat . . . Markward Club Overall Player of the Year, 2015 . . . Played at St. Joseph’s University.
Monaghan: “Playing in the Catholic league was the best. There really was nothing like it! I have the best basketball memories from playing in the PCL against such great completion. Every game was difficult because every team was either very talented or very tough/competitive. Every game drew a crowd because it is such a great league. There were so many girls who were Division I players in the league, so it definitely helped me and prepared me about what to expect in college.
“I also have the best memories playing basketball for Prendie. Mr. (Tom) Stewart was/is such a great coach, and I’m so happy about what I was able to accomplish there with him. I’m lucky to have been able to play for him. The group of girls I played with for three years made each season so memorable. We competed every year, and that was my goal when I decided to there – to be competitive.”
Alyssa Monaghan was named Catholic League Most Valuable Player as a sophomore in 2013 and as a senior in 2015. Here she stands with her coach Tom Stewart - Photo courtesy of the Monaghan Family.
Bonner-Prendergast Coach Tom Stewart:“Alyssa is every coach’s dream. From the time she came here as a sophomore, it was obvious she was special. Not only was she a great game player, but she was also the hardest working player in practice. She was first in every drill for her entire career. She was a complete player who played both ends of the floor and someone who made her teammates better. She was a great player and an even better teammate. I am lucky to her on my staff now after a great college career at St. Joes.”
Monee Moore (Archbishop Ryan ’19) – Joined extremely rare company by being named a three-time, first-team All-Catholic forward as a senior, junior, and sophomore . . . Led Ragdolls to three straight Catholic League quarterfinal appearances, nearly pulling off a huge upset in 2019 before falling in overtime to heavily favored Neumann-Goretti, 67-61 . . . Finished career with 1,003 points, one of only three Ryan players to reach quadruple digits . . . Averaged 15 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and two steals as a senior . . . Currently playing at Holy Family University.
Moore: “Throughout all my years for playing for Ryan, my junior year was the most memorable and eye-opening. The Catholic League is very competitive, and a hard league to win in, so going 14-0 (at the start of the season) was insane. We had our bench players from past years that stepped up and did remarkable things when needed. We took pride in working together and playing the game that we love. That is one thing about the Catholic League – it is anyone’s game; the team that wants it the most usually comes out on top.
“I did receive a ton of playing time as a freshman; I actually started my freshman year. Coach (Mike) McCusker saw something in me, I guess, and stuck with me throughout my entire career at Ryan...
Monee Moore is one of only three Ryan players to reach quadruple digits tallying 1,003 - PSD Photo by Mike Gray
"I do not think that I was ever considered all state, but I never really tried to achieve any of those types of awards. I just enjoyed playing the game that I so much love and it just happened that I did receive a good amount while doing so. I appreciate everyone that motivated me throughout Ryan and is now supporting me as a Holy Family Tiger.”
Archbishop Ryan Coach Mike McCusker:“Monee was a special player who didn’t do one thing great, but Monee did everything – scoring, rebounding, passing, defense – really well. Monee made other people around her better on and off the court.”
Hannah Nihill (Cardinal O’Hara ’17) – Finished her career with 1,154 points . . . A first-team All-Catholic as both a senior and junior . . . In 2017 Catholic League championship victory, scored 13 points and swished three clutch free throws late in the fourth . . . Second-team All-State as a senior . . . Currently playing at Drexel University.
Nihill: “What I remember most about playing at O’Hara are the great memories I made with my teammates. Winning the PCL championship my senior year was probably one of the greatest moments of my life. What I remember most about playing in the Catholic League were our games versus our rivals Prendie and Carroll, because the gym would be packed with everyone from the neighborhood.”
Former Cardinal O’Hara Coach Linus McGinty: “Hannah scored over 1,000 points and over a 100 in field hockey. She was fearless at the end of games, both shooting foul shots and scoring game-winning shots. Great woman.”
Hannah Nihill totaled 1,154 points during her playing career at O'Hara - PSD Photo by Zamani Feelings
Kamiah Smalls (Neumann-Goretti ’16)– During her sophomore through senior seasons, Saints went a surreal 88-2 . . . Two-time Catholic League champion in 2014 and 2015; lost in 2016 final . . . Scored 14 points in the 2015 PCL title win . . . Catholic League Most Valuable Player, 2016 . . . Two-time state champion . . . PIAA State Player of the Year, 2016 . . . Currently playing at James Madison University.
During her four years, Kamiah Smalls helped lead the Saints to an 88-2 record - PSD Photo by Evan Easterling
Smalls:“My story may be a little different than the next. In high school, we were such a powerhouse that my talent took a little more to see. I don’t recall ever being named All-Catholic aside from my senior year when I received All-Catholic, first team. I came off the bench as sixth man and I always wanted to just make my impact felt. Whatever it took for my team to be successful is what I was giving, whether it was rebounding, scoring, passing . . . it didn’t matter.
“Playing for Neumann-Goretti has to be one of the biggest blessings that I’ve been blessed with. It gave me a chance, a chance to make something happen, a chance to go for something big. It’s a sisterhood more than anything; a culture that never dies. Playing in the Catholic League only is the best part. The teams are competitive; you had to be ready at all times.”
Neumann-Goretti Coach Andrea Peterson: “Kamiah has a great feel for the game of basketball and letting the game come to her. Her work ethic and leadership ability was one of the many reasons why we were so successful. She helped to build the culture here at Neumann-Goretti.”
The following players might very well be considered one of the decade’s best after their scholastic career is completed.
Diamond Johnson (Neumann-Goretti ’20) –Transferred from Virginia’s Phoebus High School during her sophomore year and her postseason at N-G was limited to the 2018 PIAA tournament, where she amassed 14 points, six rebounds, five assists, and three steals in a state championship victory – the fourth in a row for the Saints . . . As a junior, was crowned Catholic League Most Valuable Player and later named Gatorade Pennsylvania Player of the Year . . . Scored school-record 54 points in the 2019 District 12 championship win over Imhotep, then recorded what is believed to be a Catholic League record 53 points in a 74-70 win over visiting Cardinal O’Hara on December 12, 2020 . . . Combining her entire high school career, is on a realistic pace to reach 3,000 career points . . . Will be playing at Rutgers University next year.
Johnson: “Playing high school ball for Neumann is a blessing. You learn about the history and you become part of the family instantly. Lots of connection and you will be out on the spotlight; it’s just up to you to perform. In my opinion, the Catholic League is harder than the Public and Friends School League. Lots of girls that can play.”
Diamond Johnson was crowned 2019 PCL Most Valuable Player and later named Gatorade Pennsylvania Player of the Year - PSD Photo by Zamani Feelings
Neumann-Goretti Coach Andrea Peterson:“The best female athlete to come out of Neumann Goretti. Her love and passion for the game of basketball is something you don’t see every day. Her work ethic is on a different level, and this is why she is elite. She makes everyone around her better.”
Archbishop Wood junior guard, Kaitlyn Orihel, is on track to amass 1,000 points - PSD photo by Zamani Feelings
Kaitlyn Orihel (Archbishop Wood ’21) – First-team All-Catholic as a sophomore and freshman . . . Averaged 17.1 points per game as a sophomore . . . Scored 15 points in 2019 Catholic League championship overtime loss to Archbishop Carroll . . . First-team All-State as a sophomore; third team as a freshman . . . In last year’s semifinal victory over Neumann-Goretti, scored 31 points while connecting on 19 of 20 free throws . . . Through January 10, has scored 914 career points.
Orihel: “Playing basketball for Archbishop Wood and in the Philadelphia Catholic League has been a great experience so far...
“Being a part of this winning history motivates me to work as hard as I can every day to uphold that tradition. I also really enjoy the challenge of playing in the PCL, because there are so many good players and teams that make every game really competitive and a great environment to play in.”
Archbishop Wood Coach Mike McDonald: “Kaitlyn Orihel is everything a coach wants in a player. She plays as hard and as tough as she can all the time, and off the court is friendly and respectful. Kaitlyn is remarkably receptive to coaching, and yet, so often makes the winning plays that can’t come from a coach. Kaitlyn can shoot, pass, finish in a variety of ways, and defend, but it is her will that separates her from others. She plays with the mindset that she will not be denied, and that is why she has a great chance to be the all-time leading scorer at Wood. It is an absolute pleasure coaching her.”
Erin Sweeney scored 18 points to propel Archbishop Carroll to a 2019 Catholic League Championship - PSD Photo by Zamani Feelings
Erin Sweeney (Archbishop Carroll ’20) – Reached 1,000 career points during 2019 PIAA state tournament . . . First-team All-Catholic as a junior and second-team as a sophomore . . . Second-team All-State as a junior . . . Scored 18 points to lead Patriots to a 48-42 Catholic League championship overtime victory over Archbishop Wood in 2019, Carroll’s first title since 2012 . . . Scored 19 points in 2019 state championship loss to Chartiers Valley . . . Will be playing at Drexel University next season.
Sweeney: “Playing for Carroll has been an experience I wouldn't trade for the world. Our coaches dedicate so much of their own time into helping us get better every day, and I am so grateful for that. Being at Carroll has given me the opportunity to play alongside and be coached by some of the best people.
“Playing in the PCL has been an unbelievable experience. I can't imagine a stronger league and better competition in high school basketball. Winning the PCL championship last year in front of a packed Palestra is one of the best nights of my life and an experience I will never forget.”
Archbishop Carroll coach Renie Shields:“Erin Sweeney shows up every day wanting to get better, for herself and for her team. She knows what is expected of her on and off the court, and she exceeds those expectations.”
(Contact John Knebels at Jknebels@gmail.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.)
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