By John Knebels
One of the great traditions in scholastic basketball is announcing the PIAA all-state teams. Voted on by the Pennsylvania sportswriters, the best of the best are honored with special recognition.
With the Class 6A and 5A teams having been revealed yesterday, today the Class 4A and 3A take their turn. After extolling three players from 5A and one from 6A – all from the Philadelphia Catholic League – it’s time to celebrate six more standouts – three from the PCL and three from the Inter-Academic League.
Actually, when considering the recognition of a PCL coach, make that seven standouts. More on that later.
Undeniably, a 2019-20 campaign that had reached the PIAA state quarterfinals before being cancelled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus supplied countless highlights, college scholarships, and memories that will last a lifetime.
So, let the plaudits begin.
Neumann-Goretti senior Diamond Johnson exhibited a kind of athleticism on the court that few players in the nation have been able to display on a consistent basis. Driving the lane . . . step-back jumpers . . . expert ball-handling . . . three-point marksmanship . . . tenacious defense.
Not surprisingly, Johnson was named the Class 3A Player of the Year for a second straight season, thus continuing a remarkable string of six consecutive Neuman-Goretti alumnae to receive the award. The list includes Ciani Cryor (2015), Alisha Kebbe (2016), Chyna Nixon (2017), Jabria Ingram (2018), and Johnson (2019 and 2020).
In her two full seasons as a Saint, the Rutgers University signee was twice named both PCL Most Valuable Player and Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year. Her off-the-chart numbers this season (31 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 3.6 steals) were on par with her scary production as a junior (28.1, 5.8, 4.5, 4.0).
“It feels great,” said Johnson. “There’s a lot of girl ballers in Pennsylvania, and for me to get it was just an honor. But it wasn’t one of my goals. I was shooting for national Gatorade player of the year, but for the state, it’s still a big accomplishment that I am proud of.”
Neumann-Goretti coach Andrea Peterson, who was named Class 3A Coach of the Year in 2015, said Johnson’s worth extends past the basketball court.
“Diamond is an amazing role model to many young athletes who inspire to be great,” said Peterson. “She is a special person and player who will forever leave her mark here at NG and in the city of Philadelphia. Her work ethic is something I have never experienced for a high school athlete.”
According to Peterson, Johnson’s “personality and care for others is what really sets her apart. She wants nothing more but to see those around her succeed and make it to the top. She gives hours back to local schools and camps. She reads books, gives basketball instruction, and most importantly, gives life lessons and knowledge to the younger generation who look up to her.
“Diamond never skips a beat when it comes to giving back,” added Peterson. “Signing autographs or talking to young women about what it takes to get to the next level . . . she has a heart of gold, and she will forever be successful in more ways than just basketball.”
Also, on the Class 3A first-team squad is West Catholic junior Destiney McPhaul.
While the first-team All-Catholic amassed an average of 18.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 4.2 assists, McPhaul’s key contribution was pouring in 30 points to lead the Lady Burrs to their first PCL championship victory in 22 years and a quarterfinal berth in the PIAA quarterfinals before play was cancelled.
“It feels good,” said McPhaul, who scored her 1,000th career point early in the PIAA tournament. “It was one of my goals. It shows the work that I’ve put in.”
West Catholic coach Beulah Osueke admires her star player.
“I’m so proud of Destiney’s growth this year,” said Osueke. “She’s always been a kid who has put her teammates before herself. This year, she learned that stepping further into her leadership and talents was exactly what her team needed from her in order to help push us past the finish line.”
For the second straight season, Germantown Academy senior Jaye Haynes was named Class 3A first-team, all-state.
The Inter-Academic League’s MVP after posting averages of 16.7 points, four rebounds, and two assists, the LaSalle University-bound Haynes eclipsed 1,400 career points during her career and helped lead the Patriots to four straight Inter-Ac crowns.
“It’s always been a goal of mine to be recognized as one of the top players in the state,” said Haynes, who was also a first-team selection as a junior and a third-teamer as a sophomore. “To be recognized again this year is just a really big accomplishment and a blessing.”
Germantown Academy coach Sherri Retif emphasized Haynes’ overall body of work.
“Jaye has left her mark on GA basketball,” she said. “A three-time, all-state honoree, Inter-Ac MVP, four-time league champion, a state champion, and 39-point performance against Diamond Johnson. That said, she may even be a better person. She will be greatly missed in her Patriot uniform.”
Germantown Academy senior Maddie Vizza was named Class 3A third-team, all-state after a stellar season/career decorated with a first-team All-Inter-Ac selection, reaching 1,016 career points, and aiding the Patriots to four of the program’s six straight league titles.
“It’s an honor to be recognized, especially with a group of very talented athletes,” said Vizza. “To be honest, it wasn’t necessarily a goal of mine. As a point guard, I am definitely more focused on the overall success of the team. However, I am very grateful for the acknowledgment.”
Aforementioned GA coach Sherri Retif: “Maddie has been the floor general for our Patriot team since freshman year. As a point guard with a scorer's mentality, she netted 1,000 points while leading the team in assists. Her passion and leadership will be greatly missed next year.”
Vizza will be playing at Northeastern University, where she will join Archbishop Wood senior All-Catholic forward Izzy Larsen.
“I am so excited to finally get her on my team and not playing against me,” Larsen said with a smile. “It'll make life a lot easier not having to guard her three ball. She is fantastic and I am so stoked to get to play with her finally.”
Lansdale Catholic junior Timaya Lewis-Eutsey, a first-team All-Catholic after a dazzling average production of 24.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, 4.3 steals, 3.6 assists, and 1.9 blocks, was named Class 4A first-team, all-state. Lewis-Eutsey reached 1,000 career points during the state playoffs, taking the Lancers to an undefeated season in the Catholic League Blue Division, a District 12 title, and the state quarters for the first time in school history before the season was cancelled.
“I’m very proud,” said Lewis-Eutsey. “It feels great to have some reassurance that all my hard work is paying off. It was one of my many goals, and to be able to reach it feels great. I was sure that if I kept working hard, using my talent and leadership to help my team win, that good things would happen.”
Lansdale Catholic coach Eric Gidney said he was “beyond proud” of Lewis-Eutsey.
“This is certainly amazing recognition for her,” said Gidney. “Her goal was to help take this team as far as she and her teammates could go this season. To have that goal and the outcome from all that hard work and dedication lead to an all-state selection is just remarkable for her and for our entire program.”
Today, April 21, is Baldwin School junior Anajah Brown’s birthday, and she described the news of being formally recognized as a Class 4A second-team, all-state selection as “a great early birthday gift.” A first-team All-Inter-Ac, the 6-foot, 1-inch center averaged 24.3 points and 17 rebounds and became the fourth player in school history to reach 1,000 career points and only the second player to reach that mark as a junior. She spurred Baldwin to the Pennsylvania Independent Schools Athletic Association (PAISAA) quarterfinals.
“I am truly grateful for the opportunity,” said Brown. “Honestly, this accomplishment had never even crossed my mind. I never thought that I could achieve something like this, but again, I am truly grateful and just all around happy.”
Baldwin’s John Bernhardt said Brown has been an “absolute pleasure to coach” since arriving at Baldwin in November 2018.
“Not only has she excelled on the court production wise, she also excelled as a team captain this past season,” said Bernhardt. “She was basically another coach on the floor for me. After having a break-out sophomore season last year, she continued to improve a ton more this past season, especially as a leader. She upped her season averages from a year ago in regards to points, rebounds, and blocks per game, but I thought the more impressive thing about her game this past season was her ability to lead and, in some instances, really take over games.”
Bernhardt is awed by Brown’s “extremely high basketball IQ and her ability to see the floor,” and said she “has the ability of making everyone around her a better player.
“Anajah is a huge reason as to why our basketball program has really grown over the past two years,” said Bernhardt, “and I am extremely excited to get her back for her senior season.”
A constant recipient of verbal respect from her peers, West Catholic’s Beulah Osueke was named the Class 3A Coach of the Year. The Houston native inherited the Lady Burrs’ program before the 2013-14 season. This winter, her calm, steady leadership propelled the Lady Burrs to the Catholic League championship for the first time since 1998.
Osueke thus became the first African American coach – male or female – to capture a Catholic League title in the league’s 100 years of existence (75 for girls). The Lady Burrs had already won the District 12 championship, were in the middle of a school-record 11-game winning streak and had reached the PIAA state quarterfinals before play was cancelled.
“Being named Coach of the Year feels amazing,” said Osueke. “It’s a nod to all of the people who have believed in me for the past seven years This might seem like an individual accomplishment, but it’s a testament to what’s possible when people take real ownership of a shared, collective vision. Thanks to the selection committee for seeing our program’s evolution.”
2019-20 All-State Girls’ Basketball Team: Class 4A and Class 3A
Players are listed in alphabetical order. Information includes each player’s school, height, class, and scoring average.
Mackenzie Amalia, Blackhawk, 5-5, Sr., 21.9
Kate Fitzpatrick, Middletown, 5-6, Sr., 25.6
Kylee Lewandowski, North Catholic, 6-1, Sr., 12.4
Timaya Lewis-Eutsey, Lansdale Catholic, 5-10, Jr., 22.4
Taliyah Medina, Bethlehem Catholic, 6-0, Sr., 14.6
Tess Myers, North Catholic, 5-10, Sr., 16.9
Anajah Brown, Baldwin (Philadelphia), 6-1, Jr., 24.3
Lauren Charlton, Dallas, 6-0, Sr., 17.0
Emma Kuczynski, Tamaqua, 5-7, Sr., 23.4
Rachael Rose, Scranton Prep, 5-7, Jr., 19.8
Zara Zerman, Northern Lebanon, 5-9, Sr., 21.6
Lily Seyfert, Wyomissing, 5-8, Jr., 21.6
Jhala Bray, McKeesport, 5-8, Sr., 18.2
Cecelia Collins, Scranton Prep, 5-10, Jr., 15.8
Christiane Frye, Central Valley, 5-5, Sr., 19.8
Sommer Reeser, Lancaster Catholic, 5-7, Sr., 12.3
Skyler Searfoss, Jim Thorpe, 5-7, So., 15.3
Corinne Washington, Quaker Valley, 5-11, Jr., 18.0
Player of the year -- Taliyah Medina, Bethlehem Catholic
Coach of the year -- Carol Cecere, Forest Hills
Jaye Haynes, Germantown Academy, 5-11, Sr., 16.7
Diamond Johnson, Neumann-Goretti, 5-5, Sr., 31.0
Kylie Lavelle, Riverside (Taylor), 6-0, So., 21.7
Brooke Lawyer, Delone Catholic, 5-9, Sr., 13.8
Destiney, McPhaul, West Catholic, 5-8, Jr., 18.6
Moriah Murray, Dunmore, 5-8, So., 15.7
Antonia Bates, Notre Dame (Green Pond), 6-0, So., 10.8
Denae Carter, St. Basil, 5-11, Jr., 13.0
Summer McNulty, Loyalsock, 5-8, Jr., 17.2
Cassie Murphy, Notre Dame-Green Pond, 6-0, Sr., 16.5
Jaylah Robinson, Mastery North, 5-10, So., 16.5
Mariah Wilson, Lancaster Mennonite, 5-9, Jr., 26.6
Erika Dubosky, Panther Valley, 5-11, Jr., 19.4
Gianna Hoddinott, Delone Catholic, 5-9, So., 13.5
Jada Lee, Carlynton, 5-6, Sr., 14.5
Karly McCutcheon, Mohawk, 5-9, Sr., 17.2
Ciera Toomey, Dunmore, 6-2, Fr., 16.5
Maddie Vizza, Germantown Academy, 5-6, Sr., 13.0
Player of the year -- Diamond Johnson, Neumann-Goretti
Coach of the year -- Beulah Osueke, West Catholic