Photos/Videos: Donna Eckert, Krystal Williams & Rachel Macauley
By: John Knebels
PHILADELPHIA – Preseason competition is great. It’s important. It can ignite team chemistry. It could lead to an individual scholarship. It sometimes draws large crowds.
In the Philadelphia Catholic League, however, league games envelop an entirely different feel. Tradition. Anticipation. The beginning of an entirely unique pursuit.
For the 11 PCL girl squads, there are only 10 opportunities to secure enough wins to reach the postseason, or to defeat the teams in their individual PIAA class whether that be 3A (Conwell-Egan, West Catholic, Neumann-Goretti), 4A (Archbishop Wood, Lansdale Catholic, Bonner-Prendergast), 5A (Cardinal O’Hara, St, Hubert, Archbishop Ryan, Little Flower), or 6A (Archbishop Carroll).
“Whenever you play a PCL game, there’s a different feel and different level of intensity,” said Archbishop Wood senior Ryanne Allen. “It’s felt that way every year I’ve been at Wood.”
Allen returns as one of the league’s premier talents. Already committed to Vanderbilt University, the first-team all-state standout put together an outstanding season as a junior, culminating with a Catholic League championship and Class 4A state crown.
In a PCL opener for both teams, Allen scored a game-high 14 points to go along with four rebounds and four assists as the Vikings defeated Conwell-Egan, 71-50. Junior Allie Fleming (10 points), senior Bri Bowen (11 points, five rebounds), freshman Emily Knouse (nine points), sophomore Ava Renninger (seven points, four assists, three steals), and junior Kara Meredith (seven points, three rebounds) paced the Vikings to a 24-12 first quarter lead. A 23-8 third quarter advantage ended all suspense.
“Being able to win our first game is hopefully a boost moving forward, but we still have to continually get better if we want to compete for another championship,” said Allen. “Our goal every year is to win a PCL championship and possibly having the chance to defend last year’s championship and go back-to-back would be awesome. But we’ve got to take it one game at a time if we want to get to that point again.”
Conwell-Egan’s defeat included several silver linings. Composed completely of underclassmen highlighted by a bevy of talented sophomores, the Eagles only trailed by 42-28 at the half. A 14-6 fourth quarter kept the score more than respectable.
Sophomores Saniyah Spell (3-4 on three-pointers) and Mya Aizen (5-8 from the field in addition to nine rebounds) both scored 12 points for Conwell-Egan, which canned 6 of 13 from long distance. Sophomore Gianna Johnson (7 points, 5 rebounds, 3 blocks), sophomore Brooke McFadden (5 rebounds, 5 assists), and junior Kyliyah Carmichael (6 assists) contributed solid outings.
“For our program, optimism was and remains sky high,” said C-E coach Chris Brennan. “We know we can compete with every team in the PCL. I couldn’t think of a better way to test ourselves than to tip things off with the defending champs.
“While we lost, our failure points are and will be corrected as we progress through the season. The girls have bought into the process. We continue to get better every game and practice.”
New West Catholic coach Messiah Reames was successful in his PCL debut. Behind senior Amina Fowler’s 24 points, 6-of-8 shooting from long distance, four rebounds, and three assists, the Burrs raced to an early edge and never stopped in a 55-46 win over Bonner-Prendergast.
“After not playing a game since December 12, I was very impressed with how we executed on both ends of the floor,” said Reames. “Our energy and effort was there for most of the game even though I feel like we have so much more. Overall it was a great showing, and we are just happy to be playing again.”
Archbishop Carroll outscored St. Hubert in every quarter as the visiting Patriots stopped the Bambies, 63-34. Junior Taylor Wilson was a force. She scored 18 of her game-high 20 points in the first half and added nine rebounds.
Seniors Grace O’Neill (four assists) and Maggie Grant both added 12 points. For Hubert, senior Gianna Grassifulli scored 16 points while sophomore Emma Hassel added eight.
“In the beginning we came out a little bit slow, but as the game progressed we started to do the little things like rebounding, setting good screens, having defensive intensity, etcetera,” said O’Neill. “That helped us control the game.”
Balanced scoring and dogged defense carried Cardinal O’Hara past host Archbishop Ryan, 50-13. Senior Sydni Scott (11 points, four assists), senior Maggie Doogan (nine points, six rebounds), sophomore Joanie Quinn (eight points, four rebounds), and freshman Molly Rullo (nine points, five rebounds) supplied most of the damage.
Heading into a PCL contest against visiting St. Hubert on Jan. 11, Scott only needs 14 points to reach 1,000 for her career.
“I think our defense worked the best for this game,” said Doogan, a first-team all-state selection last year. “We worked together and shared the ball, so it was pretty early in the game that I felt confident we would win.”
Tag(s): Home Schools Philadelphia Catholic Girls Basketball Philadelphia Catholic League Arch. Carroll Girls Basketball Arch. Ryan Girls Basketball Arch. Wood Girls Basketball Bonner & Prendie Girls B-Ball Cardinal O'Hara Girls B-Ball Conwell-Egan Girls Basketball Lansdale Cath Girls Basketball Little Flower Basketball Saint Hubert Basketball Neumann/Goretti Girls B-Ball West Catholic Girls Basketball