Photos: Kathy Leister & Lennie Malmgren
By: Marc Narducci
Sophia Rutherford is so excited to be back playing basketball and it shows in her performance. A 5-7 junior at Moorestown Friends, Rutherford suffered a season-ending knee injury on January 30, 2022 while playing a game against Delsea at Villanova University.
Not only did she tear her ACL, but also sprained her MCL and tore her lateral meniscus. She couldn’t get her surgery done until Feb. 28 because the surgeon wanted the MCL to heal before the operation.
So Rutherford had to go through the laborious rehab, but it all paid off when she made her return to the court on Jan. 6 against Academy of the New Church.
She didn’t ease back in her return. Even though Moorestown Friends lost 60-27, Rutherford had 15 points and seven rebounds in her debut this season. Since then she had continued to play well and gain confidence in her knee.
“I was definitely nervous, but I felt prepared and tried to play hard and give it my all,” she said. “I tried not to play scared.”
That first game back was like a big weight off her shoulders.
“It feels amazing to be back and you are seeing how all the hard work has paid off,” she said. “There is still the process of getting back in basketball shape and trying to get better each game.”
Not surprisingly, with Rutherford back, the Foxes are playing their best basketball of the season. They began the week having won three of their past four games.
Rutherford had a positive attitude while rehabbing her knee.
“It was definitely lonely but I traveled with my club team all spring and summer,” she said, about her team LGB Select. “My AAU coach (Lexie Gerson) is amazing and let me be like and assistant coach, and I was taking stats.”
Now she is making plenty of her own statistics.
During her first seven games back, she has averaged 10.5 points and 5.1 rebounds, while hitting nine three-point field goals.
During last week’s 43-23 win over Friends Select, she had 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Two days before that she had 13 points and five rebounds in a 53-47 win over Burlington Township.
“It’s been so nice having her back,” Moorestown Friends coach Mike Brunswick said. “You notice such a difference when she is on the court.”
Brunswick said he has a great appreciation for all the work it took for Rutherford to return.
“She worked so hard and also came to every practice, every game,” he said. “Now that she is back it is like having another coach out there. It’s hard to find kids like that.”
Rutherford said she is hoping to play in college, but right now, she is only concerned with improving each game as her comeback continues one day at a time.
Nal’La Bennett, a 5-8 sophomore, exploded for 39 points in Friends' Central’s 92-41 win over Academy of the New Church. Sana’a Garrett, a 5-8 sophomore added 19 and 6-3 sophomore Logyn Greer added 17.
There were some big performances for ANC, led by 5-7 junior Xola Wade, who had 15 points, nine rebounds, five assists and two steals. That is the type of all-around performance she has enjoyed all season. Senior forward Oniya Osborne added 12 points, six rebounds and two blocked shots.
Not only has Westtown clinched the No. 1 seed in the Friends League playoffs, but the Moose have continued their treacherous non-league schedule. Over the weekend they went to New York to face Fort Erie International of Canada. It was a back-and-forth game but Westtown prevailed 59-54.
Senior Grace Sundback, the 5-10 Delaware commit who had been sidelined with an ankle injury, was in the lineup and led the Moose with 15 points. Jordyn Palmer, the 6-1 eighth grader who has enjoyed a breakout season, added 14 points and 5-11 junior Savannah Curry added 12. Curry, with quick hands that forced numerous steals, was as effective on defense as on offense
“We didn’t shoot well from the field or the foul line, but the kids kept playing hard and we beat a very good team,” Westtown coach Fran Burbidge said. “It was a big win for us.”
George School clinched the No. 3 seed with a 52-31 win over Abington Friends on Tuesday.
Gianna Johnson, George School’s 6-5 junior, led the way with 22 points while 5-10 freshman Sylvie Harrington and her sister, 5-9 junior Basha Harrington, each scored nine.
“We are battling illness and injuries and hopefully we regroup for the playoffs,” George School coach La’Keisha Sutton said.
Abington Friends received 16 points from junior guard/forward Sakinah Abdus-Salaam and 15 from sophomore forward Nyla Coleman.
Academy of the New Church clinched a playoff berth with Tuesday’s 44-22 win over Germantown Friends. That gave ANC the fifth playoff spot, where the Lions will visit No. 4 seeded Shipley on Friday.
“It felt good, they (Germantown Friends) were organized and were a very good coach and they tried to take Xola (Wade) out of it, she had help,” said ANC coach Rashim Lancit.
Freshman Jayda Mayo, was playing her third game back since returning from a broken leg. She is already receiving major minutes.
Junior Te'a Richards had 16 points and seven steals, while Wade added 12 points and seven assists. Senior forward Oniya Osborne had eight points, five rebounds and three steals, while Mayo scored four points.
Now ANC will prepare for Shipley, which beat the Lions, 72-40 on Jan. 10.
“Shipley is a talented team, but we gave them too many open shots the first time,” Lancit said. “We can’t do that again.”
Shipley clinched the No. 4 seed with Tuesday’s 54-19 win over Moorestown Friends.
Earlier, Shipley defeated Friends Select with 5-4 junior Evyn Stone scoring 20 points and 5-6 freshman Taylor Lasky adding 17. The Gators shot 11-for-24 from three-point range (.460).
The top five teams earn a playoff berth with the first three teams receiving first round byes and No. 4 vs. No. 5 battling to compete in the semifinals.
1. Westtown (8-0) will host the 4/5 winner in Tuesday’s 4 p.m. semifinal
2. Friends Central (7-1) will host No. 3 seed George School in Tuesday’s 4 p.m. semifinal.
3. George School (6-2) visits No. 2 Friends Central in Tuesday’s 4 p.m. semifinal
4. Shipley (5-3) will host ANC in the 4/5 game at 4 p.m. Friday.
5. Academy of the New Church (4-4) will visit Shipley in the 4/5 game on Friday at 4 p.m.
Following Tuesday’s semifinal at the higher seed, the championship will be 6:30 p.m. on Friday Feb. 10 at La Salle University.
The four teams that didn’t make the playoffs, will compete for the Quaker Cup.