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FSL BASKETBALL: Westtown Girls, ANC Boys Take Home League Title with Convincing Victories

By Josh Abrams , 02/13/24, 2:30PM EST


Videos/Interviews: Josh Abrams 

Photos: Lennie Malmgren

By: Josh Abrams

Olney, Philadelphia - Another season of Friends School League basketball has concluded, as the championship games for the girls and boys were held this past Friday night at Tom Gola Arena on the campus of La Salle University.

Friends Central School represented in both contests, but it was the Westtown School girls and Academy of the New Church boys who emerged victorious. 

Westtown School captures 4th consecutive FSL tittle in a 64-33 win over Friends Central School - PSD Photo by Lennie Malmgren

Dominant Freshman Duo Takes Over in Convincing Westtown Win

Flash back to the year 2019 (seems like an eternity ago, right?). Westtown's girls basketball program hadn't appeared in a FSL title game since 2005, nor won one since 1997. 

Then, Fran Burbidge took over. Fast forward to now, and Westtown all of a sudden is celebrating yet another FSL title; their fourth in a row. This one in the form of a commanding 64-33 win over FCS in the first game of the night.

A theme throughout this season, the youth for the Female Moose led the way. Jessie Moses (26 pts including four triples) and Jordyn Palmer (21 pts, 12 reb, four assists & four blocks) accounted for 73 percent of Westtown's offense. 

The pair of freshman have been nothing short of phenomenal all season long. The sheer fact they are only freshman is something Burbidge constantly has to tell himself, his staff and anyone else engaged with the team. 

"It's probably not fair - them being only ninth graders," said the decorated head coach. "I always remind myself and others that they are. But when we're out on the floor they're just really, really good basketball players who don't blink at the competition or the stage; they're out there playing."

What might make things slightly less unfair - more so impressive than anything - is the depth of this Westtown team. Given how successful of a run Burbidge is currently on with the Female Moose, he will be the first one to tell you just exactly how this team succeeds the way it does. 

"Every game for us takes on a different flavor," Burbidge said. "We got Atlee VaneskoOlivia JonesSavannah CurryAidan LangleyMichelle Olak, and Vianna (Kenyamiheto-Watson) coming off the (bench); we got a lot of really good players... however, with that said, everything kind of centers through (Moses & Palmer) with Jesse at the top and then Jordyn just being Jordyn. And then everybody plays off them." 

Westtown uses late push in second quarter to extend their lead approaching halftime

Westtown GBB head coach Fran Burbidge postgame interview following yet another win in FSL title game

The final score does not indicate how much FCS gave Westtown fits in the first quarter and early stages of the second frame. The Female Moose led 20-11 through eight minutes of play, and after a Logyn Greer triple and pair of free throws from Kaiya Rain Tucker, the Phoenix had cut their deficit down to seven, 25-18, with five minutes remaining in the first half. 

From there, Westtown used an 11-0 run to end the half and go into the locker room with a commanding 36-18 lead. A 14-4 advantage in the third quarter all but sealed the deal for a coveted and once-in-a-lifetime four-peat. 

Westtown freshman Jordyn Palmer talks about what second FSL title in as many years means to her

Third quarter action in FSL GBB contest between Westtown and Friends Central School

Given how long he's been around the game, Burbidge understands how tough of a team his girls faced on Friday night for the second year in a row for the FSL title.

"First off, Friends Central is, really, a good basketball team and (have) a lot of really good players, and they do a great job coaching that team" expressed Burbidge. "So even though the score was what it was the first time we played them - they were missing a couple kids - that's a good basketball team."

Greer finished with 11 to lead the Phoenix, while fellow junior Nal'La Bennett chipped in with nine points. FCS does not roster a senior on their varsity team this year, indicating they are bound to be in position to return to this stage next season. 

Until then, they await their next opponent, the Shipley School, in the 8/9 seed play-in round of the PAISAA tournament on Wednesday, 2/14. 

Westtown, who is looking to defend their PAISAA crown from last year, is the top seed yet again, and will await the results of the play-in games (the 7/10 seed matchup features GFS/ANC). 

Academy of the New Church wins 2024 FSL title, defeating Friends Central School 64-50 - PSD Photo by Lennie Malmgren

Balanced Scoring Attack Guides ANC to First FSL Title since 2009

For the last 15 years, this stage of the season for the Academy of the New Church boys basketball program has brought along with it a few demons. Try SEVEN FSL title game losses over the stretch, with the last four, in succession, on the court they stepped on yet again Friday night. 

This time, there was no being denied. The Lions got over the hump and captured the FSL championship over FCS, 64-50, after so many years of denial at the stage. Quite the sweet feeling for long-time head coach, Kevin Givens.

"We've been down here for the last five years (no tournament in 2021 due to the pandemic), and we came in second place every time," said Givens. "One of the things I said to the kids and the coaches is 'we're due, man. It's our time.' We went 8-0 in the league, and the kids have been playing hard, playing resilient, playing great defense... that's been our MO all year long." 

The makeup of this ANC rotation is spread out in terms of age, but also loaded with talent. Four players reached double figures in scoring for the Lions, led by senior Bahsil Laster  and sophomore Dior Carter's 14 and 11 points, respectively. The sophomore duo of Cameron Smith and Tobe Nwobu each added 10 points, with Smith coming off the bench and immediately providing a daunting presence down low with his big, 6'7" frame. 

Senior Nolan Waldon added seven points, while Ogonna Obayi, another senior, scored all six of his points in the fourth quarter. Sophomore forward Ryan Warren adds length to the starting lineup as he stands at 6'6", and he chipped in with six points himself. 

The core of Obayi, Laster, Carter and Waldon were all key pieces in last season's gut-wrenching 64-61 defeat to George School in the FSL finals. For the latter, getting the win in this year's bout means the world considering how far he has come. 

Academy of the New Church senior Nolan Waldon postgame interview following FSL title victory over FCS

ANC & FCS boys find their rhythm, exchange baskets in the third quarter

"(I) started off not really playing varsity basketball. When I came to ANC, Coach Kev gave me a chance to play," Waldon said. "So having this opportunity really means a lot." 

FCS was a thorn in ANC's side for the first 12 minutes. The Lions only led by four, 12-8, through the first quarter, and when FCS called a timeout with 3:29 left in the first half, the teams had essentially traded baskets to keep the margin at four points. But a 10-2 run to end the half sparked ANC to a 29-17 halftime lead, one from which they would not look back. 

FCS' Reid Belcher offensive rebound and putback, Carter responds right back with a three pointer in second quarter of FSL boys title game

ANC head coach Kevin Givens reflects on breaking FSL title drought and what led to the victory

"About midway through the first quarter we started hitting shots, our guys got their confidence going, (and) it sort of opened things up for us," Givens said. "We did the same thing tonight that we did all year long - play defense and dominate the glass." 

Laster scored eight of his 14 in the third quarter, while Smith had two consecutive post moves hit paydirt, helping ANC put away FCS via a 23-13 advantage. 

FCS' senior trio of Muhsin Muhammad (game-high 20 pts), Fazl Oshodi (12) and Reid Belcher (10) paced the offense for the Phoenix, who are the #5 seed in the upcoming PAISAA tournament. Their first round opponent will be 12-seed Episcopal Academy

One can say a weight's been lifted off Kevin Givens' shoulders. After all, he did just lead his team to a drought-breaking championship victory. But they also have PAISAA competition upcoming; as the #4 seed they will play #13 Malvern Prep. They can't lose focus now. If both FCS and ANC take care of their business, a rematch is on tap in the second round. 

"It's always hard, always a challenge," offered Givens on the difficulties behind keeping the kids locked in. "It's even worse when you lose this game, and then try to go into the PAISAA  because you don't know what you're going to get from the kids. But I think they're motivated, ready to go, and I think we should be fine. Our goal right now is to go ahead and win states."