Northeast Times

Excitement abound for girls Public League hoops

That’s the spir­it: A year re­moved from mak­ing the post­season for the first time in the pro­gram’s his­tory, the Frank­lin Towne Charter girls bas­ket­ball team hopes to ad­vance even fur­ther this sea­son. PHOTO PROVIDED BY BRI­ANNA O’DON­NELL / FRAN

Just like al­ways, it will be an­oth­er busy sea­son in the Pub­lic League. Lin­coln, Frank­ford, Frank­lin Towne Charter, George Wash­ing­ton, North­east and Samuel Fels will all be look­ing to make an im­pact with­in their re­spect­ive di­vi­sions, and all of these teams hope to build and im­prove on their sea­sons from a year ago.

Here is a closer look at the six area girls Pub­lic League com­pet­it­ors:

Ab­ra­ham Lin­coln

Last sea­son: 6-8 over­all

Mike Tur­chi has been coach­ing girls bas­ket­ball at Lin­coln for al­most a dec­ade, and he cer­tainly hasn’t lost his sense of hu­mor over time.

“I wish some of my girls could move as fast on the court as I can with my mouth,” the quick-talk­ing coach said with a laugh.

But when it comes to bas­ket­ball on the court, Tur­chi is all busi­ness. After a 6-8 2011-12 cam­paign, Tur­chi said he hoped his team would im­prove by at least a game and achieve a .500 re­cord. 

The ma­tur­ity of Ty­shell Jesse as an on-the-court lead­er and the ar­rival of Alabama trans­fer Aaliyah Thur­man —along with 5-foot-10 seni­or cen­ter Brieanna John­son — give the Railsplit­ters some hope for a win­ning sea­son. The coach is hop­ing new play­ers Ta­tiana Ball and Keli­cia Brown will make an im­me­di­ate im­pact.

Frank­ford

Last sea­son: 4-10 over­all

After just win­ning a Pub­lic League cham­pi­on­ship as a Frank­ford foot­ball as­sist­ant, head bas­ket­ball coach Dave Ce­bu­lar has no such de­lu­sions of grandeur for his girls hoops play­ers. However, he does en­vi­sion the Pi­on­eers as a top-six team with­in their di­vi­sion; Ce­bu­lar also sees Frank­ford im­prov­ing this sea­son with the re­turn of four ex­per­i­enced seni­ors.

Ce­bu­lar “ex­pects big things” from seni­or point guard Tashae Hol­l­i­day, while fel­low seni­or Tan­iyah Fais­on has im­proved a great deal in the team’s back­court. The coach also has high ex­pect­a­tions for re­turn­ing starters Bri­ana Ker­sey and Dani­elle Corr.

“The girls are ex­cited. They want to be out there and they want to be prac­ti­cing,” Ce­bu­lar said. “The seni­ors have helped out the in­ex­per­i­enced play­ers, and we should be com­pet­it­ive in most games. You nev­er know what to ex­pect from a girls bas­ket­ball sea­son in the Pub­lic League, but the seni­ors es­pe­cially want to get bet­ter and go out on a good note. They’re in­to it.”

Frank­lin Towne Charter

Last sea­son: 12-9 over­all

No mat­ter where Bri­anna O’Don­nell goes at Frank­lin Towne Charter, she wins. Fresh off back-to-back Pub­lic League girls soc­cer cham­pi­on­ships, the school’s head soc­cer coach is hop­ing some of that good luck trans­lates onto the bas­ket­ball court, where she holds the same po­s­i­tion for the Coyotes.

A year re­moved from mak­ing the post­season for the first time, O’Don­nell ex­pects the 2012-13 bas­ket­ball sea­son to be even bet­ter. Soc­cer stars Rachel Gil­borges and Stefanie Ulmer are also bas­ket­ball standouts, serving as Towne’s best de­fend­er and scorer, re­spect­ively. Sopho­more trans­fer Alex­is O’Neill will run the point, while Val Scalici will start at cen­ter. Re­becca Gil­borges — an­oth­er soc­cer play­er and Rachel’s twin sis­ter — should also crack the start­ing five.

“We might not have the tallest or most tal­en­ted team in the Pub­lic League,” O’Don­nell said. “But we will have one of the best de­fenses and we’ll out­work you. Will it equal wins? If we play all four quar­ters, then I think so. I’d like for us to be a play­off team again.”

George Wash­ing­ton

Last sea­son: 1-12 over­all

After win­ning just one game last sea­son, Kathy Paul and the Wash­ing­ton Eagles will again have their work cut out for them. Of the team’s 17 play­ers, only four are re­turnees, and most of the re­main­ing girls have little or no bas­ket­ball ex­per­i­ence. 

Paul, the school’s second-year coach who also helms the field hockey and soft­ball pro­grams, un­der­stands the Eagles are a work in pro­gress. Seni­or cap­tain Salena Powers, whom Paul knows from the field hockey team, is Wash­ing­ton’s best re­turn­ing play­er and will be coun­ted on for lead­er­ship. An­oth­er four-year re­turn­ing play­er is Am­ber Dahlquist, while ju­ni­ors An­na­belle Ro­jas and De­Nique Thompson are back for their second go-round with the bas­ket­ball squad.

“The ex­pect­a­tions are to win as many games as pos­sible,” Paul said. “We were in a lot of our games last year be­fore fad­ing in the fourth quarter. We want to fix that, and we hope to get through the sea­son with no in­jur­ies. I’m just telling the girls to give it their all for four quar­ters, and we want to put it to­geth­er as a co­hes­ive group.”

North­east

Last sea­son: 15-6 over­all

In his first sea­son as the full-time girls bas­ket­ball coach at North­east, Phil Mon­as­tra in­her­its an ex­per­i­enced group that he hopes will win a lot of games.

Mon­as­tra, who is tak­ing over for former col­league Rich Kirk, is in his fourth year with the pro­gram. A year re­moved from win­ning 15 games, Mon­as­tra wants to keep the Vik­ings a power in the Pub­lic League, a stand­ard that Kirk worked many years to es­tab­lish. Back are ju­ni­or lead­ing scorer Lauren Wil­lis, ju­ni­or cen­ter Jack­ie Ha­gen and the emer­ging seni­or for­ward Lovely Ac­cilus, among oth­ers. 

“I learned a lot from Rich, and he’s on speed dial in case I ever need him for any­thing,” Mon­as­tra said. “The pro­gram it­self is a top pro­gram in the league, a stand­ard Rich came to ex­pect. We all have to step up with our in­tens­ity, and we know op­pon­ents will be gun­ning for us. We have to bring our A-game every night. There are no easy wins, so there are no off days. Right now I’m ex­cited, and maybe a little nervous, but I ex­pect us all to settle in­to a nice routine.

Samuel Fels

Last sea­son: 6-8 over­all

As the suc­cess­ful soc­cer coach at Samuel Fels, George Ewerth is ac­cus­tomed to get­ting his team in­to the post­season. After do­ing so in his first sea­son as girls bas­ket­ball coach a year ago, Ewerth is aim­ing to make it back in 2012-13.

The Pan­thers have a good mix­ture of re­turn­ing seni­ors and tal­en­ted un­der­class­men. Top guard Kristina Miller is back, as are for­wards Dan­nah Cross and Kim Pat­ter­son. As al­ways, Ewerth is fo­cus­ing on achieve­ment in the classroom first in the be­lief that con­fid­ent stu­dents be­come con­fid­ent ath­letes.

“This school is mov­ing onto big­ger and bet­ter things with the lead­er­ship of Prin­cip­al (Shawn) McGuigan and (ath­let­ic dir­ect­or) Mark Heimerdinger, who have been so sup­port­ive of me,” Ewerth said. “We’ll keep em­phas­iz­ing grades first and sports second. I treat them like my own chil­dren, and dis­cip­line has been key. Without it, you can’t learn. We ex­pect to be com­pet­it­ive, and to ad­vance fur­ther in­to the play­offs.” ••

Sports Ed­it­or Ed Mor­rone can be reached at 215-354-3035 or em­or­rone@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at emorrone@bsmphilly.com.

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