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:
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org