Though she recently committed to play basketball at Delaware Valley College in Doylestown, the last thing on Bridget Sobon’s mind right now is college.
This part of her life represents her future, and although she admits to being excited for opportunities still to come, Sobon is choosing to live in the present and enjoy what little high school basketball she has left.
A senior tri-captain for the Nazareth Academy basketball team, Sobon is the team’s point guard and quarterback on offense. She also has been part of a group that has found success on the hardwood despite having to replace four seniors from last year’s team.
As of this writing, Sobon’s Pandas were still alive and kicking in the PIAA District One Class AAA Playoffs. A fifth-seed in the tournament, Nazareth knocked off Pottstown with a 61-38 first-round home win on Feb. 24, and most recently won a 52-44 road decision in the quarterfinals at No. 4 Upper Merion last Friday evening. The Pandas were eliminated by Villa Maria Academy, 61-47, in the district semifinals on Feb. 28 (Sobon scored a team-high 16 points in the loss).
“I think it’s pretty obvious that we aren’t ready for this season to end yet,” Sobon said following her clutch 14-point performance against Upper Merion. “We’re a balanced, well-rounded team where everyone knows their role. Not all of us are going to be playing basketball in college, so we want to make this last as long as possible.”
She has been playing with some of her teammates for as long as she can remember, including fellow senior captain Danielle Gasperi, whom Sobon began playing AAU ball with when the two were 9 years old. Together, Sobon, Gasperi (18 points, 11 rebounds) and junior forward Nicole Dombrowski (14 points, 12 rebounds), accounted for 46 of Nazareth’s 52 points in the win at Upper Merion.
A win didn’t always seem to be in the cards for the Pandas, who struggled mightily on the glass in the first half and were on the receiving end of some tough calls from an officiating group that seemed to be playing to the raucous crowd in Upper Merion’s packed King of Prussia gym. Nazareth was only down by one point at halftime, but they had to scuffle to keep it that close; as a result, the game seemed very much in doubt as the team headed into the locker room at halftime.
Then, with the flick of a switch, the team’s leaders took over. After having trouble rebounding in the first half, Gasperi and Dombrowski owned the boards in the second half. In an effort led by Sobon, the defensive unit clamped down on the Vikings, allowing just 20 second-half points (several of these came at garbage time when the game was already in hand for Nazareth). Somehow, the Pandas gritted their way to a victory that seemed like a long shot in the first half.
“In the beginning of our season, nobody but us had high expectations for this team,” Sobon said of the 16-8 Pandas. “Everybody said we couldn’t survive having to replace four starters, and that has kind of continued during our run in districts. Upper Merion has their own TV station that broadcasts their games, and all we kept hearing was how they were going to roll over us and that we weren’t supposed to win. That got us angry. The fans were really against us, and quieting them down really gave us a great feeling heading into the semifinals.”
In replacing those four seniors from last year, new leaders have been born for Nazareth, which is why the team has had a successful showing in districts. The Pandas have blossomed under the direction of a first-year head coach that has helped mold a previously unsure group of girls into a determined winner.
“Whether it was a key rebound, steal or defensive stop, we always seemed to step up with a big play in the second half,” head coach John Turner said. “I credit that to our veteran players. They’ve played in hostile environments before, so it wasn’t something they weren’t used to. The atmosphere didn’t scare our kids, as you saw in that second half. I’m very pleased by their effort, as I have been all season.”
As for Sobon’s play out there, Turner was not surprised at all by his senior point guard’s ability to come up big in crunch time.
“Bridget has been doing that for us all year,” he said. “Whenever things are breaking down, she makes a play. She’s a high-IQ player that we always trust with the ball in her hands. She really controls things out there, and she certainly has made my job a lot easier.”
A large part of Nazareth’s successes have come because of the team’s balance. All five Panda starters have led the team in scoring at one point this season, and on Friday night it was Dombrowski’s turn, followed closely by Sobon and Gasperi.
Though the Pandas ended their season 0-3 against Villa Maria, Sobon made it clear that she has enjoyed every moment of her senior season.
“There have been plenty of ups and downs for us,” she said. “We just always work hard to motivate each other and bring each other up by playing with confidence. It sounds simple, but it’s been anything but. We’ve learned a lot from each other, and it’s something I’ll carry with me to the next level next season.”
Turner has enjoyed watching his point guard blossom as the season has progressed.
“Bridget’s a gamer,” he said. “Some days as a coach you get frustrated with the day-to-day grind of a season, but when the time comes, all of these girls, especially Bridget, are gamers. She always come to play and she always comes to win, and at this point it’s just what I expect out of her.” ••EndFragment