Both sides of the ball

Fri­day night’s game with St. Hubert was per­son­al for Jack­ie Hartzell. The Arch­bish­op Ry­an bas­ket­ball coach is a Hubert grad and former Bam­bie play­er.


The stun­ning real­iz­a­tion that St. Hubert High School may close its doors forever at the end of the school year, end­ing 70-plus years of his­tory and tra­di­tion, has af­fected count­less people in vary­ing ways.

There are the stu­dents, who have no idea where they’ll be next fall. There are the par­ents, scram­bling to pull some last-minute strings to find new schools. And there are the school ad­min­is­trat­ors who’ll be out of a job.

Then there’s Jack­ie Hartzell — a 2001 St. Hubert gradu­ate who now coaches girls bas­ket­ball at Arch­bish­op Ry­an. Each year, Hartzell must face the awk­ward di­lemma of try­ing to de­feat her alma ma­ter, the school where she ex­celled on the bas­ket­ball court for four years, to the ex­tent that she turned her suc­cess in­to a head coach­ing job at a rival neigh­bor­hood school.

Hartzell al­ways tries to ap­proach Ry­an-Hubert games like any oth­er on the sched­ule, a task cer­tainly easi­er said than done. But with the news of Hubert’s im­pend­ing de­mise — a cas­u­alty of the Arch­diocese of Phil­adelphia’s money troubles — last Fri­day night’s game between the two rivals was any­thing but an­oth­er Phil­adelphia Cath­ol­ic League con­test.

It very well may have been the last time the two schools battled on the hard­wood. But it had sig­ni­fic­ant im­plic­a­tions for Hartzell — the last time, per­haps, that she stepped on the St. Hubert court at Tor­res­dale and Cottman av­en­ues, a bas­ket­ball court that is home to so many memor­ies.

“It def­in­itely wasn’t just an­oth­er game, at least not for me,” Hartzell said. “It was very emo­tion­al for me, con­sid­er­ing I spent four years of my life there and now I’m coach­ing here at Ry­an. Once the game starts, we have to treat it like any oth­er be­cause we want to win, but it was dif­fer­ent.”

It was a game Hartzell won’t soon for­get. She got the chance to pos­sibly say good­bye to her high school, but the farewell could have had a hap­pi­er end­ing for her, at least as a coach. Her Rag­dolls led by a dozen at half­time, but the Bam­bies, show­ing some of that fight in their struggle to save their school, gradu­ally climbed back in­to the game.

Krista Pat­ter­son’s three-point­er as time ex­pired en­abled Hubert to force an ex­tra peri­od. The Bam­bies out­las­ted Hartzell’s Rag­dolls in an over­time nail-biter, 44-41.

Even in de­feat, Hartzell ad­mired her alma ma­ter’s ef­fort. She knows that, bar­ring a mir­acle, there will be no 2012-13 school year for St. Hubert. Dur­ing a re­cent ap­peal hear­ing be­fore arch­dioces­an lead­ers, St. Hubert ad­min­is­trat­ors presen­ted their plan to boost en­roll­ment and fin­ances to keep the school go­ing, and a de­cision is pending. But with memor­ies of last year’s clos­ures of North Cath­ol­ic and Car­din­al Dougherty still fresh, the St. Hubert com­munity isn’t about to over­look the his­tory les­son.

“It’s just dev­ast­at­ing news, and even after all this time and the game we just played, I don’t think it’s quite hit me yet,” Hartzell said. “I’ve been look­ing through a lot of old pic­tures lately, and I’ve got to talk to a lot of old friends and see some old faces … it’s sad that it has come to this, but you see the way they’ve ban­ded to­geth­er and real­ize that there still is hope.”

She has been heartened by the re­cent cam­paign of stu­dents, par­ents and school staff to put up a fight for St. Hubert’s fu­ture.

“I’m not sur­prised at all, be­cause it’s such a spe­cial place for any­one that is lucky enough to at­tend there,” she said. “It was cer­tainly the best four years of my life. Un­less you went there, it’s hard to un­der­stand why tak­ing the school away from us would be so dev­ast­at­ing.

ldquo;I think the fact that it’s an all-girls school has a lot to do with it. The people you meet stay your friends forever, and the re­la­tion­ship between the stu­dents and teach­ers is something I’ve nev­er ex­per­i­enced any­where else,” she con­tin­ued. “Com­bine that with the in­tense school spir­it, and you just grow to love the place. It be­comes part of you forever.”

Hartzell also showed re­spect for her alma ma­ter when asked if she was po­ten­tially scout­ing any play­ers who may end up trans­fer­ring from St. Hubert to Arch­bish­op Ry­an next year.

Oth­er than an open house for pos­sible trans­fer stu­dents at schools that will closed by the arch­diocese, there has been zero com­mu­nic­a­tion between Hartzell and St. Hubert’s bas­ket­ball play­ers, she said. Her hope is that the school stays in ex­ist­ence.

“Go­ing to St. Hubert’s and get­ting in­volved in sports has shaped my life more than ten years later,” Hartzell con­tin­ued. “The night be­fore they made the clos­ing an­nounce­ment, I told our kids to ap­pre­ci­ate every mo­ment, be­cause you nev­er know how long it’s go­ing to last. Wheth­er they close your school or not, those four years go so fast and just like that, they’re gone. But the great thing is that Hubert will al­ways live on in our minds and hearts, and I’ll al­ways en­joy and ap­pre­ci­ate the memor­ies that the school gave me. I know the same can be said for every­one else.” ••


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