Sometimes the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree — and that’s especially true for Jen Purcell.
A Little Flower High School senior, she has enjoyed a lot of success at the school on Lycoming Avenue. In addition to playing basketball and field hockey for the Sentinels, Purcell has consistently earned honors in the classroom.
Her mother, Monica, also is a Sentinel. She graduated from Little Flower in 1983. And Purcell’s father, Steve, a coach at Springfield High School in Delaware County, was her first basketball coach, teaching her the fundamentals of the game.
“He was a great coach,” said Purcell. “He taught me everything I know about basketball.”
Jen Purcell has come a long way since playing basketball for her father as a 6-year-old. Her local squads have included St. Matthew’s (and coached by dad), Holy Terrors and the Northeast Rockers, and now she’s a leader for the Sentinels’ varsity program.
Little Flower has endured some ups and downs this basketball season, a consequence of growing pains. The Sentinels have only four seniors on their roster — Purcell, Courtney Weidner, Erin Keyes and Shanade Kiely — and must rely on a number of younger players to step up their games.
ldquo;We had some rough games in the beginning, but we’re working hard through these games,” said Purcell. “This year, we’ve definitely come a long way. Everyone is trying their best. Everyone is dedicated.”
At this point, Little Flower is 4-11 overall. Back-to-back losses came in games against longtime rival St. Hubert on Friday night and against St. Basil on Saturday — a particularly lopsided beating, 56-24.
But Purcell believes that the Sentinels’ positive attitude and work ethic will help them bounce back. “I really admire a lot of the younger girls. They work hard,” she said. “They’re put in a lot of tough situations. They do everything we ask of them. They progress every day.”
Little Flower was slated to face Lansdale Catholic on Monday, just after the Star went to press this week. Coach Adam Butcher likes what he has seen from his squad.
ldquo;We have a lot of young kids, but I think we’re getting better every game,” said Butcher, who has guided the Sentinels for 18 years. “The seniors have been doing a great job working with the younger players. I think if we can get ourselves into the playoffs, then we have a chance to win a game or two in the postseason.”
Little Flower still has some time to sprint toward the postseason. It’s the second half of the season, and with the team building on its experience, the Sentinels still have six games to play.
“We’re hoping to make the playoffs, win a playoff game and go from there,” said Purcell. “We always say, ‘Take your time, one basket at a time.’ We try to keep the team as focused as possible.
“They’re a great group of girls,” Purcell said of her younger teammates. “They’re really receptive and always give one-hundred percent no matter what the score is.”
Purcell certainly has evolved into a leader for her younger teammates. Like father, like daughter.
Steve Purcell played for the Father Judge Crusaders during his high school days, then went on to coach at St. Matthew’s and eventually became an assistant coach for Bill Fox at Father Judge. Before he was named boss at Springfield last year, Purcell was an assistant coach at Archbishop Ryan High School for two seasons.
“I still get to see him coach. One of my friends plays for his team (at Springfield), so we go over there and watch,” said Purcell. “He’s a great coach. He’s taught me so much.”
She also has been part of the Little Flower field hockey squad for four years. As for her career plans, Purcell wants to study radiological sciences at college and become an x-ray technician or radiation therapist.
“My mom and aunt both work in health care. I just really enjoy it,” explained Purcell. “I don’t want to be a nurse, but I want to help others.”
Purcell isn’t sure if she’ll continue her athletics next year. That depends on the college she attends and the programs that are offered, she said.
For now she’s happy to soak up every remaining moment at Little Flower High School. Purcell wants her teammates to have a season to remember.
“She’s great. She’s very understanding. She’s really positive with the younger players,” said Butcher. “It helps them a lot. They play with a lot more confidence because they know she has their back, even when they make ‘young’ mistakes. She’s a great leader.” ••