A family affair

“My dad was my first coach. He was a great coach. He taught me everything I know about bas­ket­ball.” — Jen Pur­cell, re­fer­ring to her fath­er Steve.


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.”

Little Flower is cur­rently strug­gling through a 4-12 over­all re­cord. They re­cently suffered loses to long­time rival Saint Hubert on Fri­day night and then Saint Basils the fol­low­ing day.

Cur­rently en­dur­ing a six-game los­ing streak, the Sen­tinels battled for a win against Lans­dale Cath­ol­ic on Monday, but came up short, los­ing 57-31.

Des­pite their struggles for a vic­tory, Pur­cell be­lieves that the Sen­tinels’ pos­it­ive at­ti­tude and work eth­ic could 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.”

“We have a lot of young kids, but I think we’re get­ting bet­ter every game,” ad­ded 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 play­off con­ten­tion. 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.” ••


You can reach at myerkov@bsmphilly.com.

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