Optimism running high for Public League ladies

  • Lauren Willis, Northeast’s top-returning scorer, is back for her senior season with the Vikings, who again have high expectations in 2013-14. TIMES FILE PHOTO

  • Rebecca Gilborges, fresh off winning her third straight soccer title for Franklin Towne Charter, is one of several key returners on Brianna O’Donnell’s team that won 16 games in 2012-13. TIMES FILE PHOTO

After a fall sports sea­son that was blessed with usu­ally su­preme weath­er con­di­tions, the Delaware Val­ley was blanketed by snow and ice this past week­end.


In­deed, a change of scenery beck­ons.

For the next sev­er­al months, bas­ket­ball will take cen­ter stage, and there are sev­er­al area girls teams that will rep­res­ent the Pub­lic League:

Ab­ra­ham Lin­coln

Last sea­son: 8-4

Dur­ing his nine sea­sons as Lin­coln’s head coach, Mike Tur­chi has seen many dif­fer­ent com­bin­a­tions re­cog­nized as the “start­ing five,” a term that gives coaches head­aches be­cause, in truth, there isn’t a sig­ni­fic­ant dif­fer­ence between the starters and the first few play­ers off the bench.

When asked for his prob­able quin­tet that will open the sea­son Dec. 11 at South­ern, Tur­chi gave the nod to a group that pos­sesses an in­triguing mix of youth and ex­per­i­ence.

Two seni­ors — co-cap­tains Aaliyah Thur­man and Ty­shell Jessie — join fresh­man Karla Wil­li­ams in the back­court, while ju­ni­ors Tavena Starks (cen­ter) and Kel­li­cia Brown (for­ward) man the front.

ldquo;Look out for Aaliyah and Ty­shell,” Tur­chi said. “Both are slash­ers and work well to­geth­er and can score the ball both in­side and out­side.


Last sea­son: 6-8

If any­one would like to watch a bas­ket­ball team ex­per­i­en­cing a “do-over,” come to a Frank­ford game.

Bring­ing along a wealth of coach­ing ex­per­i­ence, first-year hoops coach Ken Tom­czuk kept 24 play­ers from the 32 who tried out. As for a game-day roster, that is sub­ject to change. And change … and change …

“The first thing is that the team needs to be taught all over again,” said Tom­czuk, also the Frank­ford soft­ball coach. “A lot of kids seem to have wrong ideas about the right way to do things.”

From the first day of prac­tice, Tom­czuk said he has stressed that the Pi­on­eers “bring an ‘A’ at­ti­tude” from their school day — and that in­cludes “keep­ing their grades up … a ‘B’ or bet­ter.”

“It’s about de­vel­op­ing kids now,” Tom­czuk said. “Learn the best way to shoot and to pass. Learn the game. And fol­low the rules. If someone doesn’t want to do the right things, there will be a spot for someone who does.”

The height-chal­lenged Pi­on­eers will rely on a pair of re­turn­ing play­ers — seni­or for­ward Dijion Feld­er and seni­or guard Bri­ana Fuller. Along with ju­ni­or Ta­tiana Ball, fresh­men Ashya Gaddy and Ronda Bynum will provide a three-guard ro­ta­tion.

Frank­lin Towne Charter

Last sea­son: 16-7

Spend a few minutes talk­ing with Bri­anna O’Don­nell and you might find your­self wish­ing you could just toss on a uni­form.

Among those who are for­tu­nate to be un­der the tu­tel­age of the 10th-year coach are a bevy of seni­ors who have played on the same team for sev­er­al years, some since grade school.

While O’Don­nell ad­mits that this group prob­ably won’t score many points, they’ll be pre­pared to keep the op­pos­i­tion from light­ing up the score­board.

“This sea­son, we don’t have a play­er or two we can call a ‘go-to’ type of play­er, at least on of­fense,” said O’Don­nell, who has coached the Towne girls soc­cer team to three straight Pub­lic League titles. “So the word for us is de­fense.”

Com­ing off the best per­form­ance in school his­tory that in­cluded a first-place, 9-2 league re­cord its first-ever play­off win, Towne’s sea­son began this past week­end in suc­cess­ful fash­ion, a two-win, Friends Se­lect Tipoff Tour­na­ment title. Power for­ward Valentina Scalici was named tour­ney MVP with a com­bined 27 points. Guard Rachel Gil­borges was a ball-hawk­ing pest to any­one who dared test her one-on-one skills.

“She’s prob­ably the best on-the-ball de­fens­ive play­er I’ve had in my 10 years,” said O’Don­nell of Gil­borges, whose fraternal twin sis­ter, Re­becca, is a Towne for­ward. “Play­ing man to man on the oth­er team’s point guard, it dis­rupts the oth­er team’s whole of­fense.”

While the afore­men­tioned play­ers have star­ted since they were fresh­men, 6-foot-2’ seni­or Madeline Cep­par­ulo has star­ted since she was a sopho­more.

“It’s been nice hav­ing those four kids for four years,” O’Don­nell said. “We have a really nice team at­mo­sphere.”

George Wash­ing­ton

Last sea­son: 3-11

As the school’s boys soc­cer and vol­ley­ball coach, George Wash­ing­ton’s Chris Re­id already had a pretty packed sched­ule be­fore he agreed to coach the girls’ bas­ket­ball team this year.

He’s not com­plain­ing.

“Our strength this year will be team quick­ness,” Re­id said. “Hope­fully, we can sur­prise some teams and get some easy bas­kets from our fast break.”

Be­gin­ning on Dec. 11 at Mar­tin Luth­er King, Re­id will de­pend upon five play­ers in par­tic­u­lar — two who are new to the pro­gram.

Re­turn­ing con­trib­ut­ors in­clude ju­ni­or guard Kyra Jones, who is “quick with good in­stincts and very ag­gress­ive on de­fense.” Ju­ni­or guard Unique Wright will play the point and “needs to be the team lead­er on the court.” Seni­or for­ward Genaya Bark­er is “quick and can score.”

The two new­comers are ju­ni­or for­ward An­ija Math­ew and seni­or for­ward Bri­ana Castor.

“We need to do a bet­ter job of main­tain­ing pos­ses­sion of the ball and not turn­ing it over as we have done in the past,” Re­id said.


Last sea­son: 9-4

The cal­en­dar might say that the hol­i­day sea­son be­gins in late Novem­ber and ex­tends through early Janu­ary, but at least one per­son began cel­eb­rat­ing much earli­er.

“It’s felt like Christ­mas ever since early Septem­ber,” said head coach Phil Mon­as­tra. “I had no idea of the in­flux of tal­ent that was com­ing our way.”

In par­tic­u­lar, Mon­as­tra was re­fer­ring to seni­or guard Ci­era Nim­mons, seni­or for­ward Tahira Vance and ju­ni­or for­ward Etreece Adams. Nim­mons was the main­stay of a Prep Charter team that cap­tured three straight Pub­lic League AAA titles. Vance trans­ferred from Saul, which doesn’t of­fer bas­ket­ball. Adams is a trans­fer from Ry­an.

Nim­mons will have plenty of op­por­tun­ity to provide tal­ent and lead­er­ship to a roster that in­cludes seni­or guards Lauren Wil­lis (20-point av­er­age last year), Briyah Hill (a co-cap­tain re­turn­ing from a torn ACL that cost her an en­tire ju­ni­or sea­son) and Za­hirah Barkley (first play­er off the bench). Vance will join Adams and seni­or Jac­queline Hagan (three-year starter and co-cap­tain) in the front­court.

The Vik­ings reached the Class AAAA semi­finals be­fore los­ing to Girls High last year. The pre­vi­ous sea­son, North­east lost to Cent­ral in the AAAA fi­nal.

“Every years is dif­fer­ent, of course, but we ex­pect to make the play­offs and see where that goes,” Mon­as­tra said. “We have some very tal­en­ted play­ers, but there are sev­er­al oth­er teams that can say the same thing.

Samuel Fels

Last sea­son: 9-4

When things get a bit testy dur­ing prac­tice or a play­er isn’t quite in sync with a team­mate, George Er­werth re­minds his play­ers to main­tain an even per­spect­ive. 

“We try and stress fam­ily val­ues and un­der­stand that some­times you don’t get along with fam­ily mem­bers, and that’s just the way it goes,” said the fifth-year Samuel Fels coach. “You can’t get away from that, but once you’re on the floor, it’s time to put any dif­fer­ences aside for the good of the team.”

While the gradu­ation of three starters, par­tic­u­larly star Kristina Miller, won’t be easy, the Pan­thers hope that won’t pre­vent them from mir­ror­ing last year’s cam­paign that ad­vanced all the way to the Class AAAA play­off quarterfi­nals.

The back­court combo of shoot­ing guard Loukey­sha Stan­ley and ju­ni­or point guard Nariah Wil­li­ams is for­mid­able. Er­werth lauded Stan­ley’s di­li­gence over the sum­mer and Wil­li­ams’ abil­ity to “run the whole floor” on a con­sist­ent basis.

“Nariah is a smart, in­tel­li­gent play­er,” Er­werth said. “She’s like a gen­er­al. She’s like a cen­ter-half­back in soc­cer. She al­ways knows where her play­ers are.” ••

You can reach at jknebels@gmail.com.

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