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:
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.”
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.
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.” ••