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Sans Goldenbaum, Neshaminy girls basketball returns to the hardwood

Now a sophomore for the Lady Skins, Neshaminy’s Brooke Mullin (20) fights Upper Dublin’s Demi Balasa (24) and Nicole Kaiser (11) for the rebound in 2016 PIAA second-round win over the Cardinals. (John Gleeson – 21st-Century Media)

LANGHORNE – A season removed from capturing its first PIAA state tournament berth in many years, Neshaminy returns to the court looking to replace a few key pieces from a Lady Skins’ team that went 23-8 and finished among the top eight in Pennsylvania.

Gone are point guard Morgan Goldenbaum (Ursinus), shooting guard Tierra Porterfield and two-guard Josafinne McIlvaine.

“There is some chemistry that has to be re-worked between us when you lose a piece like Morgan,” said head coach Joe Lally.

“She did a lot of things for us; she’d jump center, she played bigs – she was really versatile.”

The good news is the team has had a large influx of new talent. And the players don’t think replacing Goldenbaum will be a problem

“We lost a big player – we lost Maddie Murray – coming into last year so I feel like we can step up again,” said forward Emily Alexis, one of only three seniors – all starters – on the team this season.

Along with Alexis, returning to the roster are classmates Thyra Tuttle and Devon Storms, in addition to sophomores Brooke Mullin and Allison Harvey.

Additionally, there are five freshmen who will step up to the varsity plate, says Lally. It will be up to the core players to develop a new foundation for the upcoming campaign set to begin Dec. 9 at CB East.

According to Harvey, last year’s returning players did just that.

“Last year, the returning players really accepted the freshmen and their roles,” said Harvey.

“They really had our backs, so it made it easier transitioning as a freshman onto varsity.”

Like last year, the Skins start off with a couple of teams from Central Bucks. This year, Neshaminy is adding Upper Dublin to the mix that includes CB South. Both the Titans and the Cardinals were District 1 semifinalists last year.

Right after the Skins tip off 5 p.m. Dec. 9 against the Patriots, CB South will battle Upper Dublin. On Saturday, Dec. 10 at Neshaminy, CB East takes on the Cardinals at noon, then the Skins battle the Titans at 2 p.m. Neshaminy toppled the Cardinals in the 2016 PIAA Tournament, ending the Upper Dublin team’s season in states so there is a revenge factor to consider in game two.

Last year, the Skins opened with CB East, CB South and CB West in that order and Neshaminy lost all three by double digits. Though the first three losses to the CBs was her first experience with the team, Harvey said she just knew it wasn’t a precursor of things to come.

“I just knew, even though it was upsetting to lose those first three games, I just knew we had to move forward, build the chemistry and move on from that,” said Harvey.

Harvey’s words were deemed prophetic. Not only did the Skins move on, they excelled, winning 16 straight including all 14 of the team’s Suburban One National League matchups to claim an SOL National League title.

With District playoff wins over West Chester Henderson and Mount Saint Joseph’s – which qualified the team for states – the postseason was an exciting one for Neshaminy.

Nerves that come naturally as a 9th-grader playing in such a pressure-packed situation have to be set aside, said Harvey.

“Obviously, there’s nerves as with every playoff game,” said Harvey. “But I try not to think too much about each game. We play our game and try not to let that factor too much into it.

Still, it was exciting to be a part of such a long and successful run last season, she said.

“To be honest, it was really exciting,” said Harvey. “But I took it one game at a time.

“I think we all did because you don’t know when you’re going to be back.

“The way we played – we played so well – and you don’t know how far you’re going to go or whether you’re going to get to states this year.

“You just never know.”

In the District 1 Class AAAA quarterfinals, the Skins stuttered and lost by five to district finalist Downingtown East. However, with playbacks on the horizon, Neshaminy left the game knowing it played well. After all, the Skins held a 10 point lead over the Cougars in the first quarter and led by three at the half.

Where Neshaminy really faltered was in its next D-1 duel. The Skins entered the contest having played well in a previous battle with the Knights – a five-point loss to North Penn in the SOL Championship.

In the District 1 playback, North Penn got off to an 18-11 first-quarter lead – thanks to an 11-point period from NP senior Mikaela Giuliani – and led by nine at the half. The Knights blew the game open with a 14-2 run in the third quarter and an 11-4 string in the final frame.

“It was the worst game for us all year,” said Lally.

“We knew we didn’t play well and we knew we had something to prove,”

“We knew they were good but we knew they weren’t 30 points better than us.

“It was personal.”

Little did Neshaminy know it at the time, they’d get another chance at North Penn and they’d fare much better in the third battle of the season between the two teams.

After PIAA wins over Hazleton and Upper Dublin, the Skins entered the state quarterfinals against, you guessed it, the Knights. This time, Neshaminy came to play, taking a 17-8 first-quarter lead and a 24-20 edge into the intermission.

In the end, North Penn took the battle by a single point, 42-41, though the Skins certainly put up a fight. While Giuliani drew a pair of charges in the final 40 seconds to help her team secure the win, the Knights turned the ball over after both Neshaminy infractions. After the first turnover, Goldenbaum, who led the Skins with 13 points, missed a pair of free throws.

With 10 seconds remaining, the Skins stole the ball back again but missed the shot as the clock struck zeroes, ending their season at 23-8. A basket at the buzzer would have put them in the state semifinals, had they made it.

With so much talent returning to the lineup this year and a large influx of freshmen, one can’t help but think Neshaminy is headed for another exciting campaign on the hardwood.

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