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Basketball Preview: Springfield aims to match last year’s success

Springfield continues its rise as one of the premier girls basketball programs in Delaware County.

Last season, the Cougars captured a district championship for the first time in program history, under the tutelage of fourth-year coach Ky McNichol, one of the brightest young coaching minds in the area.

The reigning Class 5A title holders are not bereft of top-level talent. It all starts with their dynamic duo, junior guards Jordan D’Ambrosio (5-8) and Belle Mastropietro (5-9), who are two of the most talented players in the county.

Springfield’s Belle Mastropietro, here going up for a shot against Lampeter-Strasburg in a PIAA Class 5A tournament game won by the Cougars earlier this year, returns for a talent-packed Springfield High team. (Digital First Media/Pete Bannan)

D’Ambrosio earned All-Delco honors last winter, averaging better than 10 points per night. Alyssa Long, who is a North Carolina lacrosse commit, is a do-everything sophomore guard and one of the best lockdown defenders in the league. Top newcomers include sophomores Carli Johnson (5-9 G), Jordan Postiglione (5-7 G) and Alex Abbonizio (5-7 G).

But the Central League runs through one team and that’s Garnet Valley, which won its fourth straight championship last winter. Brianne Borcky, a Drexel commit, and Emily McAteer are three-year starters and two of the most explosive players in the county. Nicole Barnes is a tremendous combo guard. Senior forward Maddy Sorokonych, a Ursinus commit, is a force under the basket and senior guard Camryn Faith is a standout on defense. Coach Joe Woods begins his 15th season on the Garnet Valley bench.

One team that could improve in a hurry is Haverford. Lauren Pellicane, a coaching legend in the Central League, takes over a program with upside. Pellicane won more than 200 games during her tenure at Lower Merion.

Despite a 6-16 record last winter, the Fords have a bunch of familiar faces in tow, including junior guards, ​Erin Doherty, Annalena O’Reilly, Erin Kelly, and Arden Guilfoil, as well as junior forward ​Lindsey Lane and Sara Walsh.

“A solid core returns who gained their first varsity experience a season ago,” Pellicane said. “We possess strong depth and athleticism that should allow us to defend and rebound consistently and compete at a high level each night.”

Mark Jordan is back in the saddle for his 12th year at Radnor, which won 18 games and qualified for the PIAA Class 5A tourney a season ago. The Raiders replace four-year starters Nicole Massimino and Allison Lanzone, but the potential for another successful campaign exists with senior forward Sydney D’Entremont, junior forward Holly Holtsberg, junior guard Audrey Rosenblum and sophomore forward Ellie Mueller all back for another season. Rosenblum and Mueller, who is a Princeton lacrosse commit, are the only two returning starters.

Radnor has made the state tournament in three of the last four seasons.

“D’Entremont and Holtsberg give the team a lane presence. (Freshman guard) Brienne Williams will play a lot early and often,” Jordan said. “The team will look to improve by the second half of the season and return to the district tourney after the young players gain varsity experience.”

Devon Adams, a 6-2 senior forward, tallied 12 points per game at Marple Newtown last season. Adams and fellow seniors Halle Robinson and Olivia Young present the Tigers with good size and scoring prowess. Senior Shannon McCarthy returns at point guard for the Tigers, who won 10 games in 2016-17.

“Most of the girls on our team are returning from last year,” third-year coach Ryan Wolski said. “We are working hard to get better and hoping to surprise some teams.”

Penncrest won its first seven games last season and made it back to the district tournament. Despite stumbling down the stretch, the Lions were optimistic about their future under veteran coach Bob Higgins. Several top players, including senior forward Grace Harding, senior guard Kat Mullaney and junior forward Megan Arndt, make Penncrest one of the most experienced teams in the Central League and perhaps a darkhorse contender for the title.

Ridley is looking to turn the corner after posting a 9-13 record a season ago. Seniors Dana and Gina D’Ambrosio join juniors Emma Layden and Paige Gabriele who gained valuable varsity minutes last winter.

“We’re looking to be competitive in the league,” four-year Ridley coach Bryant McCombs said. “The injury bug hit us last year. We have a good group of girls that play well together and have good chemistry.”

At Strath Haven, Margot Hotham, a 5-9 senior forward, is the Panthers’ only returning player. They look to improve upon last year’s 3-19 record.

“We have a lot of young players joining our program,” third-year coach Allison Weiss said. “We’re expecting some growing pains, but are excited about the possibilities.”

Upper Darby coach Tony Zambino is anticipating a better season from his Royals, who haven’t won a game since Jan. 6, 2015. The Royals are have a solid core, most notably senior guard Emma Blewett, who is the team’s top scoring threat. Blewett, who averaged 12 points a game as a junior, has been a starter since her freshman year.

Other key players include senior forward Jess Liberio, sophomore guard Gabby Liberio and junior forward Natalie Koskinas, all of whom started last season.

Zambino said the Royals have “virtually everyone back from last year’s senior-less team.

“We will start the season at full strength with Jess Liberio and (Koskinas) returning from injuries that sidelined both players for much of last season,” he added.

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