Olivia Young and Halle Robinson can appreciate how far they have come as basketball players in four years at Marple Newtown.
Rewind a few seasons when they were wide-eyed freshmen on varsity. Both saw playing time on a team with Riley Power, who was the Tigers last 1,000-point scorer.
“The last time we made it to districts, Liv and I were the only freshmen on the team,” Robinson said at practice last week. “We lost the first game (at Spring-Ford) and that was a learning experience. We wanted to make sure we got back there. This is our last shot to do it.”
Through Friday, the Tigers have been competitive, with a 9-10 record. They gave four-time reigning Central League champion Garnet Valley a run before a meltdown in the fourth quarter and have wins over defending Del Val League co-champion Penn Wood and 12-win Penncrest. The Tigers occupy 12th place in the District 1 Class 5A rankings. The top 16 teams make the postseason.
“We fought hard in every game,” Robinson said.
Robinson and Young are among Marple Newtown’s six seniors, including Devon Adams, who leads the team in scoring and transferred from Bishop Shanahan after her sophomore season.
Kristen Rutecki, Ally Defruscio and Shannon McCarthy are scrappy guards willing to do whatever it takes to help the team. Robinson and Young are long-distance shooting threats, and Adams is the low-post scoring and rebounding machine many teams in the Central League would love to have.
The seniors’ appreciation for each other runs deep. They have stuck together through the good times and bad times, and they know time is running out.
“I think we’ve learned how to play together as a team, rather than individually. We’ve had some breakdowns and some things haven’t gone our way, but overall we’ve come together as a team this year which has definitely helped us,” Rutecki said.
“We also realize this is our last time playing together and we want to make every game count,” McCarthy added.
And everyone on the roster, from the underclassmen to the veterans, have the same mindset. The Tigers have created a team-first culture, which can be attributed to the maturity and experience of the senior class.
“I think most of us are three-sport athletes, and being on a team is nothing new to us. I think we’re all very unselfish,” McCarthy said. “We know how to pick our teammates up and be there for one another. I think that’s what has made us work so much.”
Ryan Wolski has a passion for coaching that has rubbed off on his players. In his third season at the helm, his attitude and love for the game has not been lost on his players.
“I think it’s the energy this year that is something we’ve never had before,” Rutecki said. “Kaely (Cristello, a junior and first-year starter) has the most energy I’ve ever seen. Ryan always gets us going right away from the start. He knows how to motivate us.
“I think, really, it’s the whole team environment this year, which has been so much more positive than it’s ever been. That has contributed to some of the wins.”
Wolski noted at the beginning of the season that the Tigers would surprise some Central League teams this year. They certainly have done that.
“We’ve lost some games we’ve probably should have won, and it’s been a learning process, but we continue to get better,” Adams said.
“Our sophomore year, we didn’t have a lot of experience together,” Young added. “And then Devon came here and that really helped us out our junior year, and we were off from making the district playoffs by one game. I think we all want to finally get back to playoffs this year. That would make this season special.”
The Christian Academy suffered its first Bicentennial League defeat last week to Lower Moreland.
The Crusaders have won 13 of their first 17 games, despite missing key starters Grace Gormley, Dejah Burley-Chambers and Britney Dike at various times during the season. On most days, TCA is playing with no more than six players.
It’s a testament to the coaching of Jason Wilt, who has turned the program into a small-school winner in Delco.
Lindsay Haseltine has been the team’s leading scorer. Gormley also has the ability to put up big offensive numbers.
The Central League has moved all games originally scheduled for this Tuesday to Monday. All varsity games are slated for 7 or 7:30 p.m. Monday, with the exception of Garnet Valley at Haverford, which will tip at 3:45.
The Central League playoffs are scheduled for next Saturday.
Strath Haven has endured another trying season, but coach Allison Weiss said that she seeing signs of growth. Faith Raymond, a freshman, gives the Panthers hope moving forward.
After 1,000-point scorer Katie Fisher graduated in 2016, the Panthers have struggled to compete. This season Weiss has counted on veteran players, including Olivia Fender, who provides maximum effort every time she’s on the floor.
“The team is still so young, so by default those girls look to the seniors for leadership and to be consistent,” Weiss said. “And the fact that they don’t give up, and keep their heads up, sets a great example for the young kids.”
Quick Hits >> Kenzie Gardler became the fourth Delco player to reach the 1,000-point milestone in last week’s win at St. Hubert, joining Mahya Woodton (Academy Park), Emily McAteer (Garnet Valley) and Carle Andrews (Penn Wood). … Academy Park can win the Del Val League title outright with a win over Chichester Tuesday. … Garnet Valley could play spoiler to Haverford and Conestoga next week. The Jags finish the regular season with games against the Fords and Pioneers, and a loss for either team could knock them out of the Central League playoffs.
To contact Matt Smith, email email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @DTMattSmith.
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