HOLLAND >> Kayleigh Doyle takes pride in playing basketball at a small school like Sacred Heart Academy.
The sophomore guard joined the program at a perfect time. It had been a few years since longtime coach Zach Shuler had a team that made noise in the District 1 playoffs and advanced to the PIAA tournament, but with youngsters such as Doyle on board, the future was bright for the Lions.
“A couple of years ago our program definitely was not the best,” Doyle said. “To come out and win districts twice in a row, for the seniors it means so much. It’s neat to be a part of that.”
Top-seeded Sacred Heart officially became back-to-back district champions with a 54-30 victory over No. 2 Delco Christian at Council Rock South High School Saturday.
“I think there’s a lot of pride. Every time we go into the gym and look at the banners, that’s something we’re always going to have,” said Eileen Piombino, the Lions’ fantastic senior guard, who this season scored her 1,000th career point. “That means a lot to us. To be able to say that we impacted our school … what we’ve been able to accomplish is something special.”
The outcome was never in doubt Saturday. Thanks to a 5-for-9 shooting effort from the floor, the Lions raced out to a 15-3 lead through one quarter.
“Winning never gets old. We have long-term goals, but our first was to win the district championship again,” Shuler said. “We wanted them to play well as a team … and I think this game showed that we are a complete team. They’ve come a long way. Our underclassmen have come a long way. The experience and leadership that the juniors and seniors have, they have given those underclassmen a lot of confidence.”
Doyle had a great floor game with 10 points, two steals and a team-high five assists. Piombino (10 points, two assists, five steals) facilitated most of the day, allowing Doyle, junior center Kyra Quigley (10 points) and senior Sami Smith (eight) to score early and often. Quigley dominated the low post and registered game highs in rebounds (seven), steals (seven) and blocked shots (three).
“We play a really difficult schedule (in the Catholic Academies League) to get here and we put in a lot of hard work,” Quigley said. “Everyone is tired at this point, but everyone still brings a lot of energy. We wanted to be excited about coming in first (in districts) again. It’s a great feeling.”
Quigley and Delco Christian senior forward Shirley Piotrowski (12 points, six rebounds, two blocks) made for a fun matchup. Piotrowski was aided by solid guard play from Monica Lebaudy, who added three points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals for the Knights, who committed 21 turnovers.
“A lot of our chemistry comes from going through the hard times and good times together,” Piombino said. “It’s a great opportunity to grow.”
Last season the Lions (14-10) advanced to the quarterfinal round of the state tournament. As the program evolves, so does the 2017-18 campaign. And the Lions hope to take one (or two or three) more step(s) this month.
“Two years ago we struggled as a program. I can’t thank our seniors Eileen, Agnes (Freind) and Jenn (Johnstone) enough for sticking with the program and committing, playing hard every day and being the leaders that they are,” Shuler said. “They’ve been a great example for our underclassmen. Our seniors have showed their leadership throughout the season, and I think tonight it all came together for a district championship.”
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