UPPER DARBY >> Nyah Garrison’s future is at the Naval Academy, but the Bonner & Prendergast senior admits the decision wasn’t so cut and dry.
“”When I went there to visit, at first I wasn’t really thinking about going to the Navy,” Garrison said. “Military? No, no. That’s not for me. I can’t do this.
“They recruited me during AAU season, it was really them and Rider (University). Navy ended up offering me. When I went to the campus … it was beautiful. The environment, the coaching staff, were great. When I met with the girls on the team, it was like I fit right in.”
Garrison committed to the Navy prior to her senior season. After the Pandas embark on what they hope is a long run in the PIAA Class 4A tournament, beginning Saturday when they take on Northern Lebanon at Cardinal O’Hara, Garrison will turn her full attention to training and, as she put it, “getting in shape.”
“After the season, I’ll be running track and actually getting fit for the Navy,” she said. “It’s going to be hard.”
Garrison is taking the long-view approach. She realizes she could have attended a local college and play Division II or III basketball. But the Navy provides the opportunity to really tap into her potential, beyond the court and after college.
“I want to be an anesthesiologist, so that means med school and everything,” Garrison said. “It just made sense.”
Garrison and the Pandas (14-10), who won the District 12 4A title, are ready for their first-round opponent in states. It’s the first time since 2016, Garrison’s sophomore year, the Pandas have played in a PIAA tournament.
“We were having a little trouble working together at times, but right now we’re a lot closer and we’re working well together,” Garrison said. “The past is the past. We have more energy and we’re looking forward to winning states.”
Junior guard Maeve McCann considers the state tournament a new season for the Pandas, who have lost six of their last eight games. But they showed what they are capable of in last Saturday’s rout of Audenreid to win the district title.
“We have to work well together and be more consistent with that,” McCann said. “That’s definitely what has cost us some games this year, just not being on the same page. We just have to play better.”
Northern Lebanon (20-6), which placed fifth in the District 3 tournament, is led by senior guard Liz Voight (17.1 ppg) and sophomore guard Zara Zerman (15.3).
“They have two really nice guards who can shoot the 3,” Pandas coach Tom Stewart said. “I think we can play with them. If we do the right things, and just play smart, I like our chances.”
In Class 5A first-round action Saturday:
Springfield vs Arch. Wood at Arch. Ryan, 3:30
The Cougars (20-7) failed in their quest for a District 1 title repeat but claimed fifth place following back-to-back victories in the playback round. The Central League champions are led by juniors Jordan D’Ambrosio and Belle Mastropietro, sophomore Alyssa Long and freshman sensation Alyssa Abbonizio, who is one of the top 3-point shooters in Delco.
Senior Erin Morgan and sophomore guard Lindsay Tretter are among Wood’s playmakers. The District 12 champion Vikings (18-7) are vying for their third consecutive PIAA title.
Arch. Carroll at VIlla Maria at Downingtown West, 5:30
The Patriots (17-6), District 12 third-place finishers, came close to playing for a Catholic League title, but coughed up a sizable fourth-quarter lead to Neumann-Goretti in the semis. Senior guard Molly Masciantonio (15 ppg.) is one of the best players in the county. Sophomore Erin Sweeney and junior Harlem Jennings are also scoring threats. Villa Maria (18-7) fell to undefeated Henderson in the District 1 final. VM is led by sophomore forward Paige Lauder, MVP of the Catholic Academies League.
In a Class 1A first-round game Saturday:
Christian Academy vs Weatherly at Blue Mountain H.S., 4:30
The Crusaders (17-9) earned the third and final spot in states with a 49-24 rout of Phil-Mont Christian.
TCA will go as far as senior guards Lindsay Haseltine and Grace Gormley will take them. Dejah Burley-Chambers is a threat inside the paint alongside Britney Dike.
The Wreckers of Weatherly claimed the District 2/11 sub-regional championship with a 40-37 decision over the Nativity Golden Girls. Emily Zoscin, who scored 23 points in the district final, is a dynamic combo guard for Weatherly.