Bryn Mawr – “Trust The Process” might be a phrase many Philadelphia area sports fans are tired of hearing, but one that aptly describes the state of the Shipley boys’ and girls’ basketball programs, albeit at different stages.
The Shipley boys’ program, coached by fifth-year head coach Phil D’Ambrosio, has continued to make progress going from a team struggling to make the FSL playoffs to perennial contenders for the FSL title that has eluded the program since joining the league in 2005.
“First and foremost, we have great kids here at the school,” said D’Ambrosio. “We took our lumps early but things have improved year to year. Over the last three years I’ve noticed a significant change in the program, just in terms of our approach to competition and getting better. We now set a standard and hold each other accountable. Perhaps the most noticeable difference took place this fall, seeing a stronger interest from our student body in attending our fall open gyms. In years past we might’ve had 7-8 guys showing up, this year we had no less than 15 student-athletes at each workout. There is a stronger level of interest from the kids and it feels great.”
“It feels really good,” said Shipley senior Kiyon Hardy. “My freshman year we were under .500; sophomore year we did not play too well; last year we went 17-10 and this year we are 11-5 including a current eight game winning streak. When we buy in to the coaching staff’s philosophy we play well. As one of the senior leaders, I just try to tell them to listen, go out and play hard, focus and when we do that we win.
“Mistakes are going to happen like dropped passes, missed shots but you have to focus on next play because putting your head down will not help us win games so whenever a mistake is made we have look at the next play.”
Sparking their success has been the team-first philosophy with each player filling their role. With junior Sam Sessoms providing a consistent scoring threat, the Gators have received solid contributions from Tom Sobelman, Ronan Higgins and newcomers Khai Champion, a freshman and Ray Somerville, a transfer from Penncrest.
“As soon as I got here they made feel like I have been here the whole time the way we have bonded,” Somerville said. “It feels pretty good being here. Since day 1, Sam [Sessoms] and Kiyon [Hardy] have been encouraging me to work hard and push myself. The coaches have been there too – Coach Eddie [Rowe], Coach Jim Kerr and Coach Phil – have been pushing me to get better and it’s paid off because I have seen the improvement in my game.”
Heading the Shipley girls program is Sean Costello, who returns after a two-year hiatus as an assistant basketball coach at the collegiate level. Although Costello is no stranger to Shipley he returns having coached only one player on the current roster – senior co-captain Yndiah Bobo – who was a freshman during Costello’s first stint.
“I love being back at Shipley,” Costello said. “I missed so many of my co-workers and friends. It’s great to be part of such a family-oriented community.”
It’s been amazing [having Sean back),” said Bobo, who is heading to Clarion in the fall. “We’re reunited again. Kevin’s a great coach but Sean expects more out of you. As the season goes on we will continue to get better and we have to continue to work hard.”
While Shipley still had success in those two years under the direction of Kevin Costello, who resigned at the end of last year to pursue other professional opportunities, a new system brings its challenges for a young team.
“This group of kids is unique to any of the other teams I have had in the past” said Sean Costello. “I had established relationships with my teams previously from a young age. I am developing team chemistry and trust as the season goes on with this team. We improve every single day at a fast pace.”
Shipley sophomore Casey Winter said, “Sean has our best interest at heart and spends a lot of work and time with the team. We watch film and it really helps. We see mistakes on film and we can go back and relate to what to do in a game.”
With a roster made up of mainly sophomores, the Gators have certainly had their ups and downs but through it all, the team has stayed together and continued to learn and get better due in large part to Bobo, who has experienced success under Costello’s direction.
“I told them it would be a great season,” said Bobo. “During my freshman year we had great success. We won the Friends Schools League championship and we won PAISAA, so I was just really excited and told them they should be excited and be ready to work.”
“Bo’s been a great leader,” said Winter. “Sean is much different than Kevin because Sean’s been to the collegiate level and he knows what the workouts are like there and with Bo going to Clarion next year she is going to get to see what it’s like and she has prepared us for the intensity Sean brings.”
Costello added that it’s been great to have the senior leadership of Bobo with such a young team: “She is the only player on the roster to have previously played for me and she has been vital in all of our success.”
With the regular season winding down and the FSL playoffs on the horizon, the Gator boys’ and girls’ teams will continue to do what they have done all year – take it one day at a time.
“I value each and every day with these guys,” said D’Ambrosio. “When you want to win and improve as an individual it makes the team stronger, ultimately making my job much easier. We’ve had some phenomenal kids come thru the program over the years, its great to see these guys receiving some recognition.”
“We have a great group of kids this season who are excited to learn and improve each day,” said Costello. “We have weekly meetings to discuss how we to improve as a team and individually. The kids are heavily involved in our process.”