For too long, Upper Darby’s Emma Blewett wondered if she would ever again experience the excitement of winning a high school basketball game.
On Jan. 5, 2015, the Royals edged Penncrest in a Central League team between a pair of rebuilding programs. The Royals would then go 1,087 days without another victory, a streak that mercifully ended Dec. 27 with a 52-27 rout of Upper Moreland.
That day, Blewett, a four-year starter, was overcome with emotion. Winning was a feeling that tugged at her heart strings and provided a overwhelming sense of relief and satisfaction.
“I cried from happiness, first of all,” Blewett said last week after she made the game-ending steal to secure the Royals’ 50-47 win over Ridley. “It was the best thing in three years, obviously. We worked really hard this summer and leading up to the season. I was just really proud of the team. We all have come together and worked together to achieve that win, it was really great.”
Blewett, who is a standout for the AAU Girls Basketball Club and will play college ball next season at Albright, struggled at times to handle the constant defeats. When things were tough, Blewett was looked upon to move the team forward. She’s been the team’s best player since her freshman year.
“In the end I feel like that’s where I had to step up and be a leader,” Blewett said. “I’ve really learned how to lead everyone. The losing didn’t really hurt my confidence, I feel like it made me more confident as a player and as a teammate.”
As Blewett would attest, the Upper Darby teams of recent years past are no match for this year’s club under the tutelage of second-year coach Tony Zambino.
“The past couple of years, I feel like we didn’t work as hard as we’ve been this year,” Blewett said. “It’s been a totally different level that we’ve been on. This year people have been coming into practice, and we do drills where we have to score a certain amount of points and we’ve been scoring above that. It’s the improvement in practice, mainly, and the commitment that everyone is showing.”
Blewett is averaging 16.6 points per game and on pace to become the next Upper Darby player to reach the 1,000-point milestone. Blewett and sophomore guard Gabby Liberio have been the driving forces.
“To finally get three wins in a row, it’s such a great feeling,” Liberio said last week. “Even from last year, there is just so much improvement and everybody has been working so hard in practice. There is improvement with every single player on this team and so i think we’ve all grown together and work really well as a team.”
The Royals have dropped their last two decisions, both against Central League foes. But the losses don’t hurt as much as before.
“We honestly felt we had the weight off of our hands in the offseason because we knew we were headed to a positive season,” Zambino said. “We played all summer and all fall. We were playing in a couple of those play-dates and we were winning some of those games. We knew that we would turn the corner. We struggled the first couple of games. I felt like we were there, but we just weren’t winning. But we’ve been in every game, except for Garnet Valley. This win (against Ridley) was one of our better wins.”
Zambino is grateful to have a top-notch player such as Blewett, who stood up every time she was knocked down through the years, and a rising star in Liberio.
“Emma and Gabby are our two legit basketball players who play year-round,” Zambino said. “I’ve questioned myself, as a coach, a lot this last year. None of these teams have ever taken it easy on us, either. But we keep working and we continue to improve.”
If you have plans on attending the Interboro-Ridley doubleheader Monday, Jan. 15,. don’t come empty-handed.
The boys and girls basketball programs are in the midst of a canned food drive that will culminate at Ridley Jan. 15. Bring any non-perishable food item to the games and get in for free.
Sponsored by the U.S. Army, the “High School Rivalry March on Hunger” between the Bucs and Green Raiders was a huge success last year.
Prior to the girls game at 2:30, local Army soldiers, recruiters and ROTC cadets will march with their rucksacks to deliver the canned goods to the Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry.
Emily McAteer became the third Delco girls basketball player this season to eclipse the 1,000-point mark, joining Mahya Woodton of Academy Park and Penn Wood’s Carle Andrews.
McAteer scored 30 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the Jags to their 11th straight win to start the season. The junior forward is on pace to become the all-time leading scorer in program history.
Quick Hits >> Garnet Valley senior guard Nicole Barnes this week committed to Widener. Her former teammate Jordan Ireland is a sophomore guard with the Pride … Hailey Wittorf’s 21-point output Tuesday at Penn Wood was a career high for the Interboro junior … As Delco’s leading scorer, Woodton had her fifth 30-point game of the season in Tuesday’s win over Chester … No. 2 Archbishop Carroll hosts No. 1 Cardinal O’Hara Tuesday, Jan. 16 in one of the most anticipated games of the year in Delco. Carroll’s Molly Masciantonio is the third-leading scorer in the county with 17.3 ppg…
To contact Matt Smith, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DTMattSmith.
Top photo: Upper Darby senior guard Emma Blewett.