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O’Brien takes in player of the year honor, SOL seniors enjoy all-star experience

Cheltenham's Courtney Murray (right) and Council Rock North's Becca Margolis go for a loose ball during the Inaugural SOL Girls Basketball All-Star game at Colonial Elementary School on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

WHITEMARSH >> It was a common occurrence the last two seasons for young basketball players to ask Taylor O’Brien for a picture or an autograph.

Plymouth Whitemarsh girls basketball coach Dan Dougherty remembered one instance where a young girl approached O’Brien and said she wore No. 3 with her travel team because it was O’Brien’s jersey number. While O’Brien’s impact extended far beyond the 93 feet of a basketball court at PW, she left quite a legacy within those lines.

The senior capped her historic career a few weeks ago but added a major honor on Tuesday was she was named the PA sports writers 6A player of the year to go with a second straight first team all-state selection.

“I haven’t really been able to think about it but it’s an amazing feeling, especially with all the support I’ve have in my four years here,” O’Brien said Wednesday after playing in the inaugural Suburban One League All-Star game at PW. “From my friends to my family and my teammates, they’ve all been so supportive of me in everything.”

O’Brien finished with 10 points, three boards, two assists and a pair of steals playing for the Purple Team in a 77-63 loss. The senior, who is heading to Bucknell next year to continue playing, has been busy with PW’s track and field team and is heading to the annual Penn Relays on Thursday.

The 5-foot-9 guard spent her senior season rewriting the Plymouth Whitemarsh record books. She not only became the all-time leading girls scorer, then surpassed the overall school record and didn’t stop there. Late in the season, O’Brien became the first Colonial to ever surpass 2,000 points.

“We went out as best we could and there’s no other way I would have wanted it,” O’Brien, who averaged 22.8 points per game this season, said. “Yeah, a state title would have been nice but to finish with the girls and everybody playing as hard as we possibly could, that’s all you could ask for.”

Plymouth Whitemarsh’s Taylor O’Brien pulls up for jump shot during the Inaugural SOL Girls Basketball All-Star game at Colonial Elementary School on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

O’Brien’s numbers, while extremely impressive, only tell part of the story. The senior isn’t one to bask in her own accomplishments and said being named player of the year was as much a credit to her teammates and coaches as it was to anything she did on the floor.

The guard put in countless hours in the gym, even while competing in volleyball and track for PW, to improve her game in every aspect. Each year, O’Brien’s scoring average went up but so did all the other numbers like rebounds, assists, steals and shooting percentage. This past season, she shot 50 percent from the floor and nearly 80 percent from the foul line.

“I think it’s very satisfying to her because of the company she’s in,” Dougherty said. “That first team all-state, that’s a prestigious group of kids and to be named player of the year, it’s a nice feather in the cap to what was a legendary career.”

Dougherty said while O’Brien may be reserved, she’s still fiercely competitive and that’s what has driven her to continue improving. That even extends to calculus class, where Dougherty teaches O’Brien and said the senior is always trying to get the highest score on assignments or tests.

The senior also recognized that there were a lot of eyes on her and she tried to be the right role model for all those younger kids that came up to her after games. As the oldest of four siblings, O’Brien understands her impact doesn’t stay contained in the lines of the court.

“All of the people I looked up to, people look up to me now like that,” O’Brien said. “I want to be the best role model I can for all the younger kids watching me and all of them who want to play basketball. I want them to love it as much as I did and have the same kind of experience I did. I hope there’s more people who come along and accomplish the same things I did, but all together I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

PW will open its new gym next fall and while O’Brien won’t get to play a game there, she’ll certainly have a presence there. Dougherty said there’s a banner with her name on it in the works that will hang from the walls of the new gym. He added it was fitting that O’Brien got to play in the last PW game in the historic gym at Colonial Elementary School and capped it with a 32-point virtuoso performance.

The Colonials program is thriving in terms of numbers and Dougherty traces a lot of that back to O’Brien.

“We became a family, we went from a team to a family,” O’Brien said. “I just want to thank everyone, my family and friends, teammates and coaches, who was there for me every moment the last four years. I truly couldn’t have done it without them.”

SHOWCASE

As for the game, the Blue Team coached by North Penn’s Maggie deMarteleire and Abington’s Dan Marsh topped the Purple Team of Souderton’s Lynn Carroll and Central Bucks East’s Liz Potash 77-63. Rosters were determined in a draft format, with the players involved all seniors who had been named to an SOL all-league team.

Council Rock North senior Becca Margolis led the Blue Team with 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting, five assists, two rebounds and three steals while CB East’s Sophia Mancuso added 13 points. O’Brien and Central Bucks South’s Haley Meinel, a second team all-state selection, tied for the Purple Team lead with 10 points each while CB South’s Mac Ehresman and Abington’s Britney James each added nine.

Kate Connolly,one of four Souderton players in the game along with Tori Dowd, Sami Falencki and Alana Cardona, had five points and nine rebounds after being named first team all-state on Tuesday.

Souderton’s Alana Cardona drives to the basket during the Inaugural SOL Girls Basketball All-Star game at Colonial Elementary School on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

A FEW GOOD MINUTES

CR North’s Becca Margolis and PW’s Ali Diamond had played against each other a few times but they had never been teammates prior to Wednesday night.

It was really hard to tell during their first spell on the floor. Diamond, who walked off the lacrosse field across the parking lot and onto the basketball court, built an instant chemistry with the CR North point guard.

“It was a little weird, I hadn’t played basketball since the end of the season, but it was fun to get back on the court,” Diamond said. “She found me for a layup and we just connected on the court. I played against her twice last year, she was a tough player. I was looking for her too, it was all good.”

Margolis picked out Diamond for a 3-pointer with 3:46 left in the first quarter, setting off a 10-2 run where they scored eight points. Margolis found Diamond for all three of her first quarter hoops and the PW senior paid the favor back with an assist on Margolis’ late hoop in the first.

“It seemed like we were both going to win, she was pretty into it to,” Margolis said. “Everyone had fun, but we had a flow going and it was pretty awesome. We got along really well for just having played together for an hour.”

It was a bit weird for Diamond as she was on a different team than PW teammates O’Brien and Lauren Fortescue. Diamond did get into it a little bit when she guarded Fortescue, even getting a steal off her teammate at one point. Diamond finished with nine points on 4-of-5 shooting.

Diamond, a three-sport athlete at PW, is leaving basketball behind next year as she attends Georgetown to continue playing lacrosse. Still the impact the sport left on her the last four years, where she was a knockdown 3-point shooter and underrated defender, is not something she’ll forget.

“It’s made me stronger mentally and physically,” Diamond said. “I played a lot of different roles and it all helped me grow.”

Plymouth Whitemarsh’s Ali Diamond goes in for a lay up near Plymouth Whitemarsh’s Lauren Fortescue during the Inaugural SOL Girls Basketball All-Star game at Colonial Elementary School on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

MARGOLIS MVP

Abington coach Dan Marsh, who assisted North Penn’s Maggie deMarteleire with the Blue Team, has always enjoy Becca Margolis’ game.

While he had to game plan for the tough CR North senior the last four years and find ways to stop her, Marsh appreciated everything Margolis brought to the table. So, he was pretty elated to land the point guard on his team Wednesday.

Margolis more than delivered, scoring a game-high 17 points to go with five assists and three steals on her way to game MVP honors.

“She’s so tough and just a gamer,” Marsh said. “Every time we played against her, she played as hard as she can and just hits big shots, all of the time. It was the same thing tonight, she took over.”

The dynamic senior, who was also a standout midfielder for the Indians’ soccer team, played in the All-Star Labor Classic earlier this month but found the game lacking in competitiveness. A classic player who hates to lose, Margolis wanted to set a tone early Wednesday when she got on the floor.

“I wanted to win the game,” Margolis said. “At the Labor Classic, it felt like nobody really took it seriously which was kind of a bummer. Not that everyone should be super-serious, but you want to have fun. It was really nice to be able to come out here and play with these girls and take it competitively.”

Marsh was happy to have Margolis on his side and the guard enjoyed playing for her longtime league rival.

“He’s so high energy,” Margolis said. “Whenever we played them, I never, I guess, held a grudge, I liked him and he’s a good guy and a good coach so I have a lot of respect for him.”

Margolis will be continuing her career at Lafayette, passing over some soccer offers to pursue basketball at the next level. The point guard said the deciding factor was the amount of time and work she put in with basketball .

She’s not the tallest player, but Margolis makes up for it with vision, toughness and a clutch shot-making gene. Still, she had to prove a lot to a whole lot of people and that’s what made her commitment so much better.

“I had to work harder to prove myself but I feel like that’s every small girl’s problem in basketball,” Margolis said. “I told myself I was going to work my butt off and see where that goes. Playing in this league has done a lot for me, especially with the roles I had to fill the last two years. It was a good way to start forming those leadership qualities.”

Abington’s Sam Brusha shoots a three during the Inaugural SOL Girls Basketball All-Star game at Colonial Elementary School on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

SAYING GOODBYE

Wednesday was the last time on the court for a number of the players participating, but also for North Penn coach Maggie deMarteleire, who stepped down at the end of the season.

deMarteleire was honored pregame with a plaque and a few words from Knights senior Bri Hewlett. Hewlett, who played on deMarteleire’s Blue Team, was proud to be on the longtime coach’s final squad.

“I felt honored that I got to be in her last senior class,” Hewlett said. “I just wanted her to have a memorable last couple of games in the season.”

Hewlett, who is committed to play at Chestnut Hill, credited deMarteleire for helping her develop as a player and a leader in her four years with the Knights. While this season was a tough one in terms of record for a team heavy on underclassmen, Hewlett tried to do everything she could to keep the Knights pressing forward.

On the court, Hewlett said deMarteleire really helped her find confidence in herself and the senior, who can play guard or forward felt it helped her on the path to playing in college.

The senior’s most memorable deMarteleire moment didn’t come in a game, but in an unexpected meeting earlier this year.

“Before the season, it was an open gym and we were running a transition drill and I was coming in for a layup, full speed and Coach was standing under the basket,” Hewlett said. “I made the layup but I got fouled or something and I ran into Coach so hard. She said ‘I’m going to be so sore after that.’ She was laughing but she said ‘it felt like I got hit by a truck.’ She joked around about it with me all season.”

North Penn’s Bri Hewlett drives the baseline as Upper Dublin’s Maggie Weglos defends during the Inaugural SOL Girls Basketball All-Star game at Colonial Elementary School on Wednesday, April 25, 2018. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)

RUN IT BACK

Wednesday was the first of what Marsh hopes becomes an annual event for the SOL.

While he also wanted to have the game as a way to honor and thank deMarteleire for her years of giving back to the game, Marsh felt the league’s seniors deserved a showcase game. The largest league in the southeastern part of the state, the SOL has also more than held its own statewide.

“We’re the best league in the state and I think it was proved again this year so there’s no reason we shouldn’t have an all-star game,” Marsh said. “When Maggie announced her retirement, I wanted to make sure we had a chance to say goodbye.

“We had five teams in the final eight (in the 6A state tournament) and these kids battle each other every day. I’m happy and we’re going to continue it.”

Marsh said the next step is to try and bring in some more sponsors and hopefully get a date a little closer to the end of the season.

There was a little rust involved with many of the players not having played since their seasons ended but once the seniors started to get a feel for each other, there was some pretty good basketball on display.

“With all the great athletes at the surrounding schools and us coming together to play this great game, it was unreal,” O’Brien said. “I’m really impressed with everybody’s skills here.”

BLUE TEAM 77, PURPLE TEAM 63
BLUE TEAM 22 20 18 17 – 77
PURPLE TEAM 12 12 21 18 – 63
BLUE: Kate Connolly 2 0-0 5, Ali Diamond 4 0-0 9, Becca Margolis 6 2-3 17, Abby Spratt 3 0-0 7, Bri Hewlett 2 1-2 6, Tori Dowd 1 2-4 4, Mackenzie Tinner 1 0-0 2, Lexie Brett 1 0-0 2, Gill Anderson 2 0-0 4, Sophia Mancuso 5 0-0 13, Sam Brusha 3 0-0 7, Emma Stanfield 1 0-0 2. Nonscoring: Brooke Bachtle, Victoria Selverian, Maddie McShane. Totals: 31 5-9 77.
PURPLE: Sami Falencki 1 0-0 3, Taylor O’Brien 4 1-2 10, Bailey McManus 1 0-1 2, Gina Russo 0 2-2 2, Alana Cardona 3 0-0 6, Haley Meinel 5 0-0 10, Mac Ehresman 4 1-2 9, Brit James 3 1-1 9, Sydney Ott 2 0-0 4, Nicole Kaiser 2 0-0 4, Maggie Weglos 1 0-0 2, Lauren Fortescue 1 0-0 2, Courtney Murray 0 0-2 0. Nonscoring: Savannah Roberts, Allison McGowan. Totals: 27 3-10 63.
3-pointers: B – Mancuso 3, Margolis 2, Brusha, Connolly, Diamond, Spratt, Hewlett; P – James 2, Falencki, O’Brien.

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