PHILADELPHIA >> After his team’s win on Sunday, Abington Friends School girls basketball coach Jeff Bond asked a couple visiting alumni what they thought of his group.
With Jade Young and Khadijah Hickson taking a quick trip from playing for Hartford and Nyack respectively, Bond wanted some outside insight on where the Kangaroos stood. He got the answer he expected, and a little bonus as Young and Hickson offered to come back and talk to the team.
In their 56-44 win over Life Center Academy (N.J.) as part of the Play By Play Maggie Lucas Classic at Jefferson, AFS showed a lot of good things and a few things that aren’t quite there yet.
“We had better energy as the game went on,” Bond said of his group, which trailed after the first quarter. “It’s something we’ve really focused on, embracing every opportunity, playing hard, playing with energy and doing the little things it takes to win games.”
The Warriors presented a great test for the still-young Kangaroos (13-5, 3-1 FSL), especially with their terrific Division-I bound post player Gabby Smalls. Although AFS didn’t lose anyone from last year’s team and is in its second season as a group, the core of the team is still made up of freshmen, sophomores and juniors.
With that, there are going to be moments where the team shows its youth and others where it taps into the significant amount of talent those players have. Sunday, the ‘Roos showed a little bit of both.
Early on, they were missing plenty of shots but also not moving the ball well enough to create good shots for others. When that changed, they got back in the game then put the Warriors on their heels.
“We’ve preached moving the ball all season long,” Bond said. “It’s a challenge for kids to make decisions at game speeds sometimes. We get into a gap and want to set somebody up but sometimes they go too far and have to take it themselves. When the ball moves, we’re hard to guard.”
Seven of the eight AFS players who saw the court scored, led by 13 from junior Kendall Hodges. Hodges is in her third season as a starter, as is forward Paige Mott, who contributed nine points. Jordan Smith, who scored eight points, was picked as the Kangaroos’ Player of the Game for her strong two-way play.
Bond feels his team does take care of the defensive end quite well and after trailing 12-7 at the end of the first, the Kangaroos won the second quarter 19-6. Life Center played the second half much tighter, but it was the AFS defensive stand in the second frame that proved to be the difference.
“We defend in the halfcourt pretty well, it may not always show, but we want to keep teams in the 40s,” Bond said. “We have good on-ball defenders and we’re working to get in good positions behind them. Defense isn’t always glamorous but the kids have bought in.”
With the Warriors working hard to stick around, Bond got a nice lift off the bench in the fourth quarter when he sent Aniyah Hayward into the game. Hayward, who had sat the first three quarters, jolted the ‘Roos with six points in the frame.
“I sent her in with about five minutes left and she really brought energy, so I was proud of her,” Bond said. “She sat the whole time, then got in and brought that kind of energy. It’s a good reminder for the future when kids come off the bench not having played that they can bring that energy and help us win games.”
Abington Friends had a bit of an up and down start to the year, due in part to a tough schedule and some inconsistency from the returning roster. Bond noted that he felt the team sometimes expected to have success just because it did the year before and that was one of the early lessons the players had to learn.
With Sunday’s win, AFS has won 11 of 12 games, so they’ve certainly turned a corner but still have some minor things to clear up. A lot of what Young and Hickson observed centered on those areas, some not even happening on the court and is part of the reason they’ll be back to talk to the team.
“They saw kids get excited after a score but maybe not being visible about it, and letting their teammates see it,” Bond said. “It’s the little things like that that can go a long way and are what we’ll continue to work on.”
ABINGTON FRIENDS SCHOOL 7 19 12 18 – 56
LIFE CENTER ACADEMY 12 6 10 16 – 44
AFS: Mihjae Hayes 2 5-8 9, Kendall Hodges 5 2-2 13, Jordan Smith 2 4-6 8, Paige Mott 3 3-5 9, Cire Worley 2 0-0 5, Zaniyyah Ross-Barnes 2 0-0 4, Aniyah Hayward 2 2-2 6, Kyleigh Kilpatrick 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18 16-23 56.
LC: Charles 5 0-0 10, Norman 1 2-5 4, Smalls 5 5-6 15, Azcona 4 6-6 15, McFarland 0 0-2 0. Totals: 15 13-19 44.
3-pointers: AFS – Worley, Hodges; LC – Azcona.