LANGHORNE – Neshaminy girls basketball returns to the hardwood with a youthful squad. While the Lady Skins might be young, they return with plenty of varsity experience.
Juniors Allison Harvey and Brooke Mullin, along with sophomore Kristin Curley – all of whom started last year – are back to lead the way.
After making a run at states two years ago, Neshaminy – 17-7, 9-3 last season – was ousted from the postseason in districts in its last campaign after losses to CB South and CB East.
“This year, I think we’re going to have a good run,” said Mullin, a first team All-SOL National Conference selection last season. “We just have to stay focused on working hard and practice. It’s a long season so we just have to stay focused and keep our game on.”
Mullin, Curley, along with sophomores Kelli Kowalick and Emily Tantala literally stepped off the soccer field in the PIAA Class 4A Championship at Hersheypark Stadium and onto the hoops court.
Kowalick, along with classmate Olivia Scotti, got significant minutes on the hardwood last year so those two should have no problem stepping into starting roles if that is what is needed from them.
“We played a lot of freshmen in some key minutes last year,” said Lally. “Every freshman played at least several minutes in all our playoff games last season.
“We’re hoping that after a year of playing, they know what they need to do to improve.”
Harvey – who was named third team All-SOL last season – is back on the court a year after battling her way through a knee injury. With that behind her, Allison is looking that much stronger this time around.
“She missed all of her AAU season last year,” said Lally. “This year, she’s played all of her AAU season and she’s healthy.
“I think she’s really back to normal; she’s moving around a lot better and playing better defense. She’s doing really well.”
After a year playing the point, Curley returns with the skill of a seasoned veteran.
“She got a lot of good experience going against some of the best point guards in our league – Peyton Spaddacino, from South, (Becca) Margolis, from North, Britney James, from Abington,” explained Lally.
“You throw in the Central Bucks schools and she saw it all; she’s ready.”
After a year off the hardwood, senior Taylor Kelly is back from an injury. Kelly would have played the point last year.
“Had she been healthy, we could have brought Kristin in a little slower instead of feeding her to the wolves right away,” quipped Lally. “But it was good; (Kristin) had to learn in the fire and she did well.
“We were pleased with her play but we’re also pleased to have Taylor back.
“Taylor is a great leader, because we’re young.”
Of course, the Skins must find a way to replace the talents of departed starters Devon Storms, a second team All-SOL National nominee, and Emily Alexis, who played a forward position.
“With Emily and Devon – we lost some boards for sure between those two kids,” said Lally. “Good defender in Emily and a good offensive player in Devon getting to the basket.”
Some low post players for Neshaminy this season include Kawalick, Scotti and Mullin. The coach also intends on playing Harvey in the four and five spots.
“Alli can play in the post and you will see her more this year,” said Lally. “She’s worked on that part of her game; she’s not just shooting perimeter shots anymore.”
Last year, Neshaminy lost twice to SOL National Conference winner CR North, though both losses were by a combined five points including a 1-point difference in the first matchup with the Indians.
“Council Rock North played really well when they had to; they played really good games against us,” said Lally. “They made plays when we didn’t, though both games were close.”
The Skins are going to have to figure out a way to turn the tide against the Rock if they are to compete for the conference crown.
“We want to compete for the league (title), we know it’s tough but we think we can compete for it,” stated Lally. “Obviously, we want to make a run in districts and get back to states.
“We know it’s a tall task but I think they know they’re capable of it and we (coaches) do.
“We’re anxious to get started.”
Lally thinks with a new coach at CR South, Frank Sciolla guiding Pennsbury and Abington returning a good chunk of its team, the competition around the league will be amped up.
“We’re excited as a group to bring a high level of basketball back to this area.
“A lot of attention has gone out to the SOL Continental – CB East and CB South and Pennridge – and rightfully so. They’ve had some great teams and still do.
“But we want to step our league up too.”
Neshaminy tips off against CB East 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 8 at CB South. On Saturday, the Lady Skins take on CB South at Upper Dublin.
Game three is against 5A state qualifier Harrisburg Dec. 16 at Moravian College and the Skins open their league season Dec. 21 at home vs. Bensalem. The Saturday before Christmas, Neshaminy battles Xavieran Catholic Academy in Brooklyn.
“At the every least, it will prepare us for playing North, playing Abington – because they’re going to be good,” said Lally.
From there, it’s on to the holiday hoops tournament Dec. 27 and 28 at Wildwood Convention Center where the Skins will open against Camden Catholic. The first game in 2018 takes place Jan. 3 against Abington.
At 10-2, the Ghosts finished one slot ahead of Neshaminy in last year’s league standings.
It’s like the coach said, it’s a tough schedule, though one the Skins can surely handle.