All-Area: Schnure’s return sent D-East to past heights

Bob Schnure knew the talent he had on his roster when he decided to return to Downingtown East to coach a 36th season after a brief retirement last summer.

The talented core on East wasn’t the reason Schnure came back, but sure helped his decision.

“At my age, it’s a year-to-year basis on whether to return after each season,’ Schnure said prior to the season. “With a team full of juniors, there is an incentive to stay. But I really still enjoy coaching.’

Schnure’s love of basketball compiled with a roster which included All-Area Player of the Year Paige Warfel paid huge dividends as the season went on.

As the Cougars improved each game, Schnure found his own “fountain of youth’ taking East back to what used to be a regularity for the program… a deep district run and a state playoff appearance.

East won 13 of its final 16 games to finish second the Ches-Mont League and clinch third place in the District 1 Class AAAA tournament along with a PIAA playoff appearance. Schnure led the Cougars to those heights and eaned Daily Local News Girls Basketball All-Area Coach of the Year honors for his accolades.

“I’m a little surprised,’ Schnure said on winning the award. “It’s a really nice honor. Especially since this was a bonus year for me since I was retired just three months before the season. To win this award is incredible.’

Schnure had plenty of adjustments to make as the season progressed for East, starting with Warfel. Prior to the season, he transformed his All Ches-Mont first team shooting guard into a post player to give the Cougars an interior presence.

“Paige is a different type of player,’ Schnure said. “She brings the ball up and can see the floor very well, especially when handling the press. She has a lot of dimensions to her game, including an outside shot. She averaged over 10 rebounds a game for us in addition to 17 points. It was big come the playoffs.’

As Warfel adjusted to her new role, East got off to a 9-5 start after a second loss to Bishop Shanahan on January 15. The Cougars rallied from that loss to win eight games in a row en route to a Ches-Mont playoff berth, but the road wasn’t easy.

Aryah Aungst, East’s second leading scorer at 8.0 points a game, had to miss significant time with an injury. Schnure, who plays his five starters and rarely subs, called on Tori Barretta to replace Aungst.

Barretta, heading to Maryland for lacrosse, is a natural athlete, but was in her first season playing basketball. Prior to being inserted into the starting lineup, she did not play a single varsity game but was one of the best players on junior varsity.

Her hustle and defensive ability was enough to convince Schnure to put her in.

“My philosophy is to build kids through the JV teams,’ Schnure said. “When it’s time for them to play on varsity, they saw plenty of playing time at the lower level. It’s all based on abilities. Tori’s just a tremendous athlete and she did a great job for us.’

Barretta provided speed into the East lineup, averaging 2.9 points a game, including nine points in East’s 57-40 upset win over Rustin on February 7 in the Ches-Mont Final Four semifinals, snapping the Golden Knights’ 40-game league winning streak.

Once Aungst came back into the lineup, the Cougars make their district run as a No. 11 seed defeating No. 11 Haverford, No. 6 Rustin (second time in 11 days) and No. 3 Mount St. Joseph’s en route to the district semifinals.

The win over Mount St. Joseph’s was the Mount’s first road loss since 2012, one of the finest victories of Schnure’s storied career.

East finished third in the District 1 Class AAAA tournament before falling to Cedar Crest in the opening round of states, ending with a record of 22-8.

Schnure knew East had a good team heading into the final week of the regular season, when the Cougars beat Coatesville by a convincing margin along with the upset win over Rustin.

“We just kept building throughout the year,’ Schnure said. “When you beat two good teams like that convincingly, you know you have a good team.

East is expected to be one of the top teams in the district next year with Warfel, Aungst, Barretta, Lindsay Kent and Laura Ochsner back. In other words, the short-team future is very bright for the Cougars. Schnure led them to that point.

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