Hard working, energetic teams emerge at East and Henderson

As Erin Listrani preaches defense to West Chester East, team captains Holly Hager, Maddy Stiebritz and Maura McCloskey listen closely, believing in the message she is teaching.

Listrani is full of energy when she speaks to her team. Hager easily notices that with her new head coach, especially when she looks at the Vikings and notices the many new players she’s working with during the intense two hour practice session.

“We have a lot of new people, but really have a good team work ethic,’ Hager said. “It’s going to be fun for the players and will lead to a lot of success. We’re motivated.’

Listrani is one of the three new coaches in the West Chester Area School District this season on the girls basketball circuit. She takes over a team that lost the Ches-Mont’s leading scorer last season in Nina Mazzarelli, but has plenty of athletes to compensate her production.

One of them is Stiebritz, who is in the starting lineup for the first time. Like Hager, Listrani’s message has relayed over to her other senior captain in the offseason.

“I wanted to work harder this year,’ Stiebritz said. “There were a lot of goals I set for myself over the summer, and one of them was to have a stronger mental focus. I’m just ready to work.’

Despite the 0-3 start for the Vikings, Listrani is still trying to find where her team stands as the Ches-Mont National Division games begin tonight.

One certainty is Hager, who scored 22 points in a 43-37 loss to Kennett Tuesday. She is averaging 12.0 points per game through the team’s first three games.

“These early games are a good measuring stick for us,’ Listrani said. “We’re still finding the combinations and our strengths and weaknesses. We’re just going to compete every night.’

Regardless of the slow start, the Vikings continue to have a strong work ethic, which will pay dividends during the grind of the Ches-Mont National schedule.


Greta Neff is in her first year as a head coach after 10 seasons as an assistant at Downingtown West. Prior to the Ches-Mont Division Challenge to open the season, Neff had the same philosophy as Listrani when it comes to coaching her team.

Neff is trying to get the Warriors, one of the youngest teams in the Ches-Mont, to work hard and play good defense.

It’s something she learned as a former player under recently retired West Chester women’s hoops coach, Deirdre Kane.

“If you look at the system at West Chester University, it’s always been defensive heavy,’ Neff said. “If you play a lot of defense, you don’t have to play too much offense. We’re going to work on limiting teams in opportunities and play fundamentally sound basketball and see where that gets us.’

Neff’s strategy has paid off for Henderson in the Ches-Mont Challenge as the Warriors were 46 seconds away from pulling off a huge early-season upset over a talented Kennett squad. Even with the heartbreaking loss, the Warriors will be a tough team to play throughout the season. They have showed it in the early going with a 1-2 start.

A good sign for a young team.


There’s not reason to panic in Westtown after West Chester Rustin’s 0-3 start. The Golden Knights have played three worthy opponents in Central Bucks West, Bethelhem Catholic and Cardinal O’Hara before beginning their Ches-Mont American Division slate tonight against Oxford.

Rustin is still getting acclimated to Colette Dugan’s system once again and have plenty of senior leaders to withstand some early season adversity.

“We’re always going to play humbly and try to do our best,’ said Casey Warley. “For the past three years we had the target on our back and not listen to how far everyone says we should go. We’re just going to do as best we can.’

“We have experience on other teams,’ said Katie O’Hare. “With our seven seniors, we can’t be in a better situation.’

Dugan said in the preseason teamwork would be the key to Rustin’s season. The Golden Knights have plenty of teamwork, senior leadership and talent to get through a rocky start.


FREE THROWS – Bishop Shanahan capped off an impressive weekend winning three games in three days to start the season 3-0. While Ciara Forde had a great start to the season by winning the Blue Chip Classic MVP after scoring 22 points against Lansdale Catholic, the Eagles got great performances from freshman Devon Adams and sophomore Kelly Basile. Adams is averaging 11.6 points per game while Basile netted a career-high 13 points and was the spark plug in the season-opening win over Great Valley. … The Ches-Mont already has two 30-point performances to start the season in Downingtown West’s Maddie Dew and Kennett’s Jess Hussey. Dew scored 33 in the Whippets’ season opening win over Chester while Hussey had 31 points in a double-overtime win over Henderson. Both players are among the top three scoring averages in the league. … Unionville had an impressive run in the Ches-Mont Division Challenge at Coatesville High School over the weekend. The Indians went 2-0, which included a overtime win over Coatesville. Micayla Flores averaged 19.5 points per game in the challenge while Maddie Shanahan had a double-double in the season-opening win over Henderson. … What a crazy week for Kennett. The Blue Demons were down four with 46 seconds remaining in double overtime against Henderson, before rallying to score the game’s final seven points to earn a 63-60 victory. Kennett trailed by seven in the fourth quarter against W.C. East before ending the game on a 14-1 run to win 43-37. Blue Demons earned 2-1 record, but also could have been 0-3. Those comeback wins are crucial come February.


KEY GAMES THIS WEEK – Bishop Shanahan at Downingtown East (tonight, 7:15 p.m.), Unionville at Kennett (tonight, 7:15 p.m.), Mount St. Joseph’s at West Chester Rustin (Saturday, 2:30 p.m.), Downingtown East at Downingtown West (Tuesday, 7:15 p.m.), West Chester Rustin at Kennett (Tuesday, 7:15 p.m.).


ON THE COURT – On the court is a weekly segment where one area hoops player is profiled. This week, the Daily Local News interviews West Chester East guard Holly Hager:

What’s your favorite basketball moment?

Have a lot, but probably making fun of our sophomore friend Jenna (Phillips) after every practice. She’s kind of a goofball but we love her.

Most athletes seem to have a pregame ritual. What’s yours?

On the bus, I always take a nap. I bring a nice, healthy snack. For Tuesday’s game, I brought almonds, a hard-boiled egg and salad. After eating, I just chill and watch the JV game to get my mind where it needs to be. Then, I try to get everyone hyped up in the locker room.

If you had to pick one song to listen to before a game, what would it be?

Have to think about this one. “Bring me to Life’ by Evanescence. It’s kind of a screamer song but it gets me hyped especially when I’m running and working out.

Same question, but pick a movie.

21 Jump Street is pretty good. I really get a good laugh out of that. I’m not into chick flicks, but really like funny movies.

Chipotle or Qdoba?

Definitely Chipotle. 100 percent. Chipotle is a little bit healthier for me. At Qdoba, I kind of feel like I’m eating a burrito with queso in it.

Favorite part about high school?

Being a senior, I’m really into school spirit. I like everything that’s school-involved, such as going to games and dressing up on spirit week. I really enjoy hanging out with my friends. I just like being involved with the school and everything about it. It’s awesome.

Least favorite part about high school?

(Laughing) Having to get up at 6:45 every morning.


Jeff Kerr’s Top-10 Rankings (Week 1)

1. Bishop Shanahan (3-0): Eagles win three games in three days to start season, including a victory over Lansdale Catholic in Blue Chip Classic.

2. West Chester Rustin (0-3): Played one of state’s toughest schedules to start year. Should get back on track over next seven days.

3. Downingtown West (2-1): Dew averging 19.3 points for Whippets, who suffered tough loss to North Penn. Tough stretch against W.C. East and Downingtown East this week.

4. Downingtown East (1-1): Rough season-opening loss to Gwynedd Mercy, but rebounded against Oxford. Strong start for Aryah Aungst (7.5 ppg).

5. Villa Maria (1-1): Double-double for Marissa Picinich and 18 from Katie Mooney lead Hurricanes to win in AACA opener.

6. Conestoga (1-0): Jess Monastero leads balanced scoring attack with nine points as Pioneers win Central League opener over Garnet Valley.

7. Unionville (2-1): Indians go unbeaten in Ches-Mont Challenge, including overtime win over Coatesville. Face archrival Kennett tonight.

8. Coatesville (2-1): Rebounded after tough loss to Unionville with blowout win over Chester. Nafisa Saunders averging 11.3 per game.

9. Kennett (2-1): Both wins this season are comeback victories despite strong performances for Henderson’s Emma Bertrando and W.C. East’s Holly Hager.

10. West Chester Henderson: (1-2): Strong win over Chichester for first victory. Responded after a tough loss to Kennett.

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