Notebook: Agnes Irwin perfect place for Ciminera to get back in game

Don Ciminera knew he wanted to return to coaching. He checked all the boxes and found the perfect fit at Agnes Irwin.

A longtime official of Division II, Division III and PIAA hoops, Ciminera hadn’t coached on a regular basis in roughly two decades. He hadn’t run a program since he was at Archbishop Prendergast, where he posted 147 wins in 12 years before stepping down after the 1993-94 season.

For Ciminera, coaching at the scholastic level is akin to riding a bike. After the death of his wife, Catherine, in Nov. 2013, he was at a crossroads. But his love for the sport never waned.

“I’ve always been involved in basketball and just said to myself, ‘˜What do I want to do?’ I initially thought about getting back into officiating, but within a day or two I decided I didn’t want to do that,’ Ciminera said. “I found out the position at Agnes Irwin was open and I knew (athletic director) Sheila Pauley a little bit, so we talked two or three times and she offered me the job. To me, it was the perfect job. I wanted a girls team, I wanted to be in the Catholic or the Inter-Ac League. That was important to me.’

So, Ciminera has taken over a team that is trying to establish itself in the competitive Inter-Ac League. Agnes Irwin is more known for its other sports, such as its lacrosse and softball teams, which have competed for independent state titles in recent years. The basketball program, though, hasn’t been able to reach those heights. But if the Owls are to turn things around, there’s no better man for the job than Ciminera.

“It presented a challenge,’ he said. “I didn’t want to go … to a team that wins 20 games a year. It was just an opportunity to build a program. They had renovated the athletic center, and it’s a tremendous school. The academics and the athletic facilities are top notch and second to none in the area. I couldn’t think of a better opportunity.’

Ciminera, who played at Widener in the 1970s and used to coach at the defunct Briarcliffe Girls Summer League in Darby Twp., was formerly the commissioner of officials for the Catholic and Inter-Ac leagues. His assistants at Agnes Irwin are Stacey Keffer-Koroly, the former Cardinal O’Hara standout, and Janine Mullin, who starred at Immaculata and is the niece of NBA great Chris Mullin.

Ciminera hopes he can hand over the reins to one of his assistants someday, but fully intends to be at Agnes Irwin “for the long haul.’ Despite a 4-11 record, Ciminera believes his players are making steady progress.

“We’ve played a really challenging schedule against established, powerhouse programs,’ he said. “We’ve had good senior leadership, all of whom have played pretty well. Stephanie Williams, Sierra Corbett and Lauren Spinelli. Our biggest surprise has been our freshman, Alex Blomstrom. She was 5-for-6 from 3-point range against Bishop Shanahan (last Sunday) and she’s been our leading scorer. She’s averaging about 10 points per game. She’s really been a pleasant surprise. I didn’t project her to play nearly as much as she has, and moving forward, she’ll be a big part of our program.’

The same could be said about Ciminera, who has found a second life coaching girls basketball.

The first batch of District One rankings were released Tuesday. It should be noted that the rankings, which can be found on, are not official.

As of Tuesday, Garnet Valley would earn the No. 4 seed in the Class AAAA tournament. In addition, Marple Newtown (13), Strath Haven (15) and Haverford (16) would all host a first-round playoff game. Penn Wood (18), Radnor (23) and Interboro (30) would open on the road.

This season, every team in the Central League is a Class AAAA program. Marple Newtown and reigning champion Radnor moved up from Class AAA, leaving Sun Valley as the only Delaware County team still in Class AAA that is playoff bound. The Vanguards were ranked third in the standings.

Delco Christian is the third-ranked team in Class A.

District One has adopted a power-point system for basketball similar to how football determines its rankings, with a heavy emphasis on strength of schedule.

Academy of Notre Dame coach Mary Beth McNichol puts together one of the toughest schedules in the area on a yearly basis, and the 2014-15 campaign has been no different.

The Irish (6-8) have played the likes of Penn Wood (9-5), Central Bucks South (12-3), Gwynedd Mercy (12-2), Strath Haven (12-2), Bonner-Prendergast (9-6) and Archbishop Ryan (12-4). Junior guard Alex Kane, junior forward Kristin Rogers and sophomore guard Casey Walsh have performed well, but the Irish have played most of the way without two starters, Caitlyn Clark and Sam Sacchetta, who are sidelined due to injury.

In December, the team raised $500 for the Billy Lake ALS Research Fund during its game against Villa Maria.

Quick Hits >> Penncrest upset a pair of postseason hopefuls in Radnor (11-4) and Ridley (6-8) last week. Lions senior forward Sam Martino carried her team in those games, totaling 40 points. … Chichester’s Maddie Thornton needed 22 points Thursday to reach the 1,000-point mark. A senior guard, Thornton entered the day with 342 points (21.4 ppg). Thornton is likely to become the second Chi girls player in as many years to hit the milestone. Haley Sipple, who is a freshman at Lycoming, accomplished the feat last season.

To contact Matt Smith, email; follow him on Twitter @DTMattSmith. For full statistical leaders, visit

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