All-Delco: Monaghan knew she belonged at Bonner-Prendie

UPPER DARBY — Alyssa Monaghan was on the campus of Monsignor Bonner/Archbishop Prendergast the day news broke that both Philadelphia Archdiocese schools had been saved from closure.

While Monaghan spent most of her freshman year with her big sister Sarah at Cardinal O’Hara, her heart was with Prendie.

“I remember that was the same day there was a lockdown at O’Hara, so we ended up leaving school early,’ Monaghan said. “Our oldest sister (Jordan) was a senior (at Prendie), so my dad (Ed) was coming up here and me and Sarah decided to see what was going on. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to be at Prendie. From the first day of school freshman year, I wanted to be with my friends. It’s where I felt most comfortable’

On that same afternoon in February 2012, Alyssa and Sarah informed Bonner-Prendergast basketball coach Tom Stewart they would be transferring from O’Hara. And for the next three years, Alyssa Monaghan would go on to become the greatest girls basketball player Bonner-Prendergast has ever known.

Monaghan, who will continue her studies and playing career at Saint Joseph’s University next winter, overcame injury her senior season to lead the Pandas to the school’s first two PIAA tournament victories. In her career, Monaghan was named All-Delco three times, won the Catholic League MVP twice in three years and earned the Markward Club’s Player of the Year accolade last month. She finished with 1,440 career points, surpassing Stephanie Graff (1,429) on Prendie’s all-time list. To top it off, Monaghan is the 2014-15 Daily Times Player of the Year.

Joining her on the All-Delco team, which is selected after consultation with local coaches, are Bonner-Prendergast teammate and senior Shalina Miller, Cardinal O’Hara sophomores Hannah Nihill and Mary Sheehan, Garnet Valley senior Jordan Ireland and Penn Wood junior Dahnye Redd.

Monaghan was the slam-dunk selection for the county’s top honor. The majority of Delco’s head coaches nominated her for Player of the Year. While it was evident that Monaghan was the best talent in the county, her final season donning the Pandas uniform was shrouded by adversity at the start.

Monaghan was putting on a show during a scrimmage when, on her way to the basket, she fell awkwardly on her foot. She suffered a severe ankle sprain, which ultimately cost her the first month of the regular season. Monaghan watched as the Pandas, led by Miller and senior guard Amber Ballinger, kept the team on a winning path. She made her debut Jan. 6 against Little Flower.

“When it first happened, I thought I had broken it,’ Monaghan said. “I remember it was a really awkward landing. It was scary, but I wanted to get back as quick as possible. … The first four or five games back, it just didn’t feel all that comfortable. It didn’t really start to feel good until probably the Spring-Ford or St. Hubert game (Jan.30).’

By then, Monaghan had nine games under her belt. She scored 22 points against St. Hubert and, less than two weeks later, put forth the greatest individual performance of her high school career when she netted 35 points to lead the Pandas past Cardinal O’Hara in a battle of the top programs in Delaware County. She scored 21 points in a first-round state playoff win against Gwynedd Mercy and poured in 32 in a two-overtime victory over West York. The Pandas bowed to eventual state finalist Archbishop Wood in the quarterfinal round, as Monaghan ended her senior season with game averages of 18.2 points, 4.5 assists and four steals.

“It was a fun season,’ Monaghan said. “I wish we could have done more, but we did a lot, I thought. It was tough in the beginning, but we kept getting better and stayed together.’

As a youngster, Monaghan led St. Bernadette to four regional CYO championships and one Archdiocese title. Monaghan’s biggest influences growing up were Kerri and Erin Shields, both of whom earned All-Delco and Daily TimesPlayer of the Year honors at Archbishop Carroll.

“They were both from Bernie’s and we would always go to their games,’ Monaghan said. “My oldest sister (Jordan) played with their younger sister, Shannon, so I was always at games. My best friend is cousins with them, so we were always around them, watching them play. They really helped with my shot when I was younger.’

Monaghan has been on the radar of Division I programs dating to her freshman year. In October of her junior year, she gave Saint Joseph’s her verbal commitment. The Drexel Hill resident will soon be the second Division I athlete in her household. Her dad, Upper Darby councilman Ed Monaghan, was an All-Delco offensive lineman at Monsignor Bonner and played four years at Penn State.

“He’s always been one of my biggest supporters, along with my mom (Maria),’ Alyssa said.

Monaghan can reflect on that fateful day Bonner-Prendie was saved. She couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. She was able to spend her final high school season with her sister Sarah, who returned to Bonner-Prendie as an assistant coach less than a year after she graduated. They had played together going back to their early days with the AAU Comets, one of the premier club organizations in the country for girls basketball.

“Alyssa is the greatest guard I’ve ever coached on the girls side,’ said Stewart, who coached Donny Dodds, the great St. James High guard, in the 1970s. Stewart has stated numerous times that Monaghan and Dodds are the best players he’s coached. “She has the entire game. She handles, she shoots, she goes to the basket. I’m glad I had her here.’

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