Friends’ Central nets second consecutive FSL girls basketball crown

Haverford – It’s not very often that a coach gets a chance to witness a coronation for his senior class-Iyanna McCurdy, Anna Leone, Larissa Carroll, Avital Schweitzer, and Rucha Alur- along with seeing a glimpse into the future – freshmen Nia Jordan and Raanee Smith – on the same evening.

On Feb. 12, that is exactly what Friends’ Central girl’s basketball coach Phil Annas had the opportunity to experience when his team registered a thrilling come from behind 35-32 win over Abington Friends in the Friend’s Schools League championship game played at Gooding Arena on the campus of Haverford College in front of a capacity crowd.

The title marks the second consecutive Friends’ Schools League championship and fourth in school history.

“It was very difficult navigating the season as defending FSL champions,” Annas said following the game against Abington Friends. “Every time you take the court, your opponent wants to prove something and you wind up taking everyone’s best shot. To make it through the league with only one loss and walk away with a second consecutive league title is very rewarding and helps to validate all the hard work this team invested to stay at the top of the FSL for another season.”

Senior Iyanna McCurdy, who finished with 10 points before fouling out with 1:17 left, added, “This title means so much to us. We went through some ups and downs this season and Abington Friends is a great team and we just came out and played the way we were supposed to play and I enjoyed it despite me fouling out. It was a great team effort.”

After Abington Friends increased their lead to 29-24 in the first minute of the final stanza courtesy of a Alexa Middleton lay-up, Annas witnessed his senior leaders combined with his youth come together as one unit to outscore the Kangaroos 11-3 the rest of the way to earn the dramatic come from behind win.

With McCurdy and Vaughn doing most of the offensive damage, Leone (six rebounds), Smith (nine rebounds) and Jordan proved to be just as vital providing the defensive spark along with doing the little things they have done all season thus allowing the championship game to provide the perfect backdrop to what Annas witnessed all season from a team that showed continued growth playing one of the most challenging schedules in the area.

“I am so thankful for the schedule we played this season,” said Jordan, who finished with 12 points, two rebounds and two steals. “I am thankful for the competitive schedule we played. It was such a great experience to play against those level of girls as a freshman and it opened my eyes for what to expect in the future.”

“I have always valued playing a competitive schedule,” said Annas. “I feel you learn more, win or lose, from a tightly contested game than a one-sided win or loss. Our schedule was grueling this year, and our players responded with grit and determination against all of our opponents. Finishing the regular season and league playoffs with a 20-5 record is extremely gratifying considering the strength of our schedule. There is no doubt that a tough non – league schedule truly helps prepare your players for the grind of the long season.”

The players were also forthcoming in heaping praise toward the coaching staff as a key ingredient in their success.

“I worked with Coach Kwame over the summer and he let me know what to expect once practice started,” said Jordan. “The drills we worked on were exactly what tok place once practice started. Coach Phil was always there to push me and pick me up when my confidence was shaken. Coach Deb’s basketball IQ is out of this world. She sees things most people don’t see and Coach Luke and Coach Galen were a big help in getting adjusted to school.”

McCurdy added, “The coaches brought many different perspectives which is an amazing thing. They bring out the best in us and we want to play for them.”

With the Friends’ Schools League in the rear view mirror the Phoenix enter the Pennsylvania Independent Schools State Tournament as the No. 3 seed with hopes for a successful run.

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