Girls’ basketball: Villa Maria hopes to build success from West Chester holiday tournament

West Chester – For as long as she can remember Villa Maria Academy basketball coach Kathy McCartney has used the West Chester Christmas Classic (formerly run by Future Stars) as a barometer for the progression of her team.
This year was no different as the Hurricanes bounced back from a disappointing performance against Conestoga Dec. 28 to register an impressive 62-55 victory over a feisty Coatesville squad Dec. 29. With the Dec. 29 win, Villa Maria finished in third place for the second consecutive year.
“This game will serve us well and make us better,” McCartney said. “Coatesville is a nice basketball team. They have some athletes who can score the ball and rebound the ball. We beat a good basketball team.”
“The seniors did a great job of motivating us and helping us respond back the day after a tough loss,” said Villa Maria sophomore Abby Walheim, who finished with 19 points, pulled six rebounds and was named to the all-tournament team. “The coaches were not too happy with our performance against Conestoga but our seniors helped us bounce back.”
Similar to this season, Villa Maria finished third in last season’s West Chester Christmas Classic and went on to advance to the PIAA District One title game thus clinching a spot in the state tournament courtesy of their win over AACA foe Merion Mercy in the semi-final contest.
In that semi-final contest Feb. 23, Walheim received a perfect feed from junior Emily Gillin and laid the ball off the glass as the buzzer sounded to give her squad a 46-44 victory.
While last season would end in the opening round of the state tournament, McCartney felt the tournament served its purpose and hopes it will have the same effect this season as Villa prepares for the heart of its league schedule.
“We were mentally tougher (against Coatesville),” McCartney said. “After we got down against Conestoga I felt we went into the tank a little bit and I thought we kept battling tonight. We have a young group and they have to learn from games like this (against Coatesville) which will make us better when it matters.”
Senior guard Murrin Teague added, “I was tired in the first five minutes. Usually we are the team that makes the other team tired but they were running us tonight. We did a great job against a scrappy team and hopefully this will help us in our league games.”
The Hurricanes feature a roster mixed with youth and experience that has displayed toughness along with its fair share of struggles. McCartney hopes this year’s West Chester Christmas Classic will reap the same benefits as previous years.
While youth is primarily served on the court, senior leadership has certainly paved the way on and off the court courtesy of Teague and fellow senior co-captain Bri Wright.
“Our young kids bring a lot to the table and I am proud of the way they have stepped up,” said Teague.
McCartney said, “Hopefully this tournament will give our younger kids confidence. Young kids need reps and confidence and hopefully this tournament will help them tremendously.”
“Our senior co-captains have been tremendous,” added McCartney. “Bri Wright did not get any minutes against Coatesville but its been said you can learn a lot about your team by the way the bench acts. Bri had those kids engaged and when they were called into the game they were ready to play because of her. She has taught our younger kids a lot about our program.”

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