Friends’ Central basketball squads leave last impression on underclassmen

WynnewoodThe Friends’ Central boys’ and girls’ basketball teams have enjoyed a rich tradition of success sparked by strong veteran leadership.

Fielding rosters contained mainly with underclassmen, FCS boys’ coach Ryan Tozer and Friends’ Central girls’ coach Phillip Annas knew veteran leadership would be the main ingredient for success this season.

“Senior leadership is important to any team’s success,” said Tozer. “Our five seniors have set a great example to our young team by their work ethic in practice, and their positive vocal leadership on the bench and in the locker room. We have had some tough growing pains this season, but our senior’s team first attitude has helped keep everyone focused on getting better each and every day.”

“Zoe [Ginsberg] and Sophie [Berger] have done a wonderful job filling the void left with the graduation of Iyanna McCurdy and the transferring of Mikayla Vaughn,” Annas said prior to the Phoenix’s game against FSL rival Shipley Jan. 20. “ As senior co-captains, they have provided strong leadership and guidance to our team which is made up of mostly freshmen and sophomore players. They have embraced their roles on the team and taught those around them the standards, expectations and culture of our program.”

With strong veteran leadership, the Phoenix boys’ and girls’ teams have been able to stay together to keep making strides toward another Friends’ Schools League and Pennsylvania Independent Schools Athletic Association playoff push.

Antone Walker, a senior guard on the FCS boys’ team said, “We try to tell younger kids to always be confident in themselves and believe in their abilities because I see potential that everyone can be a good player. I like to tell them about the legacy, players who played here before and remind them we have to keep that going.”

Bryce Spriggs, a sophomore guard on the FCS boys’ team, added, “They [seniors Alex Chesen, Ben Kenney, Chris Annas and Walker] have been important. Our team is young so we are blessed and grateful to have senior leaders like Antone [Walker] and our other seniors.”

Nia Jordan, a sophomore guard on the FCS girls’ team, added, “From our previous seniors especially Iyanna [McCurdy], I learned you have to go hard every play, attack the basket and don’t show weakness. This season, seniors Zoe [Ginsberg] and Sophie [Berger] have been wonderful leaders showing me to be patient and take everything in stride. They offer a sense of calm and that really helps especially in close games.”

Known for assembling tough non-league schedules, Tozer and Annas did not shy away from doing the same this year despite the youth on their rosters and the challenges they would face. As of Monday, both the FCS boys’ and girls’ team seemed to be on their way toward solidifying playoff berths.

“I have always believed in the value of a competitive non-league schedule,” Annas said. “You need to challenge your players out of conference to determine what your strengths and weaknesses are before beginning League play. This type of scheduling has helped show the coaches and players where to focus time and energy in practice to better prepare for a higher likelihood of success as the season moves forward.”

Tozer echoed Annas’ sentiments: “We will always play a challenging schedule. As a staff we want to see what kind of physical and mental toughness our guys are made of. We want our guys tested before League play begins. Playing against physical Inter-Ac opponents as well as playing against top teams in FCS grad Jeremy Treatman’s Scholastic Play by Play’s make us better. With a young inexperienced team, we chose not to alter our schedule too much. Weaknesses get exposed when you play against good teams. We know the areas we need to improve on individually and as a team.”

Jordan echoed her coach’s sentiments prior to the game against FSL rival Shipley Jan. 20: “We play many respectable teams in and out of the league. The type of non-league game we had against Audenreid was physical and that helps when we play league games. The level of intensity and grit we face in non-league games is something we have been able to apply in league games.”

One valuable lesson the team has learned while putting themselves in a good position to help defend their Friends Schools League title is trust. On Jan. 20 against Shipley, the Phoenix decided to pack the defense inside the paint and force Shipley to beat them from outside.

Thanks to a couple of key shots, the Gators were able to separate themselves enough to earn the 51-42 win. Despite the loss, optimism among the FCS players still runs high.

“The big thing we focused on this season is trust,” said FCS junior Briana Cypress. “Trusting your teammates shows good things come out of it. Being a young team playing a challenging schedule helps us prepare for the tough league games we will have and helps us prepare for the end of our regular season and the post-season.”

With the end of the regular season on the horizon followed by post-season play, the young Phoenix boys’ and girls’ basketball teams received valuable game experience and look forward to a bright future.

“With a young team, we gained valuable experience this year,” said Cypress. “We learned that staying focused is very important. We are pretty close as a team and that is getting better every day.”

Spriggs said, “I learned two things this year: Senior leadership is very important. Antone never cracked under pressure for us and was a huge help. Secondly, I learned you have to get everyone involved. It can’t be 2-on-5, 3-on-5 or 4-on-5. It has to be 5-on-5 in order to achieve team success.”



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