Shipley basketball squads fall in FSL finals

Haverford – The Calvin Gooding ’84 Arena on the campus of Haverford College holds special memories for the Shipley girls’ and boys’ basketball teams – but for different reasons.

Sean Costello, who was the head coach of the girls’ team from 2009 until 2014 before leaving to serve as an assistant coach at Appalachian State (2014) and Belmont (2015) before returning this year, led the Gators to five Friends Schools League championships (2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014).

Phil D’Ambrosio, who is completing his fifth season as head coach (two years as an assistant coach) of the boys’ team finally reached the FSL championship game for the first time since Shipley joined the Friends’ Schools League in 2005.

Sadly, the night did not turn out well for Gator Nation as the girls fell to Abington Friends 46-41 in a back and fourth contest that was not decided until the final minute. In the second half of the doubleheader, the boys fell to Westtown 96-72.

Although the evening may not have ended the way the Shipley faithful might have hoped, junior Sam Sessoms provided a lifetime memory when he became the all-time leading scorer in school history eclipsing the mark set by Tamesha “Sox” Alexander.

With 6:05 remaining in the second quarter, Sessoms drove the lane and put the ball off the glass. As the ball came off the glass and was heading through the net, Westtown’s Cam Reddish knocked the ball away and was immediately called for goaltending slicing the deficit to 25-16.

By rule, the basket was credited to the junior guard giving him the two points needed to become the schools all-time leading scorer with 1,372 points surpassing the old mark of 1,371 points held by Tamesha “Sox” Alexander.

“Anytime you can go to a school and leave as the all-time leading scorer is a great accomplishment,” said Sesssoms, who still has another year at Shipley before he graduates. “My teammates have been great and I could not have achieved my goal without them. We all work together and help each other. I could not have done this without them.”

“It’s great,” said senior Kevin Verzella, regarding Sam Sessoms milestone. “He’s earned it. Nobody spends more time in a gym than him. Even during winter break or over Thanksgiving, Sam is in the gym.”

Coach Phil D’Ambrosio added after his team’s semi-final win over Friends’ Central, “It’s a phenomenal feat and the irony is that it happened during the night of Shipley’s first ever appearance in the Friend’s Schools League championship. A lot of history can made starting with him. The opportunity to achieve something like this on championship night would be really special.”

Following the milestone hoop for Sessoms the Gators tried to maintain the upbeat pace they like but Westtown proved to be too much as the Moose slowly pulled away eventually expanding the lead to 46-23 at the break.

As Westtown continued to widen the margin in the second half, Shipley maintained an upbeat attitude and displayed the same characteristics they did during a 16-game winning streak to end the season.

Emerging from the locker room following the game, the Shipley players did so with a sense of accomplishment knowing they gave it their best.

“It was exciting tonight,” said senior Kiyon Hardy, who finished with a team-high 22 points to go along with six rebounds. “We have been looking forward to this game. We thought we had a chance last year but lost to Friends’ Central. It’s great for the program. We have not done too well previous years so getting there is good for us.

“It was a special moment,” said Sessoms who finished with 17 points. “Since my freshman year we have been striving to get to the championship. Being part of the first boys’ team to ever get there is a great accomplishment.”

Coach Phil D’Ambrosio added, “It means a lot to get to this final game.  It speaks volumes for the program and how far we’ve come in the last five years. The overall commitment to getting better has been the theme. Since Sam has stepped foot on this campus, winning has mattered more. Mattering more means more than just bringing it on game-days. It’s about the will to do more when the lights aren’t on – are you working on your game in the off-season, are you taking advantage of what you have right in front of you with equipment and wonderful facilities! Overall, we’ve seen a significant growth in our attitudes and willingness to get better and simply embracing being apart of something special.”

The girls’ final was what most people expected, with Shipley and Abington Friends going toe-to-toe in a contest that went down to the final before the outcome was decided.

The first half showcased a strong defensive effort by both teams as Abington Friends took a 20-18 lead into the break. Following halftime, the Kangaroos jumped out to a 27-20 after three holding Shipley to no field goals and one pair of free throws.

As she has done throughout her career, senior Yndiah Bobo emerged in the final quarter leading her team all the way back with her offensive and defensive prowess. With sophomore Anna Camden doing the job of not allowing AFS any second chances, fellow sophomore Lauren Ross and Bobo did their job offensively bringing Shipley to within two at 43-41.

That was the closest the Gators got, as AFS went 4-for-6 from the line to help close the game.

Despite coming up short, the youthful Gators showed their bite continuously throughout the season as they maneuvered their way through a challenging schedule while learning a new system on the offensive and defensive ends.

Through it all Bobo was front and center for the younger kids helping them navigate through the season as well as getting them acclimated to Costello, whom Bobo played for during her freshman campaign.

“Yndiah (Bobo) had a fantastic game, especially in the second half,” said Shipley girls’ coach Sean Costello. “She is a tough player and the type of player you want on the floor in this type of game. She scores, rebounds and gets steals but most important she shows the younger players what it takes to compete in a game like this.”

“She (Bobo) did everything that a captain and senior leader should do,” said Ross. “She told us to eat the right food, texted us to stay positive and told us the crowd was going to be loud and we need to focus. She couldn’t have done more.”

“She continuously told us during the game that it’s not over and to keep playing. It showed in the way she played,” added Camden.

Bobo added, “This year was amazing. I expected a little more but we had a great year. Our season is not over. We still have the PAISAA tournament. I believe in this team. We learned a lot and hopefully we can make another run in the PAISAA tournament.”

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