FRANCONIA >> The St Basil Academy girls basketball players had their hands busy Friday night.
The Panthers used their defense, specifically 18 steals, as they started the season with a good win over an Abington Heights team that’s been a power in District 2 the past few years. For a team with just two seniors, the Panthers looked like a veteran group on both ends of the floor.
St Basil turned that defense into plenty of points as it topped the Comets 47-36 in the first round of Souderton’s Jim Church Classic.
“In the beginning, it was a little hard to rotate over but once we got it, it was easy for us to recover after a double team,” Panthers sophomore Denae Carter said. “We weren’t talking as much at beginning but once we got going, it was easy to rotate when we were talking and calling out the double-teams.”
Carter, who led the Panthers with 12 points, nine rebounds and five steals, is a good example of what this team does well. A second-year starter, the sophomore can shoot the three, she has quick hands on defense and anytime she pulls down a rebound, Carter can start the Panthers right up the floor.
While St Basil graduated two steady players in Cheryl Remolde and Jules Gura (USciences), they brought back three starters and most of their key bench players. Two, Kelly Grant and Shannon Remolde, just moved into the starting lineup and the Panthers again have a group of promising freshmen to fill in the vacated bench spots.
“The girls that started tonight all played last year,” longtime Panthers coach Terry Mancini said. “I think the girls starting now might be a little more athletic and as a five, they play very well together. We’re looking for some girls to step up in the 6-7-8 spots.”
St Basil started slow on offense and the first quarter was fairly even until the Panthers ripped off the last five of the frame for a 10-7 lead. Casey Remolde, the team’s lone senior starter, added a traditional three-point play to open the second quarter and the Panthers started to pull away.
“Anybody in our squad can get a rebound and handle,” Mancini said. “We don’t number girls in terms of position, it just comes down to their skill level, which is outstanding.”
Abington Heights had some quality guards but for the first three quarters, the Panthers didn’t give them much space to breathe, much less work the ball around to their favored spots.
Carter keyed off a 12-2 run that broke open a 15-9 game into a 25-11 halftime advantage for the Panthers. Although they didn’t shoot the long ball as well as they can, the Panthers got a lot of good shots or trips to the line while their defense was giving them extra possessions with the steals.
“They played us in zone, so we had to figure out the open spots and were a good place to catch a pass would be,” Carter said. “Some skips were there, we had to make sure we dove down into the lane. We did really well with that, it was easy to get the open cutter and an open shot.”
Casey Remolde added 11 points for the Panthers, who started the third quarter the way they ended the second. St Basil scored the first 12 points of the second half, with the Comets not getting a basket until the final minute of the frame.
Grant’s three-point play stuck the Panthers to a 43-16 lead with 6:12 left. With mostly reserves playing from that point on, the Panthers were a little sloppy on both ends and the Comets, who played hard throughout, finally got a chance to show some of their shooting as they scored 20 of the final 24 points in the game.
St Basil will play for the Jim Church Classic title at 3 pm Saturday against host Souderton in a rematch of last year’s final won by the Indians.
“This is a good tip-off tournament, it’s a good challenge for us and with us opening up league play on Monday, it’ll be good for us,” Mancini said.
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