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Girls Basketball Preview: Academy Park, Penn Wood will battle for Del Val League bragging rights

For most of the decade, the Del Val League has belonged to either Academy Park or Penn Wood.

Last season, the Knights and Patriots shared top honors. Don’t be surprised to see the rivals battle it out for league supremacy once again this winter.

Dynamic senior guard Gabrielle Jackson is the lone returning starter at Academy Park, which finished 11-10 a season ago. LaShay Jackson, a junior guard, will see increased playing time along with junior forward Sierra Thomas.

“With only one senior on the team, who is also the only returning starter, this year’s team will be young but athletic,” coach Ron Bright said. “Our defense should keep us in games, but making open shots will be the key. We’re looking to get back in the playoffs after barely missing out last year and continue our league run with a fourth Del Val title.”

Penn Wood welcomes back coach Monique Boykins, who guided the program to multiple league titles earlier in the decade. Boykins most recently coached at Lower Merion in 2017-18.

Interboro is stacked with senior talent. The Bucs, who won five games last year, welcome back seniors and returning starters Madison Diehl (guard), Madison Ryan-Brady (guard/forward) and Riley Szatny (forward/center). 

“This season’s roster boasts nine seniors, three are returning starters,” second-year coach Ty Taylor said.  “Though we are senior heavy, it has yet to be seen who will provide consistent scoring. We expect our junior and sophomore class to play a significant role this year.”

Chichester is under the tutelage of veteran coach Jamie Blumenthal, who has spent 20 years as assistant and head coach of the program.

The Eagles look to make strides after a trying season. Junior guard/forward Ava Franz is an All-Delco softball player who has been the team’s top scorer the last two years. Junior forward Arianna Davis is a transfer from Gloucester (N.J.)

Inter-Ac League

Academy of Notre Dame moves forward without their top scorers from the past two seasons, Mandy McGurk and Maggie Pina, both of whom made All-Delco first team a year ago.

Second-year Irish coach Lauren Thomer will lean upon veteran starter Allie Lynch, a senior guard, and sophomore guard Maeve McErlane, who averaged better than six points per game as a rookie. Sophomore guard Julia Dever and junior guard Izzy Casale are also back in the fold.

“We are young, small and mighty,” Thomer said. “We have quite a few newcomers who will play a lot of minutes for us, and our young players will have to continue to step up.”

Episcopal Academy went through a rebuilding phase last year which yielded only eight wins.

Longtime coach Chuck Simmonds will look for continued development from returning players including Amanda Purcell, who made 29 3-pointers in nine games before suffering a season-ending injury.

Senior forward Raeleen Keffer-Scharpf led the team in scoring with close to eight points per game. Senior guard Cara Harty and sophomore guard Isabella Piselli are other key returnees.

“We’re hoping to use good team defense and offense to create good opportunities, and we have more depth than before,” Simmonds said. “I’m hoping to find players that give consistent scoring, and for guards to step up as good defenders.”

Ches-Mont League

Tony Zambino is entering his first season as head coach at Sun Valley following a successful three-year stint at Upper Darby. He has plenty of work to do in order to revive a program that has fallen on hard times.

Three starters return from last year’s 2-19 team, including senior guard Maya Morris, who averaged nearly eight points a game as a junior. Senior Micaylah Heygood and junior Savannah Lewis have experience in the frontcourt.

Zambino turned Upper Darby from a last-place team in the Central League to a District 1 playoff qualifier in three seasons. The former Unionville boss returns to Ches-Mont following a five-year absence.

“The team will undergo a complete remake in its style of play and look to build a new girls basketball tradition at Sun Valley,” Zambino said. “I am looking forward to coaching a group of players who I can mold into our style of play and a group that is eager to learn and develop together to reach our goals in 2019 and beyond.”

Catholic Academies League

Sacred Heart enjoyed a 17-win campaign and captured a third consecutive District 1 Class 2A title last season.

The Lions have the pieces to win another championship and get back to states as one of the smallest programs in a challenging conference.

While the Lions lost scoring leader Kyra Quigley to graduation, they bring back backcourt captain and senior Kayleigh Doyle, senior guard Amanda Heilmann, sophomore guard/forward Ainsley Davis and junior guard Mary Lauren Franz, all of whom performed significant roles on last year’s squad.

“We are hoping our tough league schedule will help us prepare for another district run,” said coach Zach Shuler, who begins his 14th season. “We are looking forward to the challenge of competing for a district title after graduating six key players from last season.”

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