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St. Basil leans on continuity in season-opening win

FRANCONIA >> Minus the one all-state forward now in college, it wouldn’t have been hard to confuse this year’s St. Basil Academy girls’ basketball team for last season’s.

With four returning starters off a 27-win district champion, the Panthers didn’t lose much in terms of continuity. It wasn’t lost on a couple of travelling Abington Heights fans either, who recognized a few of the St. Basil players from their meeting in last year’s season opener.

There are differences and the Panthers still have some things to figure out, but they got a good start on it Friday with a 39-20 win over the Comets as part of the Jim Church Classic at Souderton.

“We all played a lot of different places over the summer and I think coming back, we got a lot better in the flow of our team,” forward Denae Carter said. “We got each other a lot of open shots, we ran the offense well and we executed really well.”

Carter looked strong in her 2019-20 debut, leading the Panthers with 16 points and four steals. The junior, who’s entering her third season as a starter put a lot of time in this offseason getting stronger – crediting teammate Kelly Grant as a good lifting partner – and could fill some of the void left by Casey Remolde.

Remolde, who has already cracked Kutztown’s starting lineup as a freshman, was a 3A all-state pick and the AACA player of the year, so she does leave a considerable void for the Panthers to fill. Between the returning four starters upping their game and a deep group of bench players, coach Terry Mancini sees the potential there

“You can’t replace a Casey Remolde, but we’re expecting big things out of Shannon Remolde and Denae has just upped her game and she’s only going to get better,” Mancini said. “Lizzie Deal has been the handyman, whatever you want to call her, she just does everything for us and Kelly Grant is starter. They’re all three or four year varsity players.”

The Panthers started a little slow offensively, but their defense was rugged as usual throughout Friday’s game. St. Basil never trailed and didn’t allow a single Comets player to reach five points.

Abington Heights is no pushover program either. The Comets won the District 2 5A title last year and the year before and Mancini said if his team wasn’t ready defensively, it was going to get beat. His primary concern was keeping the Comets off the foul line and thought his team did a good job with that.

“We knew we had to box out, we wanted to get a lot of offensive rebounds as well as defensive rebounds and keep the ball away from them,” Carter said. “If we could, we went after the ball and tried to pressure them a little.”

Sophomore Sam White got the fifth starting spot on Friday after serving as a top reserve last year. St. Basil had gone nine deep by the end of the first quarter, some of it due to foul trouble but the important thing was the level of play didn’t drop off.

“This is a process for us, we’re trying to find that seven, eight and nine in our rotation,” Mancini said. “That’s what we’ve been doing all preseason so we’re hoping that continues and that’s what is going to hopefully make us a good team this year.”

St. Basil, the defending tournament champion, will face the host Indians in Saturday’s title game at 3 p.m.

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