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2021 Mercury Girls Basketball Team-By-Team Preview

Boyertown

Boyertown’s Ashley Kapp drives against Methacton. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

Head coach: Jason Bieber, 12th season

Last year’s record/accomplishments: 4-6 PAC Liberty, 10-14 overall, District 1-6A playoff qualifier

Players to watch: Seniors Ashley Kapp, G; Mikayla Moyer, G; Fiona Hovey, F. Junior Madison Konnick, F. Sophomore Carlie Schweizer, G.

Outlook: It was a stacked PAC Liberty last season with three opponents reaching the PIAA tournament, meaning Boyertown had its hands full on a nightly basis. While the Bears were not among that trio, they managed a respectable run that earned a spot in the district playoffs. That’s a place Boyertown hopes to be again while closing the gap with the Liberty lead pack headed by Spring-Ford. Leading scorer Ashley Kapp (12.5 ppg) returns, alongside starting guard Mikayla Moyer. “We will be competitive in a very good league. We will use our speed and athleticism to help us be successful,” said head coach Jason Bieber, who sits on 200 wins in his Boyertown tenure. “We will have many players with very limited varsity experience, but feel that the seniors will help them to adjust to the speed.”

Daniel Boone

Head coach: Kyle Tranovich, 2nd season.

Last year’s record: 1-9 Berks II, 3-18 overall

Players to watch: Seniors Nicole Brown, F; Lyndsay Surkosky, G; Alyssa Parrott, C;  Jenna Heasley, G. Juniors Guinevere Fowlkes, G; Alex Grooms, G/F. Sophomore Allyson Boyer, F.

Outlook: The Blazers finished at the bottom of Berks II a year ago and graduated leading scorer Allyson Velez. Its returning players must take on greater roles for Boone to compete in a new-look Berks II, which shifted from a six-team division to four teams, now also featuring frontrunner Twin Valley, Conrad Weiser and Muhlenberg.

Methacton

Methacton’s Nicole Timko drives past Pottsgrove’s Rachel Ludwig. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

Head coach: Craig Kaminski, 19th season

Last year’s record: 8-2 PAC Liberty, 23-7 overall, PAC finalist, District 1-6A 8th place, PIAA first round.

Players to watch: Senior Allie Hazlett, F. Juniors Nicole Timko, G; Tori Bockrath, F; Kayla Kaufman, F. Sophomores Cassidy Kropp, G; Mairi Smith, F.

Outlook: A 23-7 season that included appearances in the PAC final and PIAA tournament would be the pinnacle for most programs. While last season was pleasing for the Warriors, it ended on a down note. “The players returning enjoyed the run to the PAC, district and state playoffs last year, so they saw that excitement and are eager to return to it. But they have a sour taste left from last season as our season ended with four straight losses,” said head coach Craig Kaminski. Methacton struck a great balance last season in experience and personnel and must fill the void left by 1,000-point scorer Sydney Tornetta and the frontcourt duo of Sydney Hargrove and Caroline Pellicano. Easing that loss is the return of sharpshooting junior guard Nicole Timko, a two-time All-Area first team pick who set a PAC record with 90 3-pointers last year and is poised to surpass 1,000 career points this season. She’s joined by sophomore point guard Cassidy Kropp, who was the league’s breakout freshman a year ago, while Tori Bockrath, Allie Hazlett and Mairi Smith are poised to step into the leading frontcourt roles. Kaminski says the Warriors have ‘high expectations’ this season and deservedly so — Methacton enters as the next favorite in the PAC behind Spring-Ford and should have a chance to right some of those postseason regrets this winter.

Owen J. Roberts

Owen J. Roberts’ Avery White shoots over Pennsbury defender. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

Head Coach: Jeremy Mellon, 15th season

Last year’s record/accomplishments: 6-4 PAC Liberty, 21-10 overall, PAC semifinalist, District 1-6A ninth place, PIAA second round

Players to watch: Seniors Olivia Hannum, C; Sam Holmburg, F; Kate Friedemann, G. Junior Avery White, G. Sophomores Gabbi Koury, G; Alexa Vogelman, G; Colby Wasson, G; Ava Clemson, G. Freshmen Asya Price, G; Carson Gallagher, F; Sam Martins, G.

Outlook: The Wildcats enjoyed an unforgettable season last fall as they qualified for the PIAA playoffs for the first time with a dramatic run through playoffs to earn the 9th seed and ultimately reach the second round of states. It was a run fueled by a junior and four senior starters, including two-time All-Area first team forward and OJR all-time leading scorer Olivia LeClaire, and honorable mentions Hannah Clay, Brooke Greenawald and Maddi Koury. The lone returnee happens to be guard Avery White, the team’s leading scorer after netting 13.1 per game in 2019-20. Sophomores Gabbi Koury and Alexa Vogelman were a part of the rotation last season, but otherwise OJR will have many new faces on the roster in 2021. “We will need to find ways to replace their production and experience,” said head coach Jeremy Mellon of his 2020 graduating group. “We have a lot of young players and we will have to figure out how to play together quickly and efficiently.” A step back will be only natural with so much turnover but the exceedingly reliable White has the ability to lead a run back to the District 1 playoffs.

Perkiomen Valley

Head coach: John Russo, 1st season

Perkiomen Valley’s Naiya Daisey (4) shoots a runner against Pope John Paul II. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

Last year’s record/accomplishments: 3-7 PAC Liberty, 8-14 overall

Players to watch: Seniors Naiya Daisey, G; Anna Hallisey, F. Juniors Emma Miley, G/F; Jennifer Beattie, G. Sophomore Ella Stein, F. Freshman Anna Stein, G.

Outlook: PV showed promise last season despite finishing fifth in a top-heavy PAC Liberty that had three teams make states. With three starters back, including All-Area second team guard Naiya Daisey, there’s a solid foundation in place for new coach John Russo, who takes over at PV in place of Kelly Sorber. “Since our only returning varsity contributors are guards, we believe that will be a strength that we can rely on,” Russo said. PV started preseason a week later than most of its PAC counterparts and the new coaching staff is feeling the effects of being new in an already unprecedented environment. “We feel like we are really behind in so many aspects,” Russo admitted. He’s calling for greater unity and team defense to get PV nearer the .500 mark. “The season outlook is shaped by decisions out of the girls’ hands. When that happened our goals naturally changed,” Russo said. “As a team we are just looking for small goals, to get on the court, play as many games as possible and try to send the seniors off with some positive lasting memories.”

Phoenixville

Head coach: Brian Grashof, 2nd season

Phoenixville’s Nailah Green passes around the defense of Villa Maria’s Paige Lauder to Aubrie Breisbatt. (Barry Taglieber – For MediaNews Group)

Last year’s record/accomplishments: 6-4 PAC Frontier, 12-10 overall

Players to watch: Seniors Aubrie Breisblatt, G; Nailah Green, F. Juniors Dylan McAteer, G; Sammy Brown, G.

Outlook: The Phantoms were rightly pleased to come away with a winning record last season. Now they’re looking to build upon that mark. The return of senior guard Aubrie Breisblatt and senior forward Nailah Green is a good place to start. Breisblatt was the PAC’s fourth-leading scorer at 13.5 points per game as a junior while Green (11.4) was also in double figures. Second-year coach Brian Grashof is looking for his squad to play with more assertiveness this season, citing ‘pace and decisiveness’ as key factors for reaching its potential. The Phantoms are among the top 3 teams in the PAC Frontier next to Pottsgrove and Pope John Paul II, but will have their hands full again with the two division opponents they went 0-4 against in 2019-20. Phoenixville narrowly missed making districts a year ago. Earning a postseason spot would prove its progress.

Pope John Paul II

Head Coach: TJ Lonergan, 3rd season

Last year’s record/accomplishments: 8-2 PAC Frontier, 11-13 overall, PAC playoffs, District 1-5A qualifier

Players to watch: Senior Kallan Bustynowicz, F. Juniors Tess Crossan, G; Amelia Kennedy, G.

Outlook: The Golden Panthers took a step back last season compared to reaching the PIAA 5A tournament two seasons ago, but you could argue they overachieved last season while going 8-2 in the PAC Frontier and making districts after losing key starters to graduation and learning its top returner, forward Kallan Bustynowicz, was lost for the season due to injury in the preseason. In 2021, Bustynowicz is back as are four other starters, including returning leading scorer Amelia Kennedy (10.4 ppg) and three-year point guard Tess Crossan, and PJP is poised to challenge Pottsgrove for the Frontier lead. “We have players that are interchangeable at the guard spots as well as forwards that can step out as well. We also have a very veteran group with four returning starters from last year and another who would have started if not being injured. I am hoping that our age and experience will help us get through some road bumps that will happen along the way,” said coach TJ Lonergan. Lonergan has been pleased with an experienced group that’s grateful for the opportunity to be back on the court. “Our girls have been incredibly resilient with all the changes. Despite the limited offseason and practice time to start the season, their excitement and enthusiasm could not be any higher, which is a huge credit to our veteran girls.”

Pottsgrove

Pottsgrove players, from left, Sydney Mowery, Sierra Potts and Riley Simon celebrate after defeating Phoenixville. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

Head coach: Mike Brendlinger, 19th season

Last year’s record/accomplishments: 10-0 PAC Frontier, 18-8 overall; PAC semifinals, District 1-5A quarterfinals

Players to watch: Seniors Jaimi Makins, G: Justine Fretz, G; Sophie Gilmore, G; Rachel Ludwig, F; Kyleah Holmes, F; Sierra Potts, F; Riley Simon, G; Tiana Hunter, F; Sydney Mowery, F; Emily Krause, C.

Outlook: Preparation for this pandemic-altered season is hard for every team. It’s a little less hard for Pottsgrove though. With four returning starters and seven of their top eight players returning and in their senior seasons, the reigning PAC Frontier champion Falcons’ time is now. Pottsgrove took a big step forward in 2019-20 by playing into the District 1-5A quarterfinals and were a win away from making the PIAA tournament. They’ll run it back, looking to take things a step further. Forward Sydney Mowery broke out as a junior and was rewarded as a Mercury All-Area first team after scoring 11.5 points per game, point guard Riley Simon (8.9 ppg) will run the offense for a third straight year, while Rachel Ludwig and Sierra Potts also return to the starting five. With so much continuity, there’s nothing unknown about roles and expectations. “With no work out of season, and a fractured preseason having the girls familiar with the system is a definite plus,” said head coach Mike Brendlinger. Brendlinger expressed concern for all teams with the start-stop preseason, three-game weeks and diminished practice time that will make this season an on-court challenge as well. Nevertheless, expectations are rightfully elevated for Pottsgrove. “The expectations are that we will have another successfu league and hope to challenge for the top of the Frontier Division and battle with the teams in the Liberty Division. They also hope to reach districts and advance far into districts,” Brendlinger said.

Pottstown

Pottstown’s Trinell Watson (4) reaches for the ball Friday against Wyomissing. (Ben Hasty – MediaNews Group)

Head coach: Madison Morton, 3rd season

Last year’s record/accomplishments: 2-8 PAC Frontier, 2-20 overall

Players to watch: Senior Kaylin Jarrett, F. Juniors Trinell Watson, G/F; Calista Daye, G. Sophomore Tamya Jarrett. Freshman Mikyla Brandon, F.

Outlook: When asked what factors must come together for his team to be successful, 3rd year coach Madison Morton hit on words to live by for all teams in this unusual winter: “Consistency in the way we practice, our ability to maintain a schedule and stay healthy.” The PAC’s third-leading scorer last year, Trinell Watson (15.6 ppg) returns to lead the Trojans. Reinforcements remain thin for Pottstown, so while it won’t suddenly compete for a PAC title, it will hope to take a step forward from last year’s two-win campaign. “We look to improve every time we step on the court. We need to stay focused on what we do and not worry about what others do. … We are young and will learn from the good and bad and keep moving forward,” said Morton.

Spring-Ford

Head coach: Mickey McDaniel, 8th season

Last year’s record/accomplishments: 9-1 PAC Liberty, 24-6 overall, PAC champion, District 1-6A semifinals, PIAA 6A second round

Players to watch: Seniors Lucy Olsen, G; Emily Tiffan, F; Abbey Boyer, G; Hailey Hudak, F; Mac Maloney, G.

Spring-Ford’s Lucy Olsen (3), Emily Tiffan (11) and Abbey Boyer smile as they leave the court to a large lead against Methacton. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

Outlook: Being on the Spring-Ford girls basketball team the past three seasons has been a case of deja vu, for better or worse. The Rams again claimed the PAC championship and reached the District 1 semifinals and PIAA tournament. Those are hugely successful results to any program, but the district semifinal roadblock and exits arguably too early in states has made the repetition slightly unwelcome. The time is now for the Rams to break through those hurdles and they have the personnel to do it. Two-time Mercury All-Area Player of the Year and Villanova commit Lucy Olsen returns for her senior year after leading the area in scoring last year with 18.1 ppg. She’s joined by an integral quartet of fellow seniors, forward Emily Tiffan, who was poised for a dynamic year as a junior but missed the majority of it due to injury, guards Abbey Boyer and Mac Maloney and forward Hailey Hudak. A promising freshmen class added to its other returning players will ensure the Rams remain the deepest team around. The Rams are used to playing a rigorous non-league schedule, a luxury that isn’t available in the coronavirus era with teams playing exclusively in league. “It is important we are prepared mentally and physically to allow us to compete at the level that will be required for the challenges of our conference and non-conference schedule,” said coach Mickey McDaniel. “Everyone has accepted the challenges and goals for this season and continues to invest their heart and soul into the program.” McDaniel pointed out in a normal season, the team would have had 40 practices and played 12 games at this point. “We just have to have a different mindset to navigate the journey this year and continue to strive each day to get better as a player and team,” he said.

Upper Merion

Head Coach: Shawn Wheeler, 2nd season

Last year’s record/accomplishments: 4-6 PAC Frontier, 6-16 overall

Players to watch: Sophomores Riley Anderson, G; Gabriella Canete, G.

Outlook: It will be a youth movement this winter for the Vikings. With 75 percent of its roster freshmen and sophomores, there’s little choice. Yet it’s an opportunity to set a foundation. “Our focus this season is to teach these young athletes how to play high-school basketball – there are some excellent, well-coached teams in the PAC that each will present different challenges for our group. If we can maintain our collective competitive spirit and player health through the inevitable rough spots this season, we believe that this season will set the foundation for future program growth,” said head coach Shawn Wheeler.” UM is looking to a pair of sophomores, Riley Anderson and Gabriella Canete, to make an impact. Part of UM going young is a byproduct of a “significant number of former varsity level players respectfully decided not to participate this season,” said Wheeler.

Upper Perkiomen

Head coach: Matt Bowe, 2nd season

Last year’s record/accomplishments: 0-10 PAC Frontier, 0-21 overall

Players to watch: Junior Hannah Kenney, F. Freshman Erin States.

Outlook: Upper Perk endured a winless campaign a year ago. It’s been a lean handful of years for the Tribe with only four wins in the past three seasons. Brighter times may be on the horizon with the entry of a freshman class led by Erin States that went 12-1 as 8th graders a year ago. Upper Perk will hope it can break a PAC losing streak that dates back to the 2014-15 season. “This year we want to build upon what we had last year,” said head coach Matt Bowe. “It wasn’t about winning but bringing a winning attitude and culture back to womens basketball. This year we want to continue building that mindset as well as starting to apply what we have built upon the last two years and hopefully get a couple of wins this year.”

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