Before the pandemic effectively shut the country down last March, the county’s Philadelphia Catholic League girls basketball teams were alive and well in their respective PIAA tournaments.
Archbishop Carroll (Class 5A), Bonner-Prendergast (4A) and Cardinal O’Hara (6A) had all advanced to the quarterfinals, three wins away from state championships.
Nearly 11 months later, the teams are just beginning their 2021 seasons.
“The girls are disappointed they weren’t able to finish their season last year and are ready to get back on the court,” O’Hara coach Chrissie Doogan said.
In a shortened campaign, the Catholic League will run until early March. As was the case last year, the league is split into two divisions, Blue and Red. The top programs (including Delco’s three) will compete in the Red Division with Archbishop Wood, Lansdale Catholic, Neumann-Goretti, and West Catholic, the reigning league champion.
The top two finishers in the Red will play for the PCL title in March; there will be no playoff tournament this year, and the Blue teams will not have a chance to play for a league title. A site for the PCL final has not yet been determined.
O’Hara tipped off the season last week with a blowout win over Neumann-Goretti. The Lions are the best team in Delco, returning four starters from last season’s 20-6 squad. O’Hara fell to Archbishop Wood in the Catholic League semifinals before the states run.
Senior guards Amaris Baker and Siobhan Boylan, junior guard Sydni Scott, and junior forward Maggie Doogan (the coach’s daughter) all were represented on the All-Delco first, second and third teams.
Scott averaged 12 points, five rebounds and three assists per game for the District 12 Class 6A champions. Baker averaged 11 points and three assists while emerging as the team’s floor general. Boylan, who can play the wing and post, averaged nine points and two assists. Doogan established a sustained low-post threat, averaging nearly 10 points.
“This upcoming season, we definitely want to have that chip on our shoulder but also make sure we remain humble and confident in each other,” Baker said last summer. “Hopefully we’ll be right back in that position and we’ll be able to win.”
Junior Annie Welde made big strides last year as a starter and sixth player. Seniors guards Julia Stellabotte and Kaitlin McPeak have varsity experience.
Archbishop Carroll returns All-Delco guard Grace O’Neill, a three-year starter who recently committed to Drexel. The Patriots graduated reigning Daily Times Player of the Year Erin Sweeney, who is continuing her career at Drexel.
Despite an uneven regular season, the Patriots, who lost to O’Hara in the league quarterfinals, played some of their best basketball late in the year and were poised for a showdown against Wood in the Class 5A quarterfinals before the shutdown.
O’Neill averaged 12.2 points and 2.6 assists last season. Senior guard/forward Karli Dougherty is a grinder who does a lot of things very well. The Patriots also return sophomore guard Maggie Grant, who flourished in the postseason.
Bonner-Prendie returns four starters in senior guard Alexis Eagan, senior forward Reagan Dolan, and junior guards Bridie McCann and Emma Beaty.
McCann was the team’s leading scorer last year. Junior forward Aniya Jackson and junior guard/forward Meghan Kilroy were valuable reserves who should see their playing time significantly increase this year.
“If we can overcome our lack of height we should be very competitive this season,” said coach Tom Stewart, who begins his 51st season coaching high school basketball. “The fact that we return seven players who saw a lot of action last year should really help. Our two strengths will be shooting the ball and the ability to play defense.”
While the Pandas struggled in the league, they hit their stride late, winning their first two states games in Class 4A.
“I was pretty confident we would get to the semis but we all know how that story ended,” Stewart said.