WEST CHESTER >> As West Chester Henderson head coach Greta Neff dribbles down the court during practice for the Valor Bowl, she can’t help but think how the event has grown in just two short years.
Neff remembers when Chester County was void of a girls basketball all-star game for many years, despite the rising popularity in the Valor Bowl football game since its inception in 1999.
Thanks to a coaches meeting with Scott Allison and Joe Carroll, the founders of the Valor Bowl football game, that was soon to change.
“Scott and Joe wanted to expand the event out to the basketball court,” Neff said. “They asked for anyone who wanted to run it and at the time Jason Ritter (former Downingtown West boys basketball head coach) and myself easily volunteered.
“This is something the area needs for basketball and these girls and boys players deserve it.”
Henderson head coach Greta Neff got game. pic.twitter.com/i0zFtiMpGP
— Jeff Kerr (@JeffKerr247) May 25, 2016
Neff will take a break from her coaching duties and enjoy the action from the sidelines as the area’s top basketball seniors play together in one final high school game at tonight’s Valor Bowl Basketball All-Star Game, scheduled for 6 p.m. at West Chester Henderson High School.
The girls game will kick off the festivities at 6 p.m. followed by the boys game at 7:30.
This year’s Valor Bowl is expected to be an entertaining one for all girls basketball fans in Chester County as the area witnessed one of the most talented senior classes in recent memory over the past winter.
Many of the top players are scheduled to play including Downingtown East’s Paige Warfel, Bishop Shanahan’s Ciara Forde and Grace Phillips, Conestoga’s Ellie Mack, Kennett’s Miranda Hill and Jess Hussey along with Great Valley’s Ashlyn Smith.
“The girls have worked hard for this,” Neff said. “Basketball players in this area have worked just as hard as football players and vise versa. All deserve an opportunity to chill together and play basketball with each other one last time.”
Warfel and Forde played against each other in memorable Downingtown East-Bishop Shanahan games over the past three years. Now, the pair will finally get an opportunity to play together on the West squad.
Joining them will be Kennett sharpshooter Miranda Hill and post-player Jess Hussey. The four combined for 58 points per game this season and totaled 4,026 points in their high school careers, including 1,518 from Warfel, 1,008 from Hussey and 935 from Forde.
Warfel was the Daily Local News All-Area Player of the Year this season while Forde and Hussey earned first team honors.
The West schools participating in the game are Downingtown East, Downingtown West, Bishop Shanahan, Coatesville, Oxford and Kennett. Downingtown East head coach Tom Schurtz will lead the West with assistants Tina Nicholson and Lauren Stackhouse.
The East roster has plenty of talent at its disposal starting with Conestoga’s Ellie Mack, who finished with 1,001 points in her career (while missing her junior year with a torn ACL) and earned All-Area first team honors.
“I’m really excited for the opportunity to get back on the court with the seniors,” Mack said. “We’ve been playing together pretty much our entire lives and it’s one last opportunity to do it again.”
Joining Mack on the East roster is Great Valley’s Ashlyn Smith (9.8 ppg) and Unionville’s Sam Pancoast (12.1 ppg). The East is compiled of players from Great Valley, Unionville, West Chester Henderson, West Chester East, West Chester Rustin, Conestoga, Villa Maria and Owen J. Roberts.
Great Valley head coach Alex Venarchik and Unionville head coach Fred Ellzy will lead the East.
As Neff watches from the sidelines, she expects a much improved event from year one to year two. The talent on the court certainly will boost the product.
“I hope we can get a few more people,” Neff said. “The publicity certainly helps with that. We’re bringing a group of Special Olympians here to warm up with us along with a game of their own between the boys and girls game. I really want these kids to show the community and Chester County what they’ve been working so hard to showcase one last time.”
2016 VALOR BOWL GIRLS BASKETBALL ROSTERS
Shardae Dunn-Hogue, G (Coatesville)
Sasha Jemison, F (Coatesville)
Paige Warfel, G (Downingtown East)
Laura Ochsner, F (Downingtown East)
Heather Camden, F (Downingtown West)
Hannah Supplee, F (Downingtown West)
Hannah Bahls, G (Oxford)
Jess Hussey, F (Kennett)
Miranda Hill, G (Kennett)
Ciara Forde, G (Bishop Shanahan)
Grace Phillips, G (Bishop Shanahan)
Coaches: Tom Schurtz (Downingtown East), Tina Nicholson (Downingtown East), Lauren Stackhouse (Downingtown East)
Jenna Maratea, G (West Chester Henderson)
Julie Gawrylowicz, G (West Chester Henderson)
Ashlyn Smith, F (Great Valley)
Christina Porreca, G (Great Valley)
Steph Aker, F (Great Valley)
Ellie Mack, F (Conestoga)
Taylor Evans, G (Owen J. Roberts)
Alexi Arias, F (Owen J. Roberts)
Caitlin Culbertson, G (West Chester East)
Laura Davis, G (Villa Maria)
Sam Pancoast, F (Unionville)
Grace Nelson, F (West Chester Rustin)
Julie Griesemer, G (West Chester Rustin)
Coaches: Alex Venarchik (Great Valley), Fred Ellzy (Unionville)