After growing up in Juniata, where she refined her basketball skills for the better part of a decade, Briyah Hill and her family moved to Franklinville, N.J., last year.
But there’s no place like home.
Hill has returned to her roots and is now back in the Northeast. Currently a sophomore at Northeast High School — she transferred from Delsea Regional High School in South Jersey to the Cottman Avenue institution — Hill is part of the Vikings’ varsity basketball squad.
“This is my neighborhood school now. It’s actually real close to where I’m living,” said Hill, 15. “I’m very excited to be back in Philly.”
Hill explained that the transition was relatively smooth. Her family moved to the Northeast over the summer, just in time for her to start the new academic year at Northeast High. It also gave her the chance to advance her game on the hardwood.
Last year, Hill played for the junior varsity squad at Delsea Regional. However, upon her arrival at Northeast, she was promoted to varsity and earned a starting role.
“I didn’t know too much about the program at Northeast,” Hill said. “I figured that we would do well though, because I heard they were good last year.”
This year poses some challenges.
The Vikings — who finished the season 11–4 last year — have lost almost their entire squad to graduation, leaving this season’s roster very young and inexperienced.
“We have no seniors. These guys are all sophomores,” said Rich Kirk, who has coached basketball for more than 40 years, spending the last 10 at Northeast High. “This is the thinnest team I think I’ve ever had. We really only have six kids that we can really count on. They’re really working hard.
“They’re young, so they’re going to make mistakes,” he added. “But you can’t sit there and say, ‘That’s OK,’ because you have to play in a league that’s full of seniors. And so far, they’re doing a pretty good job.”
Northeast is currently sitting pretty with an undefeated league record (7–0, 9–1 overall). Their only loss — a 49–26 beating — came at the hands of powerhouse Cheltenham on Dec. 22.
“We got killed pretty good at Cheltenham, and rightly so. We’re not at that caliber,” said Kirk. “But they needed to get a good spanking. At the end of that game, they said they weren’t upset that they lost, they just realized that this is what it’s like and they have to work harder.
“They came out of it with a good attitude,” he continued. “Our expectations are high, but again, they’re young. As long as they keep working hard, I think we’ll be fine.”
Last Friday, the Vikings dominated Abraham Lincoln High School, 41–11. Taylour Jones netted a team-high 20 points against the Railsplitters. Lauren Willis added 15 points. Lovely Accilus snagged 10 rebounds during the win.
Next is Samuel Fels High School. The Vikings will host the Panthers today, Jan. 11.
“We’re doing pretty good. We’re still working on the little things, but I think it’s been great so far,” said Hill. “We’re pretty much all sophomores here, but I think that gives us better chemistry. We can all work better together.”
It didn’t take Hill long to make a name for herself on the hardwood. She has earned a starring role, averaging 4.3 points per game thus far this season.
“She has really stepped up her game. She came here from Jersey, where she played JV ball, and she stepped into a situation where we needed a guard,” explained Kirk. “We have Taylour and Lauren, but we needed a third guard. And she’s really done a great job.”
Willis leads her team in scoring with more than 16 points per game. She scored a season-high 24 points against Franklin Towne Charter on Dec. 21. Accilus, center Jackie Hagen and Tiona Brinkley round out Northeast’s slim roster.
“Playoffs, then the championship — that’s the goal,” Hill said with a smile. “I think we have a lot of good players that are all contributing. I’m confident in our team.” ••