Local teams hope for playoffs and more

Ireland Smith will start at point guard for Washington. TIMES FILE PHOTO

New coaches, same dreams. That is the outlook for many of the local teams in girls basketball this year.

More than half of the teams who returned information on this year’s season have new coaches, but all of the team have high hopes. And while it would be a stretch to say any of our teams are favorites to win a league crown, our teams have chances to make noise in the Catholic League, the Public League and Nazareth in the Catholic Academies League.

Here is a glance the prospects for Northeast-area teams.

Catholic Academies
Nazareth Academy

The Pandas used a lot of young players last year and this year they will be led by an experienced group that finished 9-12.

New coach Mary Kate Magagna will use a talented group of guards that includes seniors Emily Keefuss, Maggie Dykan, Kalie Soulsby and junior Maria D’Aulerio.

The Pandas have plenty of experience and that could mean a successful season.

“We are fortunate to have a lot of returning upperclassmen, who can help guide and teach our younger players on what it means to be a student-athlete at Nazareth Academy,” Magagna said.  “This season, we are focusing on perfecting the little things: taking care of the ball, boxing out, communicating and taking pride on defense. If we can consistently do those things, this group of girls can and will accomplish a lot.”

Catholic League
Archbishop Ryan

The Ragdolls got off to a tremendous start last year and wrapped up 17-6. It wasn’t the ending they wanted, but their losses were to teams that finished the best in the state.

Ryan lost some good players, but there is plenty of talent in the pipeline so it should once again be a strong team and contend for the always-tough Catholic League playoffs.

Leading the way will be Monee Moore, who led the team in scoring in each of the past two seasons. She’ll work with Shayne Glenn, who moves into the starting lineup.

Ryan will also turn to Jazz Pena, Gabi Deluisi, Cait Geiger, Luca Verrello, Grace Joyce, Emma Joyce, Tori Nigro, Sierra Didonato, Taniyah Finney, Gianna Grassifulli, Mackenzie Reed, Maddie Camillo and Kait Brace for key minutes.

Coach Mike McCusker has talent and depth, but the team does lack experience so the players will likely improve as the season goes on.

“We lost four starters from last year’s 17-win team, we need to find a sense of urgency that we will have to work hard every day in order to compete in a tough schedule and the grind of the Catholic League,” McCusker said.

Little Flower

The Sentinels will look much different after five of their top players graduated last year, but there is still reason for optimism. While the team might not have the big guns to compete against the elite of the Catholic League, so far the players are working hard at getting better and coach Maureen Buchter likes what she sees.

Alana Lacombe will play guard, along with fellow seniors Ellen Hueber, Maggie Volz, Meg Trasser and Shay Edwards, all forwards. Juniors Kelly Bauer, Natalie O’Neill, Maura Budd, Amylynn Owen and Emmerson McCabe will also contribute, as will sophomore Mikyla Grant and freshman Sarah Zuvich.

Winning in the Catholic League is tough, but Little Flower should hold its own against tough competition.

”Our greatest strength is that as a team, they never give up,” Buchter said. “They take their mistakes, own them, learn from them and move forward.

“Our goal for the season is to perform as a unit, work hard every day, and give 100 percent effort, win or lose.  Our players appreciate the opportunity to play in the Catholic League  This journey will certainly have lasting memories for each of them.”

St. Hubert

The Bambies had a good showing last year, winning eight games, including four in the Catholic League. This year, the goal is to grow under new coach Dave Schafer.

He has a strong senior class in guards Sarah Hartigan and Sarah Blaney, as well as forward Katie Hartigan. He also has juniors Cassidy Ruk and MacKenzie Pugh, as well as sophomores Sarah Spaeth, Emma McNamee, Alexa May, Payton Pugh and Madison Hancock. Charlotte Pugh, a freshman, is also expected to see time.

Schafer is happy with his team’s work ethic and hopes to see improvement as the season goes on.

“We are very young and inexperienced on the varsity level, but our desire to get better along with our work ethic should allow us to compete with most teams,” Schafer said.

Public League
Abraham Lincoln

The Railsplitters have solid players back from a team that finished 9-9 a season ago. Adam Zummo inherits a team that has big goals with some strong leaders and talented underclassmen.

Hassaannah Byrd and Alaya Bigham, both senior captains, will be the heart and soul of the team. They’ll work with guards Jaidah Peterson-Miller and Ebona McRavion, as well as sophomores Briana Henderson, Najeli Orlandi and Aracely Acevedo. Freshman on the team are Edrina Fields, Jenna Frederick, Shelyan Pacheco-Matos, Ashanti Lozada and Shyanne Massey

Lincoln plans on using its defense to set up offense, and Zummo hopes that leads to Public League wins

“I would have to say right now our strength would be in our transition off defensive steals,” Zummo said. “We have been relentless on defense. Steal after steal, which has turned into a huge margin of points. It’s going to be exciting from here on out. The future is very bright.”

Franklin Towne Charter

The Warriors hung tough in Public League play a season ago, finishing the campaign at 10-9. This year, Franklin Towne will do its best on defense and hope it comes out on the winning end of low-scoring affairs.

Guards include Eve Martinez, Madyson Schwartz, Rian Coleman and Amanda Stapf. Delaney Maier Power will play forward, and Laila Hawkins will line up at center.

If the Warriors don’t have a great deal of depth, they can hang with any Public League team when it comes to starters.

“This team is focused on defense, we want to play a strong trap, and limit the other team to one shot,” coach Brianna O’Donnell said..”Our team has one of the best starting fives top to bottom in our division of the Public League. We need to play team basketball to be successful this season. With practice, we hope to get better every single day.”

George Washington

The Eagles went on quite a run last year when they won 14 games and made the Sweet 16 in the Public League by winning two playoff games. The Eagles return most of the key players from last year’s team, so another strong season is possible.

Isabella Vazquez, a swingman who is closing in on becoming the first girls basketball player in school history to score 1,000 points, returns, as does Ireland Smith. Smith might not score as much as Vazquez, but she’s the point guard who keeps everything calm.

Janet Davis will start at center, while Daya Stanley will contribute at guard.

Last year was nice, but the Eagles could have even more fun this year.

“We like to run and push the ball up the court to try to get easy baskets. We can rebound and play solid defense,” said coach Chris Reid. “Hopefully, (we can) compete in a strong third division and make a run in the playoffs.”

Northeast

The Vikings might not have the same experience as the team that finished 8-5 a season ago, but they come into this year with high hopes because of the team they have.

Leading the way will be guard Amani Harris, forward Sydonia Turner and center Kiarra Gular-Brown.

Northeast has some growing up to do, but the talent and hunger is there.

“We are a young energetic team,” coach Phil Monastra said.

“We should have lots of growth through the season and looking to sneak into playoffs.” ••

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