Long before she was representing the Panthers, she was supporting them.
Liz Deal, a junior on the St. Basil’s Academy High School basketball team, went to a lot of games when she was in grade school because her older sister, Molly, was a player for the Panthers and her dad was a junior varsity coach.
Deal might not have been a member of the team, but she was one of the team’s biggest fans.
“I remember they were really good and I remember when one of their players scored 1,000 points,” said Deal, who lives in Fox Chase. “My biggest memory was how successful they were.
“I could have gone anywhere I wanted and I wanted to go to Basil’s because when I shadowed there, I loved it. I follow in my sister’s footsteps in a lot of things, she’s always helped me. And I knew I could play with her.”
Deal doesn’t do much watching these days. She’s too busy doing.
The starting small forward is now in her second year as a starter and for the third year in a row, the Panthers are rolling in the state playoffs.
Basil’s defeated West Catholic 70-49 on Friday night in a first-round Class 3A state playoff game at Wissahickon. Deal scored 12 points in the win, which advanced the Panthers into the second round of the state tournament and in the process kept the team undefeated at 27-0.
“They played fast,” Deal said of the Burrs. “They were good. This was a great team win for us. We played really well as a team.”
The Panthers will move on to play another unbeaten team, Dunmore, in a second-round game on Tuesday.
For Deal, the goal is a state championship, but she’s also proud of the way her team has played since the season began.
“We had a lot of really good players graduate last year, so I wasn’t too sure how we would do this year,” Deal said. “But I think we’re as good as last year and the year before, or maybe even a little better this year.
“The reason I think we’re doing so well is because all of us have played together our whole lives. We all played together at Fox Chase and most of us played together in CYO.”
While she’s not the most prolific scorer on the team, Deal is capable of piling up points in a hurry, but she doesn’t have to be scoring a lot to make her mark on the court.
She is a fierce defender and a hard-nosed rebounder. She’s also pretty knowledgeable when it comes to the game. For that, she takes after her dad and her uncle, Terry Mancini, the Panthers’ coach.
“My dad worked with me a lot, and even if I don’t want to admit it, he knows what he’s talking about,” Deal said with a laugh. “He helped me a lot. Especially on defense. I would reach in a lot and that would lead to fouls. I try not to do that.”
Deal admits she still needs to work on that part of her game, but she’s come a long way in that regard. She’s also improved a lot in other areas.
“I might not be the best scorer on the team, but I try to help the team any way I can,” Deal said. “I try to play defense and I love setting my teammates up and seeing them succeed. Everyone on the team tries to help each other because that’s how we get better.”
Deal has tunnel vision toward a state championship, but she also has big plans for the offseason. She plays AAU basketball for the Rebels Basketball Academy, and she’ll also play for the Huntington Valley soccer club team to prepare for the fall, where she’s a midfielder on the Panthers.
She’ll also stay busy in other ways.
Deal has a job working at Rita’s Water Ice, and she also is involved in the choir and plays the hand bells in school.
In her musical activities, just like in basketball, she takes after her sister.
“I just decided to try it,” Deal said. “Playing the bells is a lot of fun. It’s not too hard. Singing is something I wanted to try, but it is hard. I practice a lot, but singing in front of people isn’t easy. I’m glad I’m doing it, though.”
Deal is unsure which of her two sports she enjoys more. She also played softball before giving it up last year. She knows she loves soccer and basketball and while she still has her senior year to go, she’s already been very successful.
In her sophomore year, she helped the team get to the state finals in soccer, and she’s been a part of the basketball teams that made long runs in the state playoffs.
But she’s never won a state championship, and she won’t be satisfied with anything less than that this winter.
“Last year, it was so hard losing because we are so close and we wanted to win for each other,” Deal said. “This year, we have been playing really well. Every game will be hard, but we can do it. We have a really good team, too.
“We have great chemistry, we play great man-to-man defense and we all know what everyone else is thinking. We have been together so long, I think that gives us a chance to win.”