Carter, Basil’s play hard in playoff loss

Denae Carter scored 38 points in Basil’s playoff loss to Neumann-Goretti. MARK ZIMMARO / TIMES PHOTO

They won’t win a state championship this year.

The seniors on the St. Basil’s Academy had a great career, but they’ll end their high school career without winning a state crown. But if the Panthers win a state championship next year, the seniors on this year’s squad will have a huge part of that, according to this year’s top player Denae Carter.

“Anything we do in basketball, the younger players on this team owe to the seniors, not just what we do at Basil’s,” said Carter, a junior wing guard. “The seniors were really key in helping us the whole time we were here. They taught us so much. If we do anything in basketball, we owe them. They were our leaders.”

If that’s the case, the seniors can be given a lot of credit just for the career of Carter, because she’s become one of the top basketball players in the area.

The 5-foot-11 Oxford Circle native has become the go-to player for the Panthers, who enjoyed plenty of success this year. They went 24-3 overall, won the Catholic Academies League, going undefeated in the tough conference, and won the District One championship.

Despite the great season, they had to play a tough Neumann-Goretti team from the Catholic League in the first round of the state tournament and that brought the end of their season.

The Saints knocked off the Panthers 64-61 in fun, physical and action-packed game at Lower Moreland High School on Friday. The Saints were led by Rutgers signee Diamond Johnson, who dropped 36 points on Basil. But the Panthers’ top player actually outscored Johnson. Carter went for 38 points. It was fun, but it was hard watching the season come to an end because it meant the end of the high school career for all her senior teammates.

“It was such a fun game, everyone was playing so hard, I loved the game,” said Carter, who scored the first 10 points of the game for Basil and helped the Panthers jump out to a lead after one quarter. “I wanted to win so bad so we could keep playing together. But I did love playing against them. They’re a very good team, and you love to play against good teams.

“I took it as a challenge. But we looked for open shots. We all played as hard as we could. They hit a lot of shots. They’re a good team.”

Carter had been widely recognized as a top player, but her performance against the Saints solidified that. It’s why she’s received so much attention, including getting scholarship offers from Drexel, St. Joe’s and Old Dominion before her junior year was finished.

“It’s fun getting a lot of attention, but it’s because of our team, we have a great team,” Carter said. “I’ve been playing with these girls forever. We played AAU together way before high school. It was a little different when we got to high school because it’s a different way of playing, but it was still really the same. We all played together.

“And we’re friends not just in basketball, but outside basketball. We play basketball so much that it always comes back to that, but we’re friends away from it, too. We are really close. The whole team. We’re really all best friends and love playing together.”

While Carter has picked up a lot of tricks while playing for Basil coach Terry Mancini, she credits the style of AAU that helped her become a guard.

“I’ve always been one of the taller players,” Carter said. “In AAU, everybody does a lot of dribbling, so when I got to high school I mostly played guard. But we don’t have one person who plays underneath, we all kind of do it. We all play in the post and I think that makes us tougher to stop. We all can do it. That helps us a lot.”

Carter really wanted to watch the seniors on this year’s team, Kelly Grant, Lizzie Deal, Maria Storck, Lauren Ems and Julie Mayer, win a state championship, but the good news is the Panthers return a solid nucleus of this year’s squad next year.

In fact, three starters and the sixth man will be back in uniform when the Panthers begin play in December. Carter believes good times are ahead, and she’s looking forward to a senior year that should include another strong season and a decision on where she’ll attend college.

Until then, she’ll play AAU and keep working on her game.

“I think we could be really good next year, too, because we have so many players back,” said Carter, who scored her 1,000th point before the playoffs began. “We are losing very good players, the seniors have done so much for us, but we will be very good. They’ve helped us so much. But we learned a lot and we can do it next year.”