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Winter winners named

This is not the way we wanted to end the winter season.

In fact, the season isn’t over yet. Thanks to the coronavirus, the winter sports season was paused as the basketball season was in the state quarterfinals, so the Archbishop Ryan High School boys basketball team is still on ice. But everyone else is done, so it’s time to name our award winners for the winter.

Assuming the world gets back to normal, the winter winners, along with the fall winters and hopefully spring athletes, as well as overall winners, will be honored at the Northeast Times High School Sports Banquet on May 20 at the FOP. Obviously everything is up in the air, but we’ll go on the assumption that things will be back to normal.

Prior to the chaos, it was a great winter with many great athletes doing great things. And today we pick the best of the best.


Catholic League Player of the Year

Gediminas Mokseckas

Gediminas Mokseckas led Ryan to the PCL semifinals. MELISSA MITMAN / TIMES PHOTO

The Raiders were rolling through the Catholic League in the early going when franchise guard Aaron Lemon-Warren suffered a broken foot. That could have meant trouble. Instead, it meant a new star.

Mokseckas was a stellar player for the Raiders since arriving from Lithuania prior to his junior year. But this year, he became everything Ryan needed to make a run. And boy did the Raiders make a run.

Ryan made it to the Palestra by advancing to the Catholic League semifinals. It then won two games in the state playoffs before the season was halted.

Mokseckas was a scoring machine for Ryan, averaging 18.5 points per game during the Catholic League schedule. And since the playoffs started, he’s been even better, averaging about 20 points per game.

He will continue his career next year at Campbell University.

Public League Player of the Year

Shaquil Bender

Shaquil Bender led Lincoln to the second round of the 6A championship. JOE MASON / TIMES PHOTO

The Lincoln boys basketball team had plenty of talented players coming into the season, but it lacked a few key things that make a basketball team competitive. The Railsplitters needed a go-to scorer and they needed a guy who could lead the young squad in tough games. They found both of that in the senior guard.

Bender averaged 19 points a game and helped Lincoln reach the Public League semifinals.

He then led Lincoln to a win over Bensalem in the first round of the 6A state playoffs. The run ended a game later in a loss to Methacton

Bender hopes to continue his basketball career in college next year, but he’s still undecided where that will be.

Coach of the Year

Joe Zeglinski

Ryan started off hot, but a tough stretch of the schedule, coupled with an injury that could have derailed the season, occurred at the same time. The Raiders did struggle. Even though they hung tough against the top teams in the Catholic League, they finished the season losing for of their last five. But they didn’t get down. They got better.

Ryan then rebounded to win a first-round playoff game, then upset Bishop McDevitt, the No. 2 seed, in the quarterfinals to advance to the Palestra. There, they hung tough against the eventual Catholic League champ, Neumann-Goretti.

Ryan then went on to finish third in District 12 in the 5A bracket, which clinched a spot in the state playoffs. The Raiders won two games there, and were on the brink of competing in the quarterfinals before the coronavirus put a halt to the season.

Ryan had talent, but Zeglinski got the absolute most out of his young team. With just two seniors on the roster, and three sophomores among the top seven players, the Ryan coach pulled all the right strings to get the team to hang with the best. The hope is the Raiders will get a chance to finish what they started after the shutdown is lifted.


Catholic League Player of the Year

Cassidy Ruk

Cassidy Ruk scored more than 12 points this year for St. Hubert. CONTRIBUTED

The St. Hubert star did everything for the Bambies, and was a main reason for their improvement in the standings, going from 4-18 overall, 3-10 in the Catholic League, to go 14-8 overall, 8-2 in the Blue Division.

The Blue Division Most Valuable Player was good on offense, averaging more than 12 points per game and also chipping in with 5.5 rebounds per game. But the thing that made her stand out was her ability to defend. While standing just 5 feet 8, she started at center and used every inch of her frame to become one of the top defenders in the Catholic League.

St. Hubert made the playoffs in the Catholic League, but fell to Blue Division rival Lansdale Catholic in the first round.

Ruk is unsure if she’ll continue her career in college.

Public League Player of the Year

Amira Avery-Cheeks

Amira Avery-Cheeks is the all-time leading scorer at Tacony Charter Academy. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Because she’s going to a school that doesn’t have basketball, this was the Tacony Academy Charter senior’s final year of hoops. And she certainly had a memorable one.

Avery-Cheeks became the school’s all-time leading scorer, breaking the 1,000-point plateau and did it in the Public League playoffs. She then broke the school record of 1,012 career points while leading the Lions in the state Class 2A playoffs. The Lions lost to Sacred Heart, but making the playoffs, as well as winning a game in the Public League playoffs, was a great feat for the small school.

Next year, she’ll attend Walnut Hill Culinary School with the goal of opening her own restaurant.

Coach of the Year

Brianna O’Donnell

This wasn’t supposed to be a huge year for the Warriors, but thanks to some stellar play from a young team with some key veterans, Franklin Towne was playing late into the postseason.

And like always, their leader, O’Donnell was key to turning the lineup into gold.

O’Donnell led Franklin Towne to a 14-6 record, including a win in the second round of the Public League playoffs after receiving a bye in the first round.

The season came to an end after a loss to Freire Charter, but it was a great run for the Warriors, who set a school record for wins.

Like always, O’Donnell, who was an assistant coach on the Public League championship soccer team, is sending players to college, and she’ll also return a good mix of players for next season.


Catholic League Wrestler of the Year

Sean Logue 

Sean Logue (right) stands on the podium after taking seventh place at 106 pounds in Hershey. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

The Father Judge sophomore might be the youngest of his three brothers. He might be the smallest. He also might be the best wrestler. And that’s saying something considering his elder brothers are among the best the city has had to offer over the past few years.

The 103-pounder made the state tournament and got on the podium, placing seventh in Hershey. It capped off a great season for the sophomore.

Logue finished the season 45-5, was First-Team All-Catholic, won the district title and finished second in the region. He also picked up bonus points in 28 of his wins, including 15 pins and seven tech fall wins.

He heads into his junior year with 81 victories.

Public League Wrestler of the Year

Emmanuel Santana

For the second year in a row, as the Northeast wrestling team was among the best in the area, it was led by Santana, who this year wrestled at 126 pounds.

The senior helped Northeast make the Public League championship, however the Vikings fell to Northeast. Santana did his part that day and all year, finishing the season 30-9. He also was All-Public and finished third in the District 12 tournament.

Santana also was a huge scorer for the Vikings, winning 23 of his matches via pinfall. He also accepted a pair of forfeits and had a tech fall win.

Coach of the Year

Jim Savage

The Judge coach has won championships both at his current school and at his alma mater, North Catholic, where he coached before it closed in 2010. He’s won in many different ways, but none may have been as impressive as this year.

Judge turned the tables on Archbishop Ryan, beating the Raiders 36-28 in the Catholic League championship. During the regular season, Ryan decked Judge 48-33. Injuries hurt the Crusaders the first time around, but there were a few matches that flipped, giving Judge the win.

Sure, Judge had its share of great wrestlers, sending four to states, but the team also had some newcomers and novices who were learning how to wrestle. They didn’t start the season great, but by the end, Savage had them ready to win.


Boys swimmer of the year

Nikita Timoshenko

The Catholic League has great swimmers on the boys side, but none may have been better than Timoshenko, who picked up wins for Father Judge all year.

But he excelled outside the Catholic League, too, making it to states and finishing seventh overall in the 100-yard backstroke, completing the event in 50:39.

He also had a hand in the Crusaders’ second-place finish in the 200 medley relay at the All-Catholic meet and a second-place finish in the 400 freestyle relay and he took fifth in the 200-yard individual medley. He also won the backstroke at the Catholic League meet.

Next year, Timoshenko will continue his career at Drexel University.

Girls Swimmer of the Year

Allison Henry

Allison Henry helped Ryan win the Catholic League championship. CONTRIBUTED

It’s hard to imagine a better season for a swimmer.

Henry, of Archbishop Ryan, led the Ragdolls to another Catholic League championship this winter. She also helped them win the District 12 championship. She did this by going undefeated in her races all year.

She capped off the season by twice getting on the podium at states. She finished fourth in the 100-yard breaststroke, swimming it in 1:03.35, and also taking fourth in the 200-yard freestyle, going 1:40.96.

Now that her career as a Ragdoll is over, Henry will swim next year at the University of Nebraska.

Coach of the Year

Ed Macko

Every year, the Ragdolls are among the best teams in the area. This year, the team won its 13th Catholic League championship, as well as its ninth District 12 championship. The team had its share of great swimmers, including Henry, but there were also newcomers to the squad, which meant a Catholic League championship was anything but a certainty.

Macko helped the Ragdolls bring home their second straight championship with a close triumph in the 200-yard freestyle relay by one-hundredth of a second over Cardinal O’Hara, 1:46.31-1:46.32. The final score was Ryan 467, O’Hara 464.

The Ragdolls lose some great swimmers to graduation, but it’s hard to imagine they won’t be in the running next year.

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