Brianna Buckley was a good point guard.
But when the MaST Charter High School girls basketball team needed someone to play inside, she immediately raised her hand.
Sure, she knew the new role would include a lot of bumps and bruises, especially because she’s undersized, but that didn’t much matter. The team needed a center, so she was eager to accept the new role.
Not only did it allow her teammate Anye Washington to play her natural position of point guard, it gave Buckley a chance to do what she does best.
“Our team is one of the shorter teams out there, we’re shorter than most of the teams in the league, and when Anye played point guard, it gave me a chance to play center and help the team,” said Buckley, who lives in Chalfont. “It was a big change for everyone. I’m not that tall, I’m about 5 foot 8, but I learned how to play with the bigger players.
“The biggest thing I had to do was learn how to box out and get really low, but it wasn’t just me. I was lucky that everyone helped out. I would be down low against the bigger girls, but we used teamwork to get rebounds and defend. When you’re a smaller team, you need to do that, and we did. Everyone worked hard so we could play against bigger competition.”
Whatever they did, it worked.
The Panthers won 18 games this year and advanced to the 3A state basketball tournament. MaST Charter fell in the first round, dropping a 47-31 verdict to Bloomsburg, but making the tournament was a big achievement for Buckley and her teammates. And she believes it’s a sign of things to come for the program.
“This year was great, it was the best we’ve done here and I’m so excited to see what happens next,” Buckley said. “Next year Anye is going to be so good and they had so many good, younger players who are going to need to step up next year.”
If they do play well next year, Buckley will have had a hand in it.
She’s been the lead captain on the team for three years, and during that time she hasn’t been shy about giving advice or helping those who need it. She’s very respected by her teammates, and when she talks, they listen. And that means a lot to her because she takes her role of team captain very seriously, and it means a lot to her that coach Edwin Vazquez puts that trust in her.
“I’m very vocal out there, our whole team is on defense and I think that makes us very annoying to play against because we’re always yelling, communicating,” Buckley said. “I think that’s the best part of this team, we were very good at communicating and talking to each other, helping each other. I’ve been a lead captain because I’m very vocal out there.
“(Vazquez ) always taught me how to control the court and me and Anye do a good job of controlling the tempo. Our starting five and sixth man, communication was our best thing as a team. We communicated really well. Constantly talking. Our team is really close, we just all got along so well. It made playing together a lot easier.”
And after she got acclimated to her new position, Buckley was happy she was playing center.
“I think I had more confidence playing center instead of point guard, I played center when I was younger in AAU basketball, and it just felt better once I got used to it,” Buckley said. “Anye was a great point guard, and I think we worked well together. At first I was a little nervous, but then it was much better.”
Buckley’s basketball career at MaST is over, but she’s now preparing for softball season, and she’s hoping to have a strong spring to close out her high school career.
She’ll also be busy in other aspects of her life.
She’s a member of the student council at the school, she works at Champ’s Pizza in Bensalem, she spends a lot of time with her younger brother Connor, whom she babysits, and she’s also working as an intern at BSI Construction, which works perfectly in her plan of going to college and majoring in architectural engineering.
“I just started the internship, so I’m learning the ropes, but it’s been great,” Buckley said. “I’m looking at blueprints and I just started making calls to subcontractors. They got me involved in a bunch of stuff, which is great, I’m able to learn a lot before I go to college. I love it there.”
Next year she will likely attend either University of Pittsburgh or Drexel University, and she’s not planning on playing basketball. Had she opted for a Division III school, that would have been a possibility, but the smaller schools don’t offer her major. But that doesn’t mean she’ll be giving up on the sport completely. She hopes to play and maybe even try a new role.
“I’ll play somewhere, I can’t see giving it up, I love playing too much,” Buckley said. “I would love to coach. I told Coach that if they need someone, I would love to come back because I think the younger girls like working with me and respect me. I would love to come back and help them. I really want to see them do great next year.”