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Power leads Pandas to District crown

Reese Power was starring on the basketball court long before she was a star player.

Power is a sophomore point guard on the Nazareth Academy High School basketball team, and as the younger sibling of two former basketball players – sister Morgan, who played at Little Flower, and brother Mike, who starred at Judge – she was always in the gym for her siblings’ games. 

“I just grew up watching it, when my brother and sister were playing I was always there,” said Power, who lives in Fox Chase, and also has a younger brother Brady who is a talented basketball player. “I was the star of the halftime show, doing the cartwheels. I grew into it and I liked it a lot. Then I would watch them, and it made me love basketball. I loved being around them, and I was learning.”

That’s not the only way her siblings set her up to be a star for the school on Grant Avenue.

It was her brother, coupled with her friend’s decision, that paved the way for her to play for the Pandas.

“There aren’t a lot of options, my dad wanted me to go to Ryan, but I couldn’t,” Power said. “My brother played at Judge, he’s a Judge guy, so I couldn’t do that. I was always at Judge games, I couldn’t go to Ryan. Then my friend Abby (Rock), I’ve been playing with her since third grade, she told me she was going to Nazareth, so I said I wanted to go there, too. Then Gracie Sullivan, she decided to come along, I’ve been playing with her since first grade. That was surprising, then Rileigh Donohoe decided to come here. So it wasn’t planned, but it worked out great.”

In every way possible.

Last year, the Pandas struggled. In a lineup that included freshmen starting and coming off the bench, Nazareth’s players were learning to play with each other. It didn’t take long for them to jell.

This year, it’s been a huge turnaround.

Led by Power at point guard, the Pandas won the District One 4A championship, knocking off Merion Mercy in the first round and top-seeded MaST Charter 54-49 in the championship. Nazareth will now host Engineering & Science in the first round of the state playoffs on Saturday.

The District One title was a great way to clinch a spot in the tournament, but Power and her teammates knew they were good before postseason play began.

“I wasn’t surprised we started to do well, we were working so hard this year,” Power said. “I started to see improvement. We didn’t win any league games at all last year, then this year we played well, we actually beat Mount. I said, ‘We’re pretty good.’ 

“We start all sophomores and everyone is better because they’re working so hard. But another player has been so big for us, Jenna Garzone, she’s graduating this year. She was like that in soccer, too. She’s such a good leader. She has an answer for you whenever you have a question. She helps us so much.”

While Power has learned basketball from Garzone, she’s also learned how to become a better leader. That makes Power’s coach and former star point guard Mary Kate Magagna happy, too.

“My role, I kind of run the offense and I try to get everyone the ball,” Power said. “I’m the playmaker, I feel like, I like to get everyone involved in the game. Mary Kate really wants me to lead everything, so I’m trying to do my best at. 

“Mary Kate, she’s a great coach. She’s just, like, such a good person. She knows basketball so well, and she’s always trying to teach us all to be better basketball players. I think I’m growing a lot. I’m definitely learning.”

While Power is having a basketball season to remember, she’s not putting all her eggs in that basket.

On top of being a great basketball player, she’s a star soccer player, and as everyone at Nazareth now knows, a very good defender.

“I played soccer my whole life, I played at Philly Soccer and I was a center back,” said Power, who was First-Team All-ACAA in both sports this year. “When I got to Nazareth, I didn’t say anything, I wanted to play striker, I wanted to score. But this year I played center back, and I did pretty well. We did very well as a team.

“That’s a question everyone asks me, but I don’t have an answer, I love both sports,” added Power, who plays both sports all year round. “During soccer season, the only thing I want to do is talk about soccer. But if you ask me today, basketball is my favorite. In the spring, I play AAU and club soccer, I love them both. I don’t have to decide for a while.”

Now, the only thing she has to worry about is helping the Pandas go as far as they can.

Not bad for a team that starts all sophomores.

“I’m really excited because this year is our last year before we go to the Catholic League and I’m really excited to play in the Catholic League,” Power said. “I just want to go as far as we can this year. We’re having so much fun playing together. I think we can go really far.

“The Catholic League will be fun because my dad played at North, my sister at Little Flower and my brother at Judge. My dream is to go to the Palestra. My sister and brother never made it, my dad said it’s up to me. I’m really excited to get a chance.”

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