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Garzone the big sister the Pandas need

Jenna Garzone has helped Nazareth advance to the second round of the PIAA tournament. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Jenna Garzone knew good things were on the horizon.

Even when she couldn’t see the results, she knew good things were coming.

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Garzone is a senior at Nazareth Academy High School, and for the past three seasons, she’s been a huge contributor to the Pandas basketball team.

This year, things have been great, but her sophomore and junior years weren’t so good. The Pandas struggled both years and failed to qualify for the playoffs.

“I think we won four games last year and the year before, that was even worse,” said Garzone, who lives in Bensalem. “There were times we didn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, there were times we didn’t even see the tunnel, but we knew we were working hard and getting better.

“Last year was great because we had so many great freshmen. We knew they were going to be good. They were good last year. They’re very good this year. And it’s so much fun to see them doing what they’re doing.”

Garzone is the lone senior on the team, and while the team starts five super sophomores, it’s hard to argue that Garzone isn’t one of the most important players on the team. She plays the big sister role to perfection and has made an impact on the floor, on the bench and in the locker room.

“I’m not a bossy leader, I don’t think anyone wants to listen to someone who says you have to do things this way,” said Garzone, who plays small forward. “Just from the seniors before, they left such a great example as leaders for me, and working every day with these girls, we all empower each other.

“I feel like it’s a mutual respect kind of thing. There’s no power dynamic on the team. We’re so close on and off the court. I think that’s why. The whole team has a high basketball IQ, so that helps, too.”

Garzone wanted to have a memorable senior season, and she’s certainly done that.

On Saturday, she helped the Pandas advance to the second round of the PIAA Class 4A playoffs by knocking off Carver Engineering and Science, a Public League team, 55-25, at Holy Family. Nazareth will now play Scranton Prep on Wednesday at Easton High School in a second-round game.

This is the second time this year Garzone has played with many of the girls on the basketball team. She is also a defender on the soccer team, as are some of her teammates. She realized this could be a special season in the fall.

“I think this year, we worked really hard over the summer, the sophomores are so good on this team, and we saw how good they were playing,” said Garzone, a three-sport star who also plays soccer and lacrosse. “I just try to help. I love to score, the feeling of scoring a basket is so good. But I love everything. I love that it’s fast paced.

“On the court? I think the best thing I do is communicate. I like to talk a lot, keep everyone up. I’ll tell people they’re doing great, keep them up if they miss a shot or miss a free throw. And I love to play defense. That’s a big part of my game.”

Garzone shows plenty of leadership in athletics, but she’s even busier in school.

She’s the secretary of the senior class and is also the vice president of Nazareth’s Athletes Helping Athletes, an organization that matches special-needs individuals with high school athletes. She’s also in the National Honor Society, and part of the presidential ambassadors, which shows prospective students around the school.

She’s also a Mu Alpha Theta peer tutor and a junior and senior Kairos Leader. Her schedule fills up pretty quickly, but it’s the way she loves it.

“My sister is older, she graduated in 1996 from Nazareth, but she came here and I wanted to be a woman like her,” Garzone said. “I love Nazareth. I love everything about it. I really think it’s shaped me into the woman I am. It’s just a great place, it’s my second home and I love it.

“Everything about the school, I love. And this team. I love my teammates so much and the coaches just want you to do better. They care about you so much here. It’s definitely shaped me into the person I am today.”

It will serve her well next year.

Garzone is bound for Villanova in the fall. She’s undecided on a major, but is leaning toward something in the business field. She’s not playing sports for the Wildcats, but is looking forward to signing up for club sports.

She’s also excited about taking the next step, she’ll never forget her days at Nazareth. She still has some fun ahead of her as a Panda, but she’ll always be a Nazareth girl.

“Oh my God, I know I’ll be at college, refreshing MaxPreps every time they play,” said Garzone, who is considering coaching when her playing days are over. “I know they’re going to do great things. They’re so talented and I’m going to be watching.”

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