By John Knebels
Sports Columnist

It might have been three weeks ago. Maybe two. Not sure who the opponent was either.

The only thing Teharah Worrell knows is that all of a sudden, her teammates were off and running down court after a steal by backcourt mate Linette Young.

“We’ve gotten used to that,” said Worrell. “We do a lot of things right.”

Welcome to Mercy Vocational High School basketball, circa 2010-11. {{more}}

The junior guards have been major elements on a squad that has raced to a school-best 12-1 record and appears poised to increase that gaudy mark to never-before-seen levels under head coach John Hillman.

Four decades ago, Hillman became the first head coach in school history. Usually saddled with willing but largely inexperienced players, Mercy Vo-Tech has lost more games than it has won.

However, the past few years have been very different. Instead of only being supplied with players with good attitudes, the Monarchs’ roster is suddenly complemented by backcourt players like Worrell and Young who continue to demonstrate budding talent against other schools accustomed to looking past an overmatched opponent.

With more than half the season still remaining, Mercy Vo-Tech is considered a championship contender in both the Tri-County League and Penn-Jersey League.

Asked which possible title means more to them, most players voted on the Tri-County, where Kimberton High School has dominated. But not this year, as the Monarchs dispatched their rivals on Dec. 6 by double digits.

“That might be the game that showed me how good we have become,” said Young, a graduate of South Philadelphia’s St. Thomas Aquinas School. “Or maybe it was our win over Solebury.”

Young was referring to a victory on Dec. 13 against a team that came into the game favored, only to watch a seven-point, fourth-quarter lead evaporate before Mercy. Behind an electric 20-point contribution by Worrell, the Monarchs pulled away with a stunning 49-43 victory in overtime.

As she has done throughout the season, Young played tenacious defense and dished off many assists to help fuel the win. Along with Worrell, juniors Dominique Dixon and Tyshira Maddox and sophomore Michaih “Micky” Young (no relation to Linette) provided most of the scoring while junior Sakira Sealy, sophomore Azriella Gibbs and freshman Dejah Travis came off the bench to help keep the starters fresh.

Seniors Lisa McMillan, Jasmine Hargrove and Ronique Jones added additional depth.

“This has probably been the best team I have ever coached,” said Hillman, whose squad finished a solid 16-9 last year. “We’ve had talented players over the years, but this mix is something special.”

Third-year assistant coach Mary Ruskey agrees.

“Everybody takes part in what is happening,” she said. “We don’t rely on just one player. That is very rare and it’s tough to find at this level.”

That isn’t by accident. Hillman, a 1964 graduate of Roman Catholic and a product of St. Bridget Parish in the East Falls section of the city, preaches teamwork by purposely not keeping a lot of statistics. Never has. Ask him for a record from a few years ago, or someone’s scoring average, he smiles and politely tells you he isn’t sure.

Young admitted that she sometimes is curious about how many assists she has provided in a given game, but she “totally” respects her coach’s approach to inspanidual performances.

“He doesn’t care too much about whether we win or lose,” Young said. “If we played hard and played together, that’s all that really matters.”

Tough to beat that attitude.

John Knebels can be reached at