If you need to get in touch with the St. Basil’s Academy basketball team, hold those phone calls and text messages.
They’re busy tonight, out in Bethlehem to face a team called Holy Redeemer in the PIAA Class AA quarterfinals. To say that Basil’s would be satisfied to end its season as a quarterfinalist is simply inaccurate.
“We had high expectations coming in, so we’re not surprised how well we’ve played,” said senior co-captain Ally Sloan. “We have finished in the top four (of the Catholic Academies League) in each of the past four years. We have won back to back District 1 AA championships before winning our third this season. We made it to the state semifinals two years ago, and finished in the quarterfinals last year.”
In other words, the main highlight missing from the program’s impressive resume is a state title. That’s not to say that capturing this year’s District 1 championship wasn’t memorable, a 45-31 win over New Hope-Solebury that was also coach Terry Mancini’s 300th career victory. Or finishing third in the highly competitive CAL behind co-champs Gwynedd Mercy Academy and Mount St. Joseph’s Academy. Or stunning favored York Catholic, 46-42, in the second round of states.
Then there was the Christmas break trip to North Carolina, where the Panthers competed in a holiday tournament and were able to walk on both the University of North Carolina and Duke University’s basketball courts. Basil’s also met some of the Duke’s women basketball team players.
“This season has been amazing and filled with wonderful memories,” said Sloan, who also played four years of soccer at Basil’s. “I have had a blast this season, and my past four years playing at St. Basil’s have been the best four years of my life.”
A graduate of Ancillae-Assumpta Academy, Sloan represents Basil’s propensity to play unselfishly. Her game centers around rebounding, passing and in-your-face defense, one of the factors that has helped the Panthers surrender no more than 55 points to any opponent this season.
“I pride myself on trying to do the little things to help the team win,” Sloan said. “Although scoring has not been my main focus, I have stepped up and done my part when needed. That can be said of all of us. It’s not about stats.”
Sloan shares the starting lineup with senior co-captain Liz Napierkowski, juniors Karen Lapkiewicz (12.3 point average; 20 points and 10 rebounds against York Catholic), Lindsay Joyce and 6-foot, 2-inch sophomore center Natalie Kucowski (12 blocks and 10 rebounds against York Catholic).
Beating Holy Redeemer will be a task. At 27-2, the District 2 runner-up is led by high-scoring Alexis Lewis (27.3 scoring average and Wyoming Valley Conference’s all-time scorer). Should the Panthers triumph, their next feat might be even tougher, as they would play the winner of undefeated District 12 champ Neumann-Goretti vs. District 2 champ Dunmore.
“We’re prepared,” Sloan said. “We look forward to the challenge.”
John Knebels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.