by Tom Utescher
The girls basketball squad at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy will have new leadership both on and off the court this season, due to the resignation of head coach Steve Purcell, and the graduation of All-Inter-Ac League guard Gianna Pownall.
Both have moved on to the college ranks, Purcell accepting a position as assistant coach at the University of the Sciences (which competes in the same NCAA Division II conference as Chestnut Hill College), and Pownall now playing for Ursinus College.
Succeeding Purcell as the Blue Devils’ skipper is Joe Maguire, who was an assistant coach for the team during Purcell’s two-year tenure.
“I’ll be the third head coach that this year’s seniors have had during their four years, so it’s good that they already know me and that I’m familiar with the program,” the new SCH mentor pointed out.
A Northeast Philly native, Maguire played for Father Judge High School and then at Holy Family University, where he graduated in 2004. He was a college teammate of Tom Whitworth, a product of the old Chestnut Hill Academy.
Maguire is a teacher in the School District of Philadelphia, and is currently working in the Feltonville section of the city.
“I guess the first coaching I did was at basketball camps at Father Judge,” he said. “I was interested in the field of education and that teaching aspect of coaching interested me.”
He later coached for a year at his old grade school, St. Matt’s, and then he spent six years as freshman coach and assistant varsity coach at his high school alma mater, Father Judge.
In addition to graduating Pownall off of last year’s SCH team, the club also lost guard Maddi Hinchey, a Norwood Fontbonne Academy alum. There is another Norwood grad in the current senior class, forward Madi Sehn. The other seniors are forward Katie Shields and point guard Julia Schumacher. A graduate of St. Philip Neri in Lafayette Hill, Schumacher was a starter for the Blue Devils last season along with Sehn and guard/forward Lindsay Hiner, now a sophomore.
The current ballclub’s two juniors, forward Olivia Byron and guard Caroline Henry, saw a good deal of playing time off the bench last season. In addition to Hiner, other sophomores with varsity experience are guards Drew Kevitch and Marissa Pownall (Gianna Pownall’s sister), and forward Essence Walden.
Hiner, a sturdy 5’10”, was actually used to playing guard in AAU club basketball, but SCH’s lack of size last season made it necessary for her to spend time down on the blocks. This year, SCH is getting some help inside from a new freshman and Norwood graduate, 6’1” Chloe Burns.
“She’s picking things up quickly,” Maguire remarked. “She’ll just have to get used to the more physical aspect of high school ball, playing against girls a couple of years older than she is.”
The other freshman currently working out with the varsity group is Gabby Dunning, a guard who has moved up from Springside Chestnut Hill’s own middle school program.
“I think she can learn a lot from being on varsity with Jules [Schumacher], who is a very good point guard,” Maguire explained.
He said that while Schumacher will do the bulk of the ball handling for the team, “We’re working on having everybody become comfortable with the basketball in their hands. We want to bring up everyone’s overall skills, and not have them learning just about one specific position.”
Maguire’s ballclub will start in on a series of three scrimmages this week, travelling to Council Rock South on Tuesday, and then hosting nearby Mount St. Joseph Academy at 9:00 AM this Saturday.
After a third trial run against Delco Christian, the Devils will open the regular season, not in the Hill School tip-off event as in years past, but in a tournament at Archbishop Ryan High School.
SCH will host a holiday tournament just before Christmas, and the following week the Blue Devils will participate in a tourney at Upper Dublin High School for the second year in a row. Delving into the heart of the Inter-Ac schedule after that, the team will also fit in a non-league home game against Catholic League power Archbishop Carroll.
“We have 18 girls in the program, which is a larger turnout than we’ve had for the last few years,” Maguire said. “Our practices have been really good and the girls are competing hard for their spots on the team.”
Mike Roken, also an assistant under Purcell, is back in the same role for SCH, and a new addition to the staff is Ryan Albany, a member of the first men’s basketball team at Chestnut Hill College and a 2005 graduate of the local school.