Penn Charter sophomore Katie O’Malley (left) wins a rebound from Shipley’s Liz Denbeigh. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher
Penn Charter graduated one member of its 2009-2010 girls basketball squad and another transferred out, but for the most part the Quakers’ current team is staffed with athletes who’ve been playing varsity ball together for several seasons.

Familiarity bred success for PC last Friday afternoon, when the Quakers opened up on their home court with a 62-36 win over the visiting Gators of Shipley School. PC coach Diana Caramanico found that her wealth of returning players gave her significant advantages in an early-season setting.

“At this stage we haven’t worked on any inbounds plays,” she related, “so it’s a wonderful thing when you can just call something you did last year and they know where to be and what to do.”

Speedy, compact point guard Aleesha Powell started her senior season with a 21-point performance and 5’11” junior shooting guard Brianna Butler rang up 17 points for the Quakers. Junior center Dianna Thomas-Palmer also reached double digits, with 11 points, and Charter received six points apiece from junior guards MaryKate O’Brien and Danielle Sienko, and one from senior forward Kendall Stokes.

A prominent new addition to Caramanico’s staff this winter is assistant Tom Lochner, who coached the women’s team at La Salle University for the past six years. He still works at La Salle in his new role as Director of Adult Education.

Last Friday a lay-up by Shipley high-scorer Aja Ellison (13 points total) set the scoreboard in motion, but Charter quickly began clicking on the transition and each of the starters scored a field goal. Powell’s bucket was a three-pointer that put PC up 11-2, and she added another trey along with a lay-up later on as the Quakers led at the quarter, 20-4.

When the hosts added another 10 points to their lead by outscoring the Gators 13-3 in the first two minutes of the second stanza, it truly was “game over.”

The halftime tally of 43-15 incorporated 13 points from Butler, a dozen from Powell, and nine from Thomas-Palmer. As Caramanico deployed all of her bench players late in the game, Shipley was able to outscore the Quakers 15-6 in the fourth quarter.

During that stretch the visitors’ Celeste Golub rang up eight points in succession (her total for the afternoon), and shooting guard Colleen Walsh also finished with eight points for the Bryn Mawr ballclub. Shipley coach Sean Costello doesn’t shy away from tough non-league competition, so when his young team begins to hit its stride the Gators should make some noise within the Friends Schools League.

Penn Charter sophomore Katie O’Malley, a sophomore out of Norwood Fontbonne Academy, saw a lot of minutes off the bench for the home team. Her fellow sophomores on the squad are guards Allison Rogers and Nicole Weitz, and the roster also includes freshmen Lauren Dimes and Kristina Kubach, who were both starters on the Quakers’ soccer team this fall.

Assessing Penn Charter’s performance on Friday, Caramanico said “We have to tighten up some things on defense and with our offensive execution. It was by no means a perfect game, but overall they passed the ball well, played together, and played hard. You can’t ask for much more than that at the beginning of the season.”

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