New SCH girls basketball head coach Florence Hagains (center) is pictured with assistants Antowine Graham and Ruth Sherill. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

The girls of the Springside Chestnut Hill Academy varsity basketball team are beginning the 2017-18 campaign under new, yet familiar leadership. Due to the late withdrawal of the team’s previous skipper, Florence Hagains, an assistant coach with the Blue Devils last year, was named interim head coach of the squad for this season.

Hagains has been coaching at many different levels for more than three decades. After coming up as a player in the tradition-rich program at West Philadelphia High School, she went on to play college ball at Penn State Beaver, near Pittsburgh.

She has coached at her old school, West Philly, and also at the Community College of Philadelphia. She has also coached AAU basketball for more than 20 years. Assistant coach Antowine Graham is also well known to the returning SCH players, since he worked in the same role last winter. Like Hagains, he coached at CCP, and he has mentored players at many age levels.

A new addition to the staff is Ruth Sherrill. Originally from Virginia, she started out playing at Hofstra University with Springside School graduate Sydney Epps and Penn Charter alum Dianna Thomas-Palmer. Sherrill transferred and finished out her college career at Temple University, and went on to play professional basketball in Ireland.

Looking forward from the end of last season, it appeared as if almost all of the 2016-17 Blue Devils team would return intact. The only player graduating was forward Chloe Burns, who is now playing at the University of Scranton.

Early in the current school year, though, it was learned that more than half-a-dozen underclassmen who had been part of last year’s varsity and JV unit would not be coming out for basketball again. Most of them were choosing to devote more time to their primary sports.

Although that means the Blue Devils will not be fielding a junior varsity team this winter, there is core of veteran players with several years of varsity experience.

The seniors are Nya Searight (a forward who passed the 1000-point milestone in career scoring last winter), Destiny Rogers and Joelle Bridges. Junior Mo’ne Davis first began playing varsity ball as an eighth-grader, and her classmate Caroline Clark made an immediate impact when she arrived at SCH in ninth-grade.

Becca Arnold is the lone sophomore on the roster, but there are five freshmen learning the ropes. Kaitlyn Pearcy and Reya Seifert came up through the SCH middle school, and Destiny Fairfax, Moira Mulligan and Gabby Wooley are new ninth-graders.

SCH fans can expect to see a guard-oriented squad this season; there is no one close to the 6’1″ stature of the graduated Burns. The Blue Devils will appear as usual in the Upper Dublin Holiday Tournament and in the Scholastic Play-by-Play event, as well as tackling their own challenging Inter-Ac League schedule.