by Tom Utescher
Since there were no seniors on the girls’ basketball team at Penn Charter last winter, the Quakers return as an intact unit for the 2018-19 campaign. The expected familiarity between the players wasn’t readily apparent during the opening minutes of last Tuesday’s home opener, though, as PC fell behind visiting Abington Friends School, 11-0.
Settled down by fourth-year head coach Joe Maguire during a time-out, the Quakers had their deficit down to eight points by the end of the first quarter. Outscoring the visiting Kangaroos in an 18-4 second period, Charter was up 24-18 at halftime and went on to win, 51-43.
It was the Quakers’ fourth match-up against a Friends Schools League team in the first week of the season. PC opened on Nov. 27 with a 48-39 win over Friends Central, then succumbed to Westtown School, 61-53, on the last day of the month.
On Saturday, Dec. 1, the Quakers rebounded with an impressive 65-52 victory over Shipley School, the two-time defending champions in the Pa. Independent Schools Athletic Association. Penn Charter rose to 3-1 with last week’s win over AFS, which won the Friends Schools League title in 2017 and 2018.
Assistant coach Amber Gooden has been with the Quakers throughout the Maguire era, and Springside Chestnut Hill Academy alum Maddie Hinchey joined the staff last season. This winter, the team welcomes back 2012 PC graduate Dianna Thomas-Palmer, a post player who played at Hofstra University and then served as Director of Basketball Operations at the Long Island school for the past two years. She is a teaching intern at Penn Charter and works with several club basketball organizations in Philadelphia.
The Quakers’ team roster this season lists two seniors. Guard Emma Maley also plays soccer and lacrosse for Penn Charter, and forward Abby Mannion is a member of the school’s softball squad. They are basketball captains this season along with juniors Kait Carter and Carmen Williams, who are each listed as guard/forward. The other two 11th graders are veteran forwards Hayley Hunt (PC’s longtime starting lacrosse goalie), and India Barnes.
Seeing action with the varsity team as freshmen last winter were Ava Coyle, Laila Hamiter, Kaitlyn Hnatkowsky and Janae Stewart. Now sophomores, they all play mainly as guards, although Hamiter is strong enough to hold her own down on the blocks, as well. Guard/forward Jamie Kubach and guard Molly McMahon are 10th-graders moving up onto the varsity team.
The Quakers’ two tallest players also happen to be the two youngest, 6’1” freshman Amani Rivers and 5’11” eighth-grader Kelsey Bess. Bess, who has a nice outside shooting touch, was already playing some summer league basketball with PC varsity players following her sixth-grade year.
She was a starter against Abington Friends last Tuesday, along with Maley, Carter, Hunt and Williams, with Hnatkowsky the first sub off the bench.
Abington Friends had a post player out with an injury, but didn’t miss a step at the start of the contest, running the floor effectively and getting points from each of its starters. The tally reached 11-0 in three minutes, then the hosts regrouped during a time-out.
A lay-up by Hamiter provided PC’s first points, and later a three-pointer by Barnes helped make it 14-6 at the quarter. Abington went up 16-6 with a lay-up at the start of the second round, but was outscored 18-2 for the remainder of the first half.
The young Bess hooped a pair of three-point field goals and made both ends of a one-and-one during this stretch. Also taking advantage of AFS fouls, Hunt went five-for-seven at the free throw line, drawing one of those foul shots on a successful drive.
Hunt would lead all scorers with 14 points and Bess would finish with 11 for the winners. Williams scored eight of her nine points in the second half, which is also when Carter deposited six of her nine. From the top of the key, Williams tossed in a three-point buzzer beater to send the Quakers into the fourth quarter with a 39-32 advantage.
A trey by Abington’s Minjae Hayes at the start of the fourth round was answered in kind by PC’s Hnatkowsky, then a lay-up by Hunt and a third three-pointer by Bess widened the gap to a dozen points (47-35) with five minutes remaining.
After that, the Kangaroos never got closer than seven points (50-43), losing by eight in the end.