The Mount’s senior captain, Lauren Vesey, is pictured with new head coach Matt Feeney (right) and assistant coach Joe Pensabene. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

The basketball team at Mount St. Joseph Academy graduated one starter and two reserves off of last year’s roster, but the bulk of the team has returned as the Magic head into the 2019-20 season.

Last winter, the Mount made a surprising playoff run. Under .500 in regular-season competition, the team was seeded 12th for the PIAA District 1 Class 5A tournament, but wound up finishing second. The Magic ended their season in the second round of the PIAA state tournament, bowing to a team from western Pennsylvania that would go on to the semifinals.

The season, the Mount St. Joe hoopsters have new leadership; Matt Feeney has become the Mount’s third head coach since the long tenure of John Miller ended in 2016. After playing high school ball in his native Long Island, Feeney went on to play for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in upstate New York.

His most recent coaching position before taking the Mount job was as head of the very successful boy’s program at St. Philip Neri School in Lafayette Hill. He and assistant coach Joe Pensabene both have daughters attending Mount St. Joseph.

Last Wednesday afternoon, the Mount began a scrimmage against visiting Archbishop Ryan High School with all of its four returning starters on the floor. Team captain and point guard Lauren Vesey is a senior, as are guard/forward Taylor Sistrunk and forward Kelly Rothenberg. Junior Grace Niekelski, the team’s high scorer last winter, is a 6’0″ guard/forward who is being recruited by schools in five different NCAA Division I conferences and has already received several offers.

Filling the fifth starting spot was senior Audrey Bryce, who was usually the first forward off the bench last season. Guard Maura Scanlon and guard/forward Grace Morrow are two other seniors who saw a lot of minutes last year. Guard Danielle Dodaro is the only other junior on varsity besides Niekelski.

Two freshmen have made the varsity squad and saw a lot of playing time in the Ryan scrimmage. They are guard Kiersten Pumilia and a forward out of St. Philip Neri, Georgia Pickett.

Last weekend, the Magic launched their season out near Morgantown, Pennsylvania in a tip-off tournament at Twin Valley High School. The Mount won the event, defeating Lancaster Mennonite School, 69-33, and Twin Valley, 52-40. Niekelski was named tournament MVP.