HERSHEY, PA – The season ended with a loss in the state championship. Faces were long. Tears were plentiful. The players, coaches, and fans expected a victory, and the medals draped around their neck in a post-game ceremony did little to assuage their gnawing disappointment and sadness.
Therein lay an emphatic, fascinating statement . . . West Catholic expected to triumph.
Labeling a loss by an underdog as a “surprise” is arguably the ultimate compliment, but that’s the kind of hype the West Catholic Prep’s girls’ basketball team forged during a PIAA Class 2A state tournament run that on March 26 at the GIANT Center concluded with a 45-42 loss to Bellwood-Antis.
“I don’t think it’s really hit me,” said West coach Beulah Osueke after being asked if the loss was “bittersweet” considering that the program advanced further than any in school history. “The bitter is a lot more present than the sweet right now.”
The District XII champion Lady Burrs entered the tourney 12-12 before winning four straight, the first two via blowout and the past two in rather dramatic fashion. Even though the District VI third-place Blue Devils finished with a gaudy record of 28-3, they faced a West Catholic squad that truly believed it was destined to succeed.
Too many turnovers (12) and poor shooting from the field (18 for 56), three-point range (4 for 16), and foul line (2 for 5) proved to be too much even for the fantasy basketball gods.
The Lady Burrs, however, played well in stretches and actually led, 39-37, with 3:15 remaining in regulation.
While junior Kyliah Singletary scored 10 points and freshman Destiney McPhaul added eight, West Catholic out-rebounded B-A by 35-29. Sophomore Tamiah Robinson dished five of West’s eight assists in a full 32 minutes of action, the only Burr to play every minute, a heavy contrast to the Blue Devils, who did not make a single substitution and received a staggering 34 points from 6-foot sophomore Alli Campbell.
Statistics, however, already can barely be seen in the rear mirror. Moving forward, the Lady Burrs and coaches were asked to reflect on what they each learned personally from this past season. Their responses reflect significant gratitude and maturity and suggest that the rest of the PIAA Class 2A programs had better watch out for West Catholic Prep next year.
Jaelyn Durrett, senior: “This past season has been the most memorable and should be absolutely cherished. Being at Neumann-Goretti my freshman year and Bonner-Prendergast my sophomore and part of my junior year, I have found the right school here at West Catholic. Even though at Neumann I was playing with all of the Division One prospects, it has started to ignite the flame inside me that made me more passionate about this game. At West, this was the one team where I could really develop into the player I was inside but didn’t show. I have a coach that wants me to grow in every aspect and a team that I could call all of them family. We made history, despite the loss in the state championship, and we have earned respect being the underdogs. I am very proud of being part of making history as a lone senior, towards the end, with my teammates. There’s a lot of fake love that you start to see as we progressed but my team stood strong and focused on what’s more important – our family.”
Daziy Montgomery, freshman: “This past season has taught me a lot. I've gained more friendships and better relationships with my teammates. There were many obstacles I faced this season along the way with my teammates and coaches. This season took me to places I never expected to be this early in my high school career. This season meant a lot to me, but it’s over and it's time to get ready for the next. Sophomore year it's time to step up.”
Tamiah Robinson, sophomore: “This season has been a bumpy road for us. In the beginning of the season we had some downfalls and things weren’t looking too good for us. Then we finally got rid of the distractions that were causing our downfalls and we started to get on track. I am so proud of my team this year even though things did not come out as planned.”
Destiney McPhaul, freshman: “Personally this past season means a lot to me. It was a learned lesson. It taught me things and I am glad that I had this experience. My teammates and coaches did what people never thought we could do. We came into the state tournament as the underdogs and proved the outsiders wrong even though things didn't go as planned. We did what we could and that's why I can say that I'm not only proud of myself, but I am proud of this group of girls that I played with as well as the coaches. I'm happy to say that I could continue this high school journey at West Catholic Prep and we can continue to make history. This was a great season and there are many more to come.”
Ciani Montgomery, freshman: “This past season was a wake-up call. As a freshman, I haven't experienced anything like it. I wasn't prepared enough for the intensity or the commitment that comes with it. Coming in as a sophomore next year, I plan on being one of the top players. This summer I will be in the gym every day working hard trying to improve my game.”
Daja Hosendorf, junior: “This past season means a lot to me because it’s taught me so many key lessons. From games to practices I’ve had to learn to sacrifice myself for my team, how to stay driven and stay focused on my goals, and how to be a leader. This season was the hardest ones of my three years at West Catholic but one that I wouldn’t trade for anything. It was one that showed that with belief in your teammates and yourself, you can break barriers that no one ever thought you could do.”
Beautiful Murray-Bey, junior: “‘One Team. One Family.’ This is a phrase that the West Catholic girls’ basketball program lives by. This past season has been eye opening and awe-inspiring for me to say the least. This program has given me confidence that I never could have imagined possessing. The girls have shown me what hard works looks like. The coaches and all of the girls inspire me to be the best version of myself that I could possibly be. It’s a huge commitment that is not an easy choice. You’re giving up a lot when joining the team, because we practice six-seven days a week, two-three hours a day for five months straight (not including our off-season and pre-season workouts). My body aches constantly and sometimes I just wanted to sleep all day to give my body a break, but moments like these taught to me how push through the pain and continue to push my limits. West Catholic girls’ basketball teaches you lessons that you will hopefully carry on your journey through life. While we may not have been able to finish with a win this season, I can honestly say I wouldn’t trade our journey towards the finish line for anything.”
Amiyah Edney, junior: “This season meant everything to me, especially coming back from an ACL injury. I just felt I had to work 10 times harder to get to where I wanted to be. Sitting out an entire year really humbled me and made me appreciate the game so much more. I can't wait to see what the future holds for my team and I. Although we came up short in the state chip this year, next year we're coming for it all.”
Kyliah Singletary, junior: “This past season meant a lot to me. Last year I was injured, so this year it was bittersweet being able to play on the floor with my teammates. My team and I overcame a lot of hardships and continued to pave a way for success. I would say my favorite part of the season was our state run. The hunger and passion we all had was the reason we made it to where we did. Losing in the championship was heartbreaking, but it taught many lessons and next year I’ll be back the with the same hunger and passion to bring home a state championship.”
West Catholic made history this season making it to the PIAA 2A state championship - PSD Photo by Patty Morgan
The Lady Burrs celebrate after earning their first ever trip to the PIAA semifinals - Photo Courtesy of WC Lady Burrs
Safara McIntyre, freshman: "The past season was really meaningful to me because everyone on the team supported each other. For example, when our coach would get on one of us, we would never yell at each other. We always tried our best to pick each other up. Our coach always said, “We’re only as strong as our weakest link.” The season for me was also very exciting because as a freshman I got to start in the biggest game the West Catholic girls' basketball team has ever had. I was very honored for my coach to have that much trust in me."
Kaori Saunders, sophomore: “What the past season means to me personally is growth. West Catholic became a part of me outside and inside of the court. It has given me a better outlook on life and allowed me to grow as a woman and as a player. There is nothing I would want to take back from my experience because it made me a better me. From the running constantly and the days and night spent working with a team I now call family is something I would not change at all. Growth is me, and growth is West Catholic.”
Coach Beulah Osueke: "This season I learned a great deal about what it means to be a leader and mentor through thick and thin. I learned how important it is for young people to have adults in their life that will support them no matter what, and push them to not just be good, but great. I take seriously the amount of trust that my players have in me as their coach and I'll continue my commitment to making sure that I offer the tools necessary to help them succeed at this stage of life and in chapters to come. The love that my players have for me, the game, and for one another is one of the main reasons that I coach. We'll take grasp of the lessons learned from this year and make sure that we continue building toward what's to come."
(John Knebels can be reached at Jknebels@gmail.com or on Twitter@johnknebels.)