Terry Mancini is St. Basil Academy's third girls' basketball coach in three seasons, and if early results mean anything, he's got the Panthers off on the right track.
After Tuesday's 68-43 victory over Merion Mercy in the Athletic Association of Catholic Academies, St. Basil was 4-1, including an impressive 44-38 win over Mount St. Joseph, a league rival and the defending PIAA Class AAA champion.
The loss was to Abington, ranked sixth by The Inquirer in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Mount St. Joseph was ranked eighth in The Inquirer's preseason poll but fell to 10th with the defeat.
This season, Mancini took over a team that had been 17-7 overall and 10-4 in league play, but returnees such as Jacqui Thompson said the squad didn't live up to its potential.
"We had our struggles," said the junior point guard, who made it clear she liked Mancini's aggressive basketball. "We have a new coach, good chemistry - a fresh new start."
"I think we had more potential than what we showed last season," said junior forward Jill Lynch, who got the medical OK to play Tuesday after surgery for a broken nose. She took an elbow in a preseason practice and must play with a mask for the next six weeks.
"I feel good and I'm ready to go," she said.
Forced to observe her teammates instead of playing because of the injury, Lynch was happy to see the team come together against the Magic. The Panthers had been down by 15 points.
"We just couldn't hit a shot, but we kept our heads and kept coming back one possession at a time," she said.
The Panthers have a date with Williamstown (N.J.) on Saturday in the Boardwalk Classic at the Wildwoods Convention Center.
Off and running
While Radnor's Kelyn Freedman, as expected, is hitting at a clip of 20 points per game, she's also getting help from teammates such as Hannah Rose Nussbaum and Allison Heath.
That's why the Red Raiders won their first five games, including Tuesday's 35-34 squeaker over Strath Haven.
The Red Raiders' most impressive win was a 54-46 road triumph over University High, a perennially strong Class AAAAAA team in Orlando, Fla.
Freedman scored 24 points in that game, while Nussbaum, who is averaging about eight, added 15. Heath has been a solid contributor, too, averaging just over 10.
"We try to go to Florida every other year to play," coach Mark Jordan said. "We don't play a whole lot of basketball at Radnor. Lacrosse and field hockey are the big girls' sports, so we're trying to strengthen our program."
Freedman said the win over University was good for the team. The game was tight, with the Red Raiders coming from a halftime tie to win it.
"The win showed what we can do," Freedman said.
The Red Raiders will face their first big league test Jan. 5 when they host Springfield of Delaware County. They meet Lower Merion for the first time Jan. 14.