Defending the streak. It might be hard for some to ignore, but Germantown Academy girls' coach Sherri Retif insists her team's focus isn't on its winning streak in the Inter-Ac. The string dates to 1999.
"For us, it's just about being the best team that we can be," Retif said. "We focus on what we need to do to challenge ourselves and build chemistry. The streak is nice, but the most important thing is that we respect the opponents in the Inter-Ac. . . . It's amazing how much the programs in the league have improved over the years."
The Patriots graduated stars Maggie Lucas and Tory Thierolf, but as has been the case during GA's span of 14 consecutive league titles, the team is fielding another strong roster in 2010-11.
Stepping into the spotlight for GA this season is 5-foot-11 forward Alexa Gallagher.
Gallagher, a senior who recently committed to DePaul, participated in the under-17 national trials this summer.
"Alexa is really establishing herself as the floor leader for us," Retif said. "She just has a really strong basketball IQ."
Complete package. Despite two transfers, Malvern Prep welcomes back one of the most complete boys' teams in the Inter-Ac.
The Friars return three starters, including first-team all-league forward DeQuann Walker, second-team all-league guard Brendan Kilpatrick, and 6-8 senior Kevin Rafferty.
Walker averaged 14.4 points in league play last season, and Kilpatrick averaged eight points in league play.
"We like to think that the stuff we do in the summer and the work that we put in both collectively and individually will give our kids an opportunity to perform well in the season," Malvern coach Jim Rullo said.
Even with the transfer of 6-foot-5 forward Tracy Peal (to Archbishop Carroll) and first-team all-league swingman Lamon Church (to Chester), Rullo is confident that his experienced, senior-laded squad can build off a 20-7 season in which it went 8-2 and finished second in the Inter-Ac.
But Rullo is taking nothing for granted.
"What makes our league one of the best in the city is that, if you look at some of the coaches in the league, you know you have to come to play every day," he said.
"Every coach in the league does their homework, and they've all been around a while. And what they do is expose your deficiencies. And because our league doesn't have a playoff, every one of these league games is like a championship game."
Staying strong. Chestnut Hill Academy graduated several key pieces from last year's squad, which finished atop the Inter-Ac with a perfect 10-0 record.
Key losses include the graduation of Pat Connaghan and Todd Cramer. The two all-league players combined to score 18.4 points per game in league play last season.
Second-team all-league forward Malik Garner returns to lead the Blue Devils, who do not have a senior on their roster.
But regardless of how young the team is, fourth-year coach Bill Dooley, who was the head coach at the University of Richmond from 1993-97, is expected to have his team ready for the season.
"I've always been impressed with the job that Bill Dooley has done at Chestnut Hill," Episcopal coach Craig Conlin said. "He's a tremendous coach. He's basically a college coach, coaching at the high school level. And he has really done a tremendous job."
- Chris Melchiorre