You really need a game program to know the players on the Palumbo girls' basketball team. Although Palumbo has just over 200 girls in the school, it's a Class AAAA (large) school for PIAA purposes.

Under PIAA regulations, a school that does not have a particular sports program may pair up with another school or schools that do have that sport. Last season, CAPA (performing arts) and Furness, which did not have girls' basketball teams, were paired with Palumbo, making it a AAAA team. This year, Palumbo is paired with CAPA and Constitution.

"We have 15 players - six from Palumbo, five from Constitution, and four from CAPA," said coach Chris Donnelly. "And we play the [big Public League] schools like George Washington, Northeast, Central, and Frankford. It's a challenge, but that's the way it is."

Despite some divided school loyalties, it has worked well, according to Donnelly. Her team has beaten Edison and lost to Girls High this season. The Griffins play Olney on Monday.

"Palumbo is a college prep school, and the students aren't big into athletics. The kids do have to apply to come here, but we do have some dedicated players," Donnelly noted.

One of those is MaryEllen Paul, a Palumbo senior who averaged 13.4 points a game last season as a guard. She's usually joined by Meme Falligan, Emily Gonzales, Sausha Gabourel, and India Piner in the starting lineup.

"It's definitely different," Paul said of the situation. "We've had to learn to cooperate although we're from different schools."

Traveling to and from games can also be a challenge, according to Donnelly.

"It seems all the teams we play are north of the city," Donnelly said.

A few jitters? Ciara Andrews needed 15 points to reach 1,000 career points going into Cheltenham's nonleague game with Central Bucks South Wednesday night. She averaged more than that a game last season.

But for nearly three quarters against the Titans it looked like the St. Joseph's-bound Andrews might not reach the mark. She had only six points at halftime and was playing with three personal fouls.

"It was exciting [going after the 1,000 points] - I wasn't nervous - but I guess I was overworking myself and couldn't score," Andrews said. "With three personal fouls I didn't want to touch anybody."

She picked up a fourth foul in the fourth quarter.

Fortunately for the home crowd that came to see her, Andrews settled down. She finally got her 1,000th point on a jump shot with 5 minutes, 19 seconds left to play. The unbeaten Panthers, ranked ninth in The Inquirer's weekly top 10, won, 56-46.

"Ciara's been a great asset to us for three years," said Cheltenham coach Bob Schafer. "She's become a dominant player, and she's a good kid."

Although Andrews said she wasn't nervous, Schafer said he suspects there were some jitters on the veteran player's part.

"She wasn't playing her best - the way she usually plays," the coach said. "But once she got the 1,000th point, there was that usual smile on her face going up and down the court."

She'd rather practice. After Villa Maria Academy dropped its season-opening game to Athletic Association of Catholic Academies archrival Mount St. Joseph, 34-31, coach Kathy McCartney was asked why she chose not to have any nonleague games to ease the way into the season.

The defending champion Magic went into the Villa game with two tipoff tourney wins to their credit: They had beaten Cumberland Valley and Gov. Mifflin in the Cedar Crest tourney.

McCartney had also agreed to switch the site of the game from Villa's home court to the Mount's.

"I'm not big on tipoff tournaments. I'd rather practice," McCartney explained. "As for moving the site, I like to be cooperative. We'll bounce back. It's early in the season."

The two teams meet again on Jan. 17 at Villa.

The Inquirer TOP 10

GIRLS' BASKETBALL

Team Record

Last week's ranking in parentheses.

1. Archbishop Wood (1) 1-0

2. Archbishop Carroll (2) 2-0

3. Germantown Acad. (3) 4-0

4. Prep Charter (4) 2-0

5. Cardinal O'Hara (5) 1-0

6. Council Rock South (6) 4-0

7. Council Rock North (7) 3-0

8. Mount St. Joseph (8) 5-0

9. Cheltenham (9) 4-0

10. Abington (10) 4-0

Under consideration (listed alphabetically): Central (3-0), Central Bucks South (3-1), Downingtown West (2-1), Freire Charter (3-1), Haverford High (5-0), Upper Dublin (3-1), Villa Maria Academy (2-1).

- Don Beideman
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Contact staff writer Don Beideman at 267-815-0733

or dbeideman@phillynews.com.