Youth must serve. The Shipley girls have won back-to-back Friends School league championships. But in order to make it three in a row, Gators coach Sean Costello needs his younger contributors from last year's title team to take center stage.
Junior forward Celeste Golub (5-foot-10) and sophomore guard Jordyn Turner (also 5-10) will join Shipley's only returning starter, 5-8 senior guard Brianna Ross, in chasing a third consecutive crown.
Shipley graduated five seniors, four of them starters, including 1,000-point-scorer Alex Lennon (West Chester University). And Ross, last year's second-leading scorer (9.1 ppg), has been hobbled by a knee injury suffered during AAU play this summer. That injury has hindered her in preseason.
So the responsibilities and scoring averages for Golub (5.7 ppg) and Turner (4.1 ppg) must increase if Shipley is to defend its crown and replicate last year's success, when the Gators finished 19-4 overall and 9-1 in the Friends School league.
All-around player. The Abington Friends girls return only one senior from last year's semifinal team, but she can do it all. Bashira Anderson (5-foot-10) was first-team all-league last season as a junior, and this year, Kangaroos coach Dave Bass said, teams will see the versatile Anderson both at the point and on the post.
The Kangaroos were one of four teams to make the playoffs last year but lost to eventual league champion Shipley in the semifinals.
"We're going to play transition basketball," Bass said. "This group, because we're young, is really going to get better as the season goes on."
Scorers are back. The Friends' Central boys, who won both the regular season league title and the Independent Schools tournament last season, return three double-figure scorers (the numbers come from coach Jason Polykoff) to their starting lineup - 6-7 senior forward Dominic Morris (12 ppg, 8.5 rpg), 6-4 senior guard Travis Robinson (13 ppg, 3 steals), and 6-3 junior guard Devin Coleman (14 ppg, 2 steals).
Big transfer. Academy of the New Church beat Friends' Central in the boys' league championship game to prevent the Phoenix from pulling off a trifecta. And this year, the Lions added 6-foot-9 junior forward Rakeem Christmas, a transfer from North Catholic.
Christmas averaged 10.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 3.2 blocks last season for North. He will join Savon Goodman, Jon Riles, and coach Kevin Givens in a quest to improve on a 15-10, 6-2 performance in 2008 and defend the postseason league crown.
All five back. Westtown returns all five of its starters from a team that finished second (7-1) behind Friends Central in last season's regular season standings and went 18-6 overall. Luisito Jimenez and Daniel Ochefu both were all-league honorees last year, and Matthew Lee was honorable mention all-league.
Westtown is coached by Penn grad Seth Berger, founder and former chief executive officer of And1, the basketball footwear and apparel company.