For third-year coach Jeff Bond, the greatest success of the 2012-13 Abington Friends girls' basketball season wasn't the program-record 20 wins. It was the marking of a change in mind-set.
"We got to the point where we believed we could compete against any team we played," Bond said. "That was a big deal. In the past, there'd be trepidation before games even started."
Bond quickly spoke more to the point.
"We believed we could compete with Shipley," he said.
Abington Friends (20-8 overall, 8-2 league last year), along with the rest of the Friends Schools League, has been trying to figure out how to beat Shipley (19-7, 10-0) since the Gators joined the league in 2005-06.
Shipley is 57-3 in league play since 2008, the first year the Gators won the FSL championship. They've gone on to win five of the last six league titles, and they were runners-up in 2010.
In February, Shipley beat Abington Friends, 61-31, to win its third straight league championship. Bond said the Kangaroos were overwhelmed by the Gators' talent in that game. All five of Shipley's starters last season made it onto the all-league team.
"I honestly think there's Shipley and then there's the rest of us," Bond said. "The rest of the teams are closer to each other than they are to Shipley."
Helping to bridge the gap this year, Bond hopes, is Kangaroos senior Bianca Adams and a team of supporting players. Adams, a 5-foot-6 point guard, is a two-time all-league selection who averaged 7.1 points and 5.1 assists last season.
Also returning as starters are Isabel McPeak, a 5-6 small forward, and 5-11 center Alexa Middleton. Bond said junior Keira Jones and sophomore Asia Turner will have increase roles this season.
However, it's not likely to get any easier for the Kangaroos or any other Friends school this season to beat Shipley, which Bond said is the "odds-on favorite" to win the league again. The Gators return all five starters from their championship team from last season, including St. John's-bound point guard Sox Alexander.
The team that has had the most recent success against Shipley is Friends' Central (13-12, 5-4), which beat Shipley in the 2010 league championship game and is the only FSL team to defeat Shipley since 2008. The Phoenix will deal this season with the departure of Sydney Frank, a first-team all-league selection last year.
Germantown Friends (11-11, 6-3), led by sophomore guard Lizzie Becker, is looking to expand upon its run to the league semifinals last year.