On the way to winning the Friends championship last season, Shipley coach Sean Costello put a lineup on the floor that included two freshmen, 6-2 Aja Ellison and Sox Alexander.

Ellison is the daughter of former NBA player Pervis Ellison and knows a little basketball. The speedy Alexander made the Gators go.

The two have a mutual friend, sophomore Asia Baker, who transferred to Shipley and should make the Gators even stronger than last season. Baker is 6-4 and plays for the New York Gauchos AAU team. She is from West Philadelphia.

The Gators, who also have sophomore guard Colleen Walsh and senior guard Jordan Turner, appear to be prohibitive favorites to win their fourth FSL crown in five years.

"Shipley is simply loaded," said Friends' Central coach Phil Annas, whose Phoenix will try to derail the Gators. They pushed Shipley in the league championship game last season, 44-34, but couldn't overcome Ellison's big, 20-point night. Ellison and Alexander each averaged nearly 14 points last season.

Annas lost standout Monae Merritt to graduation but does return key players in Meghan Cartafalsa, a 5-10 guard/forward; Maria Conyer-Jordan, and Sydney Frank.

"We'll try to play an up-tempo game," Annas said of his team's bid to offset Shipley's height.

Look for Abington Friends to be improved in the league this year.

- Don Beideman