Mount Saint Joseph Academy Girls Basketball
Pride of Philadelphia
2008 PIAA AAA State Champions
Author: Elle Hagadorn
Coached by John Miller and Joe Sweeney, our basketball team at the Mount achieved our ultimate goal of winning a state championship, an honor which eluded us in the 2006-07 season in an embarrassing loss in the state semi-final game against our league rivals, Villa Maria Academy. Although we played hard, we played our worst game of the season. We failed to play together and the loss left a lasting impression on all of us. The pain of such a defeat and the desire for redemption were carried over into the 2007-2008 season.
Although we were essentially the same team from last year with all five returning starters, we had a new motivation to win and shared the unspoken yet, always tangible goal of winning it all. Led by our senior captains Laura Johnson, Sarah McGorry, and Ryann Gallagher, we worked harder than ever in the preseason and developed an even stronger team chemistry than the year before. So, when the season finally rolled around, we came out strong, going undefeated in our first seven games.
Unfortunately, we could not keep the streak going and suffered a hard-fought loss against Catholic League powerhouse, Cardinal O’ Hara. However, after this loss, we went on to win both league and non-league games and, along the way, celebrated Coach Miller’s 500th win. It was not until our last home game that we suffered our second defeat of the season, this time to St. Basil’s Academy. Not only was it our only loss in the league thus far, but it was in our gym on our Senior Day. Although none of us had envisioned honoring our seniors with a loss, the defeat was just what we needed right before the playoffs.
Refocused and rededicated to playing as a team, we bounced quickly and captured the Catholic Academy League Championship for the second year in a row against Villa Maria. We proceeded to work our way through District 1 playoffs until we found ourselves in the championship game against who else, but Villa. Even though we had beaten them three times already this season, we just did not have the “magic” this time, and lost… badly.
However, we quickly regrouped and looked forward to the state tournament, where we all secretly prayed to meet Villa again. I guess God was listening because after beating skilled teams from across the state, we found ourselves once again up against Villa in a repeat of last year’s state semi-final game. Not only were we psyched to play them again, but we soon found out that we would play at the Palestra, the “Cathedral” of Philadelphia basketball. Needless to say, my teammates and I were never more excited to play in any game of our lives. Although none of us may have openly admitted it, we had all been working and waiting for this moment ever since last year and we were all ready for redemption. Inspired, we played our best game of the season in front of a great and enthusiastic crowd. Though Villa put up a good fight, we left the Palestra victorious and Coach Miller soaking wet from celebrating in the locker room shower. Busy basking in the glow of such a win, we almost forgot that we had only won the semi-final game and were reminded by our coaches that there was still one left to win.
So, we headed to State College, satisfied with our accomplishments but still hungry for the title of state champions. There, at the Bryce Jordan Center on March 15, 2008, we matched up against Mercyhurst Prep, a private Catholic school, much like us, from Erie. Propelled by the momentum of our latest victory and the cheers of our loyal and adoring fans, we beat the Mercyhurst Lakers, 53-43, and became the 2008 PIAA AAA State Champions. In classic Red Auerbach-style, we lit up a victory cigar in the locker room after the game much to the dismay of our beloved athletic director. As we celebrated that night at the Nittany Lion Inn and listened to Coach Miller’s rendition of Calendar Girl for the umpteenth time, it hit me just how special this experience really was. As Coach Miller put it best, “Thirty-two minutes of hard, intelligent basketball and we walk together as champions for all eternity” and we will have the memories of this truly “magical” season forever.
Thank You Coaches!!!