The New Year has arrived, and in the blink of an eye, the first month of the PC winter sports season has already passed. While neither the squash nor the swimming and diving squads were in action over winter break (all four teams will return to play next week), basketball, wrestling and indoor track and field all remained busy. Before we fully dive into January and the thick of the Inter-Ac season, let’s check in on how the five competing teams fared over the last two-plus weeks.
Note: This SportsZone report covers athletic events played between Dec. 15- Jan. 3. Visit the Penn Charter Athletics webpage for the most up-to-date game schedules and scores.
Penn Charter closed out its December non-league schedule with five games over winter break, going 2-3 against some extremely talented opponents.
Most recently, the Quakers competed in the Jordan Brand Classic at Baruch College in New York City on Dec. 29 and 30. While the team lost 89-55 on Dec. 30 to Missouri’s Link Academy — the third-ranked team in the nation — the game presented a tremendous opportunity for PC to play against recruits headed to top-flight college programs like North Carolina, Texas, Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas. A day earlier, Penn Charter secured a hard-earned 62-55 victory over Good Vision Academy from Texas. Despite Good Vision featuring a pair of 7-footers in its lineup, PC junior center Matt Gilhool was the best big man on the court, finishing with 23 points and 12 rebounds.
“On a national scale, we want to compete, and the schedule is set up in a way so we would be as prepared as possible for our league games,” said first-year head coach Brandon Williams.
On Dec. 27 at the Slam Dunk to the Beach Tournament in Delaware, PC pushed a talented, top-25 nationally ranked Combine Academy (NC) team to the brink before ultimately falling 64-62. Williams said the gym was packed and the atmosphere raucous, as well as a great showcase for junior point guard Jake West.
“Jake was the best guard on the floor that game with his playmaking and shotmaking,” Williams said, while also praising the contributions of juniors Kai Shinholster and T.J. Bryson, and senior reserve Will Vieira.
Gilhool returned to the lineup against Combine Academy after missing two games plus part of a third with an injury. Without him, things got off to a rocky start against Perkiomen School at Germantown Academy’s Make-A-Wish Tournament on Dec. 15. The Quakers (5-6) got down by 20-plus points early but clawed their way back to within four in the fourth quarter before ultimately falling. However, Williams saw the rally as a breakthrough moment for his team, choosing to compete together instead of packing it in. The next day, PC came out and routed Shipley 80-56 and has been playing some of its best basketball of the season the ensuing two weeks.
“Coming out of that weekend, I felt like we found it,” Williams said. “We turned a corner with the energy and how we fought in the second half [against Perkiomen]. When we got within four points, I told them I didn’t care about the result because now they know what winning basketball looks like. It’s been our motto ever since.”
PC’s quest for a third straight league crown begins on Friday, Jan. 5 when the team opens up league play at home against Haverford at 7 p.m.
The Quakers are hoping that an immensely difficult non-league schedule will adequately prepare them for Inter-Ac games and a pursuit of a third consecutive league title. Head coach Joe Maguire purposely challenges his team every year against some of the most talented teams inside and outside of the Philadelphia area, and although PC lost six of its first seven games, Maguire believes that wins in two of the last three non-league games is a sign of good things to come.
“I told the team that I think we’re trending in the right direction,” Maguire said. “The effort and enthusiasm are there, and they show up every day ready to work. Win or lose, they’re going to compete until the very end. We feel good going into this month.”
So far so good, as PC opened up league play with a 44-31 win over Episcopal Academy on Jan. 3. Junior Kaylinn Bethea led the way with 18 points, six steals and four assists, while freshman Ryan Carter added 12 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. Senior Ashlie Johnson continued her strong work in the post, grabbing a team-leading 12 boards.
Over break, the team participated in the Governor's Challenge Tournament in Maryland on Dec. 27 and 28, splitting a pair of contests. The Quakers bowed out 60-44 in their pool’s championship game against Oakland Catholic (PA) on Dec. 28, but did pick up an impressive 53-37 over Roland Park (MD) the day before with Bethea (26 points, five steals) again leading the way.
In the Bill Fox ALS Classic at Father Judge on Dec. 23, Bethea poured in a season-high 31 points along with seven rebounds and six steals in a 66-61 victory over Audenried Charter.
“It’s her third year [playing varsity], so she knows what I expect from her and what the team needs from her,” Maguire said of Bethea. “She’s been efficient and is not taking bad shots. Not only is she opening things up for herself, she’s also a willing passer who finds opportunities for her teammates.”
The Quakers (4-7, 1-0) dropped a pair of games to Perkiomen Valley and Cardinal O’Hara at the start of winter break, but given the team’s recent improved play, that feels like ancient history.
“With no playoffs or championship game, we’ve talked about being mentally ready and that every league game matters,” Maguire said. “After winning the last two championships, we are a big game for other teams. This group wants to make their own mark on PC basketball while keeping things going how they went the last two seasons.”
The Quakers will look to make it four wins in five games when they travel to Notre Dame on Jan. 5 for a 4 p.m. start.
Penn Charter competed in a pair of tournaments over break, most recently at host Hatboro-Horsham’s Ralph Wetzel Classic on Dec. 28 and 29. The Quakers finished in seventh place out of 38 participants with 125 points, up two slots from a ninth-place finish in last year’s event. PC secured three third-place finishes, as well as one each of fourth, fifth and eighth.
Junior Greyson Catlow-Sidler went 6-1 on the day at 160 pounds for one of the three third-place winners. Senior C.J. English went 5-1 and captured third place at 287 pounds, while senior Jack Bowen won four of his five matches to place third at 174.
Junior Hugh Maley went 4-2 to grab fourth place at 154, senior Lucas Weinstein was 5-2 and finished fourth at 141 and sophomore Tristen Padget was good for eighth place at 217, winning three of his six matches.
“We were without a bunch of kids but still competed fairly well,” head coach Peter Shaifer said. “Hugh and Grey are training partners, which is paying off for both of them. Lucas is looking great, and C.J. has learned a lot of wrestling since last year, when he was new to the program.”
The Quakers also competed in Maryland’s Kent County Holiday Tournament on Dec. 15-16, placing second out of 16 teams with 412.5 points. Highlights from that event included English winning the 285-pound class and freshman Ryder Horan emerging victorious at 106. Eighth grader Matteo Pritchett continued to impress at the varsity level, securing third place at 120. Meanwhile, Weinstein, Bowen, Maley, Padget, junior Munir German and sophomore Simon Bethea all competed for first place in their weight classes despite falling short in the championship round. Sophomore Augie Turner finished in fifth place at 190 pounds, and classmate Izzy Steinbock secured second place in the girls’ event.
“The kids’ work is starting to pay off, and to show it down there was pretty cool for them,” Schaifer said. “They’re pushing each other to be better, and the preparation is starting to show in how they are competing.”
The Quakers will begin their Inter-Ac schedule on Jan. 5 at Haverford School (4:30 p.m. start). While Malvern Prep remains favored as a national powerhouse atop the league, Shaifer said that PC, Haverford and Germantown Academy are all similarly talented and thus expects a tough, close battle.
BOYS INDOOR TRACK & FIELD
The Quakers were in action for three meets over break, most recently traveling to Manhattan on Dec. 29 to compete in the Marine Corps Holiday Classic. It was a small group that participated, but PC still achieved a pair of top-10 finishes: the 4x800 relay team placed sixth (8:30.24), while junior T.J. Zwall finished eighth in the one-mile run with a time of 4:28.00.
“I’m not one to get into specifics this early in the season, but the distance group has been really good, with T.J. in particular looking terrific,” head coach Steve Bonnie said.
At the Track and Field Coaches Association of Greater Philadelphia Meet (TFCAofGP) No. 2 on Dec. 21 at Lehigh University, Zwall was again at the top of his game, placing second in the 3000 (8:50.13), with classmate Nate Johnson (fifth, 9:05.17) not far behind. Elsewhere, junior Luis Rincon had a strong showing in the pole vault, finishing in second place at 13 feet.
“Pole vault can be one of the flukiest events — you could have tremendous jumps one week and none at all the next,” Bonnie said. “Luis so far has been very consistent right at 13 feet in practices and meets, and he’s ready to push toward 14 feet. Pole vault is always a question, so can he do it again later in the season when it really matters? If so, he’s going to be one of the better vaulters in the area.”
The team also had a pair of top-15 finishes in both the distance medley relay (11th place) and the 400, where senior Eddie Kennedy placed 12th.
In PC’s first TFCAofGP meet on Dec. 16 at Lehigh, Rincon nabbed another second place showing in the pole vault, while the distance medley relay squad captured fifth place.
“Eddie’s back from last year’s injury and so far has looked pretty good,” Bonnie said. “He’s continuing to get better on the upswing. On the distance side, T.J. and Nate are one of the better duos in the area — effective, legitimate Division I prospects. We’ll see what they do this weekend at Lehigh, but they have looked very good.”
The Quakers will be back at it for their first meet of 2024 on Jan. 6.
GIRLS INDOOR TRACK & FIELD
In their most recent of four meets over break, Penn Charter joined the boys track & field team in New York City at the Marine Corps Holiday Classic on Dec. 29. The Quakers captured a pair of first-place finishes, with junior Alli DeLisi emerging victorious from the 800-meter run in 2:10.25, while the 4x400 relay team of DeLisi, juniors Sam and Alex Jaffe and sophomore Michaela Poland placed first in 4:03.46. Elsewhere, Poland ran to a second-place finish in the 200 with a time of 26.18.
Two days prior, DeLisi was in Boston to compete in the Massachusetts State Track Coaches Association Holiday Challenge, where she ran the one-mile run in 5:00.45, good for an eighth-place finish overall.
“She was personally invited to this meet by the meet director,” head coach Candice Lee said. “This event helped showcase Alli’s talent.”
Back home in the Philadelphia area on Dec. 22, PC took part in the Delaware Valley Girls' Track Coaches' Association Meet No. 4 at Haverford College, a relay-only event in which Lee was unable to put together her full lineups due to winter break. Even so, the Quakers had a solid showing, with the sprint medley relay team of Poland, senior Zady Hasse, sophomore Aliyah Leonard and freshman Caroline Tullo capturing seventh place in 4:37.70. Additionally, the 4x200 team of Leonard, Tullo and sophomores Lucy Sokoloff and Zsuzsi Pollock finished 10th in 1:57.56, while the 4x400 quartet of Poland, Hasse, junior Jul Toomey and freshman Annabelle Frattone placed 17th in 4:39.37.
On Dec. 20, the Quakers traveled to Lehigh University for DVGTCA Meet No. 3, where DeLisi nabbed another first-place finish in the 800 (2:14.69). Poland was the team’s other top-10 finisher, running the 400 in 1:01.00 and placing seventh. Hasse (one-mile run) and Pollock (shot put) each finished 13th in their events.
“My early impression is that the key people on the team are living up to my expectations and are building up in training to ensure they peak at the right time,” Lee said.
Finally, in DVGTCA Meet No. 2 at Lehigh on Dec. 15, the 4x200 relay team of Poland, Leonard, Sokoloff and sophomore Peyton Doran had the best finish of the day, placing sixth in 1:53.68. Poland was seventh in the 200, and Sokoloff finished 10th in the long jump.
The Quakers will be in action for their next DVGTCA meet on Jan. 5 at Alvernia University.
Written by: Ed Morrone OPC '04