Breadcrumbs

SportsZone for Feb. 16, 2024

In the blink of an eye, the regular season has given way to the postseason for our varsity winter teams. Below is a team-by-team breakdown of how those regular seasons wrapped up, as well as a look-ahead to what comes next:

Note: This SportsZone report covers PC athletic events played between Feb. 8-14. Visit the Penn Charter Athletics webpage for the most up-to-date game schedules and scores.
 

BOYS BASKETBALL

2024 Boys  Basketball Team photographed after winning Inter-Ac Championship

On Jan. 26, the Quakers suffered a tough 51-50 loss at Haverford School to fall to 2-3 in the Inter-Ac, a season with so much hope seeming to be slipping through their fingers. 

What a difference three weeks makes: the team is now outright Inter-Ac champions for the first time in 20 years!

With five consecutive league wins to close out the schedule and some opportunistic losses by fellow competitors, PC claimed its third consecutive Inter-Ac crown, after sharing it with Malvern Prep the previous two seasons. It marks the first time Penn Charter has won three straight league titles since it won four in a row from 1961 to 1964. 

The team clinched the title with a 68-62 win at Episcopal Academy. Juniors Jake West (22 points, five rebounds) and Jamal Hicks (21 points, six rebounds, three steals) led the offense, while classmate Matt Gilhool racked up nine points and 12 rebounds.

“Even when it didn’t seem like it was in the cards, we knew we had some fight left,” head coach Brandon Williams said.“We truly did show the heart of a champion, and we showed the resiliency that it took to call ourselves outright champions.”

After the Haverford loss in January, PC beat EA, SCH, Malvern, GA and EA again to finish 7-3 in league play. The win over GA on Feb. 9 on Senior Night was especially memorable, as the Quakers held off their biggest rival, 69-66. Gilhool contributed 19 points, junior Kai Shinholster dropped 18, and West added 14. At one point, with PC struggling to create separation on the scoreboard, Gilhool poured in 13 consecutive points. When the Patriots rallied again in the second half, West hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:34 off a dish from Shinholster, then Shinholster sealed the victory with a driving layup with 16.1 seconds remaining.

West, Gilhool and Shinholster are all Division-I recruits, and they will all be back next season to try to complete the first PC four-peat in 60 years. But, until then, the Quakers (16-10, 7-3) will set their sights on the PAISAA Tournament, which begins on Feb. 16 at home against Friends Select at 6 p.m. PC is the bracket’s third seed out of 16 teams, so, now that the team has rallied to win a league title, could it also win its first ever PAISAA crown?

“We set goals at the beginning of the year to capture both of these titles,” Williams said. “The marathon mentality has already been on our minds. Obviously, the start of our year wasn’t the happiest of times, but we’ve been preparing for this. We’re playing some of our best ball of the season right now. This is the best version of ourselves, and we want to win.”


GIRLS BASKETBALL

2024 Girls  Basketball Team photographed after winning Inter-Ac Championship

Penn Charter capped off a whirlwind regular season on Feb. 14, one that saw them start 1-6 overall and fall to 4-8 on Jan. 5, when the team lost its first league contest since the 2021-22 season. Hopes for a third straight outright Inter-Ac crown seemed iffy at best, but then, just when everybody seemed ready to give up on them, the Quakers refused to give up on themselves.

From Jan. 7 until Feb. 6, PC didn’t lose a game, ripping off 11 consecutive wins to put themselves back in the championship driver’s seat. Then came a crushing one-point loss loss at home to GA in the penultimate game of the season — on a GA free throw with less than a second to go, no less — to put the Quakers back on the outside looking in with one game to play. 

But hope was not lost. A Patriots victory over Notre Dame on Feb. 12 would have delivered GA an outright title, but the luck of the  Irish prevailed, and Notre Dame’s win once again opened the door for Penn Charter. A win in the regular season finale over Agnes Irwin would at least guarantee PC a share of the championship with GA and Notre Dame.

Mission accomplished.

Junior guard Kaylinn Bethea crossed the 1,000-point threshold for her career in the 63-35 Valentine’s Day win over the Owls, and the team celebrated another championship together, even if it did take the scenic route to arrive at its ultimate destination.

“It stunk, the way the GA game ended,” head coach Joe Maguire said. “But I’m glad we had another game to play, because it still felt like we controlled our own destiny.Given the rules of the league with no playoffs, we did what we had to do to stake our claim.”

Even though PC fell one win short of a third straight outright title, there was still  much to celebrate. Bethea came into her own as both a prime scoring option and a leader, as did ninth grader Ryan Carter, who no doubt one day will be celebrating her own 1,000-point milestone. Ashlie Johnson, the team’s lone senior in the rotation, developed into a tough, dependable presence down low for a team that needed one. The rest of the team was young and inexperienced at the varsity level, but players such as junior Ava DiBenedetto, sophomores Natalia Modzelewski, Liv Vieira and Marleigh Jackson, and ninth graders Laila Sharp and Mia DiBenedetto all carved our roles and made valuable contributions as the season progressed. 

Now, after three straight PAISAA championship game appearances, the Quakers (16-9, 10-2) will open this year’s tournament as the No. 4 seed out of 12 total teams. Their first game will come on Feb. 20 at home against the winner of Notre Dame and Episcopal, two teams that Penn Charter went 3-1 against this season. A win there would set up a semifinals date with Westtown School, who beat PC in last year’s title game.

“Any opportunity where we get to continue to play and practice together is great,” Maguire said. “We’ve been in the last three championship games, and want to get over that hump. We think when we’re playing our best, we can hang with anyone. The mindset we’ve always had is we want to play as late as possible. If there’s still games going on, we want to be involved.”


WRESTLING

PC wrestling team in huddle before match

The Quakers finished off their regular season dual meet schedule with a pair of convincing victories last week. 

On Feb. 9, Penn Charter secured a 70-3 win over Lawrenceville School on PC’s Senior Night, ensuring seniors Jack Bowen, C.J. English, Michael Filoon, Mac Haines, Lucas Weinstein and Toni Plunkett could enjoy one final team triumph at home. Weinstein (18-4 major decision), Bowen (pin), Filoon (pin) and English (11-2 major decision) all got to celebrate with individual wins over Lawrenceville as well. 

All but one PC wrestler recorded a win in the match, including juniors Griffin LaMent, Greyson Catlow-Sidler, Munir German and Henry Greenberg; sophomores Simon Bethea, Augie Turner and Tristan Padget; and ninth graders Ryder Horan and Cole Furtek.

One day earlier, the Quakers (20-2, 4-1) earned a 71-9 win over SCH Academy in the team’s final Inter-Ac dual meet. Penn Charter won 12 of its 14 matches, including pins by Bethea, Catlow-Sidler, Filoon, Turner, English and eighth grader Matteo Pritchett. Additional PC wins came from Horan, German, Greenberg, Padget and ninth graders Carter Mangan and Marcus Anderson. 

The Quakers will conclude their season with a pair of postseason tournaments both this weekend and next. First up will be the PA Prep State Tournament on Feb. 16 and17 at Germantown Academy (4:30 p.m. and 9 a.m. start times, respectively), followed by the National Preps Tournament on Feb. 23 and24 at Lehigh University’s Stabler Arena. Penn Charter finished in third place at the state meet a year ago. 


BOYS INDOOR TRACK & FIELD

TJ Zwall_media day photo

The Quakers had their final tune-up for this weekend’s Meet of Champs, running in the Track & Field Coaches Association of Greater Philadelphia Last Chance Meet at Lehigh University on Feb. 9. 

Junior T.J. Zwall ran a season-best 4:23.19 in the one-mile run, good for a second-place finish, while classmate Nate Johnson ended up 15th in the same event (4:44.00). Zwall and Johnson also ran to 12th and 17th-place finishes, respectively, in the 800-meter run. 

Elsewhere, junior Luis Rincon cleared 13 feet, 9 inches in the pole vault, finishing second. Senior Eddie Kennedy ran a season-best 52.04 in the 400-meter dash, placing third; and ninth grader Matthew Dunn posted a season-best 9:19.87 in the 3,000-meter run, securing a ninth-place finish. Junior Zahir Kalam Id-Din finished sixth in the preliminary round of the 60-meter dash, registering a season-best time of 7.16 seconds. 

Zwall (in the 800, one-mile run, and 3,000), Johnson (one-mile run and 3,000), Dunn (3,000), Rincon (pole vault), senior Britton Armbrister (60 hurdles), Kennedy (400) and Kalam Id-Din (60-meter dash) are all qualified for the Meet of Champs, while senior Gavin Michener, juniors Oliver Jackson and Mason Knight, and sophomore Matt Furda are 4x200 and distance medley relay race candidates, depending on the lineup configurations head coach Steve Bonnie decides upon. Kennedy and Id-Din could also run on relay teams, but considering both are on the edge of qualifying in individual events for the state meet on Feb. 25, Bonnie is still unsure how he is going to deploy his personnel this weekend and next.

“We won’t decide until the last minute,” Bonnie said Wednesday morning. “We’re still talking about it.”

Much will also depend on what happens with athletes from other schools who have qualified in multiple events at States. So, while there are still several moving parts for both the Meet of Champs and the state meet, the Quakers will likely be well-represented at both events, a fact that the longtime head coach is pleased about.

“This year, in theory, should be an improvement on last year, so the boys are moving in the right direction, which is a very good thing,” Bonnie said.

The Meet of Champs will take place at Lehigh University on Feb. 17 at 9 a.m.


GIRLS INDOOR TRACK & FIELD

Sophomore Michaela Poland used the Track Carnival meet at Lehigh on Feb. 10 as a final tune-up for the three individual events she’s qualified for at the Meet of Champs.

Poland’s best performance was in the 400-meter dash, running a season-best time of 1:00.20 and finishing in fifth place. She placed sixth in the 200-meter dash (26.32), while nabbing a 13th-place finish in the high jump (four feet, nine inches). Poland also qualified in the 4x200 relay event along with senior Haley Lewinski and sophomores Lucy Sokoloff and Aliyah Leonard.

Junior Alli DeLisi also warmed up for the Meet of Champs by competing in the 116th Millrose Games on Feb. 11 at the Armory Track & Field Center in New York City. DeLisi finished in third place in the 600-meter run, posting a season-best time of 1:31.26. DeLisi had previously qualified in the 800 at the Meet of Champs, which will take place on Feb. 16 at Lehigh University at 6:30 p.m.


BOYS SQUASH

The Quakers went 1-2 in the last week, all against non-league opponents.

Most recently on Feb. 14, Penn Charter was in action for its regular season finale against GFS at the Germantown Cricket Club. The team got individual victories from senior Griffin Yeatman and junior Nolan Duffy at the number three and seven spots, respectively, in the PC lineup. Eighth grader James Killinger had a strong performance in a close 3-2 loss, and the Quakers fell to GFS 6-2 on the day, an improvement from a 9-0 loss to the same opponent on Dec. 7. 

Additionally, the Quakers traveled to New Jersey on Feb. 12 to battle Princeton Day School, ultimately falling in a tightly-contested 5-4 loss. Despite the team's defeat, several players in the PC lineup had strong individual performances: Yeatman earned a 3-1 win at the No. 3 spot in the order, while Duffy scored a confident 3-0 sweep in his match from the No. 7 spot. The two most exciting wins of the day came via senior Jacob Kestenbaum at No. 6 and junior Grayson Rupp at No. 9, both of whom rallied from deficits to secure 3-2 triumphs.

The Quakers (4-9) did get to celebrate a 7-2 win over Harriton on Feb. 8 in the final home match for PC seniors Yeatman, Kestenbaum, Grant Roshkoff and Marko Vucetic (all four of whom have been with the PC squash program since middle school.) Vucetic, Yeatman and Kestenbaum all nabbed victories in their final home match, leading the team to a 7-2 win. Other triumphs came from Duffy and juniors Luke Markovitz and Dean Kaiser.

“It was nice to have a win after facing so many tough opponents the past few weeks,” assistant coach Peter Lubowitz said. 

“It’s been amazing to see their development over the past six to seven seasons,” Lubowitz said, reflecting on his time coaching his group of seniors. “A special shout-out to Grant, who didn't start playing until he arrived at PC in seventh grade as a tennis player. He slowly worked his way up the ranks, finishing his tenth-grade season toward the bottom of the JV ladder. He then made a full commitment to squash, playing year round, and jumped from No. 17 in 10th grade to No. 4 as a junior, and now he is at the top of the varsity lineup. Pretty amazing.”

With the regular season officially in the books, Penn Charter will turn its focus to Nationals, which will take place from Feb. 23 to 25 at six venues throughout Philadelphia. More information on specific match times and venues for Penn Charter will be available in next week’s edition of SportsZone; as of now, preliminary seeding has the Quakers competing in Division 2 (of seven). Each division consists of 16 seeded schools, with PC likely falling somewhere in the 13 to 16 range. 


GIRLS SQUASH

Penn Charter dropped two matches over the past week against a pair of non-league opponents.

Most recently on Feb. 14, Penn Charter was in action for its regular season finale against GFS at the Germantown Cricket Club. PC fell 5-3, but Sam and Alex Jaffe still continued their season-long dominance with a pair of 3-0 victories. Sophomore Audrey Abernethy also secured a 3-0 sweep at the No. 8 spot in the lineup, while ninth grader Libby Taub rallied from two games down to take her match to five games before ultimately falling. 

On Feb. 8, host Lawrenceville School snapped a three-match PC win streak, defeating the Quakers 7-2. Alex and Sam Jaffe again picked up another pair of 3-0 individual victories from the top two spots in the Penn Charter lineup and are unbeaten this season as they get set for Nationals.

“Alex and Sam continue to impress,” head coach Damon Leedale-Brown said of his top two players. “It was a good learning experience for the rest of our team, and they are all excited for Nationals.”

Speaking of Nationals, the girls program will also participate in the tournament from Feb. 23 to25 in Philadelphia. More information on specific match times and venues for Penn Charter will be available in next week’s edition of SportsZone; as of now, preliminary seeding has the Quakers competing in Division 1 (the top division out of seven total). Each division consists of 16 seeded schools, with PC likely falling somewhere in the 13 to 16 range should they remain in the top group. 


SWIMMING & DIVING

Combined team photos for boys and girls swimming

Fresh off second and fifth-place finishes, respectively, at the Inter-Ac Championship Meet on Feb. 3, the girls and boys swimming & diving teams had last week off as each squad prepared for the final event of the season: the Eastern Prep Swimming & Diving Championship on Feb. 16 and 17 (9 a.m. start time both days). The diving portion of Easterns will be held at Germantown Academy, while all of the swimming events will take place at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster. 

The girls program will be looking to improve upon its third-place finish at last year’s event. It will certainly be a challenge, as the Quakers will be chasing a strong GA team that finished first at the league championship meet and beat PC in a dual meet on Jan. 17. While head coach Brian Hecker admitted that it will be difficult to beat GA, Penn Charter will approach the mission undeterred.

“We are certainly aiming for the win,” Hecker said. “Our girls are confident and focused, and we will do everything we can to try and outswim their swimmers. Our goal is to be as strong as GA; we still have work to do, but we are on a good path.”

Hecker also mentioned Mercersburg Academy and Peddie School as solid teams in the hunt for one of the top spots, not to mention talented squads from New England who will also be making the trip down to the Keystone State for the event.

On the boys side, the Quakers are hoping to build on last season’s 13th-place finish. With a compressed January dual meet schedule, Hecker said PC didn’t get to rest much going into the league championship meet, and that was a point of emphasis in the days since. 

“We were excited to get the kids some rest and get them ready to go at Easterns,” Hecker said. “The goal for the boys throughout the year has been to build a team by pushing each other and working to improve each and every day. I am hopeful that after each race our boys can look up at the scoreboard and be thrilled about their times and realize that the hard work they put in all year has paid off.”
 


Written by: Ed Morrone OPC '04

Photos by: Ruairi Rossi and Zamani Feelings