Kate Harman's Team, Coach, Rookie of the Year & Other Awards

Kate Harman's Team, Coach, Rookie of the Year & Other Awards.

Team of the Year – Upper Dublin

Last year, the Cardinals exited the PIAA Class 6A state tournament after competing in just the first round. It was a low point that the team – especially its seniors – remembered, as this season, the ninth seed out of District 1 put together a magical run that included upset wins over a who’s who of best teams in the state including Cardinal O’Hara, Garnet Valley, Abington, Souderton, and Central Bucks South.

The victories showcased just a few highlights, as Upper Dublin captured the program’s first ever state championship, amassed a record of 27-5, and allowed opponents to score just 29 points a game. Led by a young group that relied on the leadership of seniors Maggie Welgos and Nicole Kaiser, the Cardinals defense was second to none, especially in the state tournament.

The team took on the personality of its coach, Morgan Funsten, over the course of the regular season but the playoffs in particular, by being prepared, sticking to a strategy, and buying in to the team first identity. It was this balance – and an unwavering commitment to team defense – that earned this group a place in program history.

Coach of the Year – Beulah Osueke

Quite a few local coaches demonstrated they could have been the recipient of this honor, with Greta Neff taking her West Chester Henderson team to 30-0, capturing Ches-Mont and District 1 Class 5A titles in the process, before eventually falling to perennial power Archbishop Wood in the state quarterfinals.

Morgan Funsten led his U.D. squad to the best season in program history and Renie Shields directed an Archbishop Carroll team that was seconds away from playing for a Catholic League title and also finished in the Class 5A final four.

But the remarkable turn around of the West Catholic program is what earned Beulah Osueke the distinction of being the 2017-2018 coach of the year. Just five years ago, the Burrs went 0-18 – while this season they played for the Class 2A state title, falling in overtime, 45-42.

The culture change at West – a large undertaking Osueke has taken very seriously – sparked a newfound dedication from the community and has turned the program into one to watch within arguably the toughest league in the area. Osueke’s decision to play an extremely difficult non-league schedule this year paid off for the Burrs, as the team may not have finished with as many wins as they would have liked, but earned invaluable experience that helped them down the stretch. While the schedule may have made for many demanding weeks and close contests, it was the right move for West. With a ton of talent returning next season – including four of five starters – the Burrs will look to build upon this campaign’s success.

Rookie of the Year – Jess Polin

Kaitlyn Orihel made her mark for Archbishop Wood, as did Destiney McPhaul at West Catholic, while Denae Carter showed she’s one to watch for St. Basil, but the freshman with the biggest impact was Upper Dublin guard Jess Polin, who consistently came up big down the stretch for the Cardinals.

The guard demonstrated her talent right away during the regular season with some high scoring efforts, as she was inserted into the starting lineup immediately. But it was her performance during the playoffs that solidified her status as a gamer, as she hit huge free throws in state contests against Cardinal O’Hara, Abington, and Souderton. Her scoring ability – and penchant for hitting the tree – demonstrated that she has the capability to be a big-time scoring threat for the Cardinals.

Most Improved – Elle Stauffer

The 5-foot-11 sophomore averaged 12 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 assists for Germantown Academy, as the Patriots went 12-0 in the Inter-Ac league and lost to the eventual Pennsylvania Independent Schools champions, Shipley, in the semifinals. The guard/forward led GA in most statistics, consistently showcasing her ability to be a game changer on both ends of the floor and she was named the team’s most valuable player on offense.

Best Game – Class 6A championship

The game was a three-overtime thriller with both Souderton and Central Bucks South getting clutch contributions from their best players.

Best Defender – Molly Paolino

The Cardinal O’Hara senior has been one of the areas toughest defenders since she first put on a Lions uniform. Consistently tasked with guarding her opponent’s most dynamic player – a list that includes some of the top players in the state but also the country. The guard constantly made life difficult for opposing squads, as players never looked comfortable with No. 3 marking them.

Team to Watch – Central Bucks West

The Bucks underperformed this season – due in large part to being hit by injuries – but they have a player returning in Maddie Burke that has the highest ceiling of any other in recent memory. With Tori Abelson coming back from injury and a buzzworthy incoming freshman class, C.B. West should be one of the better teams in the district next year.

Most impressive non-local player - Ashley Owusu, Paul IV (Virginia)

The Maryland recruit –just a junior – put in an absolutely dominating performance at January's Blue Star Showcase.