Kevin Dodds (above) and Bishop Shanahan are coming off one of the best seasons in program history. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Corey Sharp (@ByCoreySharp)
(Ed. Note: This story is part of CoBL’s “Prepping for Preps” series, which will take a look at many of the top high school programs in the region as part of our 2017-18 season preview coverage. The complete list of schools previewed so far can be found here.)
Bishop Shanahan sure turned some heads last year.
Despite finishing the 2015-16 season with a solid 15-9 record and 7-5 in the Ches-Mont National, still not many people took the Eagles seriously as they were returning just one starter. After all, it was a program that had never made it to a league championship game, much less won it all.
But after finishing 19-9 and second in the conference at 10-2, including a one-point regular season win over the eventual conference champion Coatesville -- the Eagles showed they were to be taken seriously.
Shanahan made it its first Ches-Mont final in school history -- before ultimately losing to Coatesville 43-37 in overtime -- and to states for the first time in 22 years, where they fell to Martin Luther King in the first round of the PIAA Class 5A bracket.
It was a season for the ages, and with four starters returning, the future is as bright as ever.
“They’ve handled it really well,” 10th-year head coach Ken Doyle said. “We actually had a really good summer and the kids are really focused going forward.”
“We had a lot of underclassmen playing [this summer],” he continued. “Four underclassmen playing, three of them starting and all four playing major roles. They were really looking forward to building [the momentum]. We have a strong JV group that hopefully a couple of guys can step up and we can keep moving this forward.”
Danny Browne, a 6-2 guard, is now playing at D-III Penn State-Altoona; 6-4 wing John Kozinski is doing the same at D-III Susquehanna. Those two, along with 5-9 guard Brendan Dearing -- playing football at D-III Franklin & Marshall -- are the three players that graduated last year.
The strong returning group begins with three senior starters that made all-league last season: 6-6 forward Kevin Dodds (first-team), who averaged 12.7 ppg and 7.8 rpg, point guard David Angelo (second-team), who averaged 8.3 ppg, and 6-4 wing Thomas Ford (honorable mention), who contributed 10.7 ppg. Dodds and Angelo are getting D-II and D-III looks while Ford will be attending Hofstra University next fall to play lacrosse.
Junior combo guard Joe O’Malley, who was previously the sixth man, will move into the starting lineup, according to Doyle.
The final starting position will come down to two seniors -- shooting guard Sam Wilson, a transfer from Coatesville and 5-10 guard Danny DiBeneditto, who’s currently quarterbacking the football team. Phil Chenard and Brian Ibarguen, two more junior guards who Doyle labeled as guys who can shoot and are “heady,” will be counted on in the rotation.
With a good mix of key players returning, including the three all-leaguers, Bishop Shanahan won’t sneak up on teams as they did last year, but to a lesser degree, still feels like an underdog.
David Angelo (above) will be back to run the point for the Eagles. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
“No, we won’t [sneak up on teams] but we have Coatesville in our league, so we’re always going to be playing from behind, and everybody’s going to be picking them and Downingtown West, which are two big 6A schools who will both be challenging,” Doyle said. “So for us, as much as, yes, we won’t be sneaking up as much, we’re not going to be always expected to continue because we have strong teams in our league.”
Shanahan’s biggest problem last year was scoring in crunch time. In their championship game against Coatesville, the Eagles owned a six-point lead at the half, but made just two of 20 shots after the break, and scored only 13 points. In their loss to Martin Luther King, Shanahan shot 12-for-47 from the field and committed 17 turnovers.
Doyle said that though the team had great leadership, but he didn’t have a go-to-guy when the game was on the line. He’s hoping that changes with his top returning players more matured and having solid summers under their belts.
“The experience should count for a lot,” he said. “The three seniors now, who were three juniors, are our three strongest players [from] last year. We’re just hoping for that progression and I’ve seen a lot of it so far this summer to think that it’s going to continue.”
Doyle said he saw vast improvements out of O’Malley, Angelo, and Dodds in terms of scoring the ball in various offseason events.
Dodds and Angelo will undoubtedly be the top sources of offense and leadership for the Eagles. Dodds, a lefty, is a physical low-post player that makes up for his lack of athleticism with his relentless, dirty-work mentality. Angelo, a sniper from beyond the arc hitting 68 3-pointers last year, also has a high motor on both ends and is the quarterback of the offense.
Dodds wants to expand on his leadership, moreso vocally.
With this being the 6-7 forward’s third year in the starting lineup and his last shot at a championship, the big man has been partaking in strength and conditioning and basketball workouts before and after school. Being the most experienced on the team, he feels the leadership responsibility falls on him.
“It really puts me in a spot where I have to lead the team,” Dodds said. “I have a couple of guys here that started as juniors, [now seniors], and all of them have taken the role really nicely so I can rely on them as well being the head guys.
“I want to be more demonstrative,” he added “I want to be able to tell the team that you need to do this, you need to do that, but I don’t want to be screaming at them for no reason. I want to be able to yell with a purpose.”
Dodds has set out some lofty goals for himself and his team. He claims he wants to be the MVP of the Ches-Mont league while getting revenge in the conference championship game and head back to states. The senior is going into the season on a mission.
“Before, we were the underdogs and everyone said ‘we can beat these guys, they’re from Shanahan,’ but we took it to them, and beat them,” Dodds said. “And now this year, they’re anticipating us more with what we can do.”