Joseph Santoliquito (@JSantoliquito)
Aleah Snead had a phobia when she first began playing basketball. It was something unique and never given an official name. It went undiagnosed for years, until the gifted 5-foot-11 Penn Charter junior forward remedied it herself.
There’s claustrophobia, which is a fear of confined places. There’s arachnophobia, the fear of spiders, or arachnids. There’s acrophobia, the fear of heights. Then there is what afflicted Snead—shortphobia, the fear of wearing shorts.
For years, Snead would wear sweatpants when she played, because she didn’t like how her knees looked in shorts. She laughs at the recollection now, though still wears knee pads.
Aleah Snead (above) holds her game MVP trophy after guiding Penn Charter to a win over Neumann-Goretti on Sunday. (Photo: Joseph Santoliquito/CoBL)
Knee pads or not, Snead is hard to miss on the court. She’s garnered attention from every area Philadelphia school, with the exception of Temple and Villanova, but that is sure to change. She has 10 offers, among them Penn, Columbia, Stony Brook and Rhode Island.
That promises to grow, especially after seeing what Snead did on Sunday, scoring a team-high 18 points leading Penn Charter to a 53-44 victory over stubborn Neumann-Goretti in the Blue Star Invitational at Riverwinds Community Center in West Deptford, New Jersey.
Snead was helped by burgeoning freshman Kayline Bethea, who dropped in 15. Neumann-Goretti senior guard Mihjae Hayes led all scorers with 24 points, and was difficult to contend with all afternoon.
Snead’s six fourth-quarter points, coupled with some big plays from Bethea down the stretch proved to be the winning difference.
None of Snead’s success would be happening if she didn’t overcome an early fear.
“I didn’t like how my knees looked so I would always wear sweats or tights when I was playing,” Snead said, laughing at the recollection. “You could go back and see pictures of me always wearing stuff over my knees. I think I started wearing shorts when I started playing AAU in fifth grade.
“My friends convinced me to start wearing shorts. I’m over that now (laughs). I still wear knee pads, but I like my knees now.”
Snead, the younger sister of Archbishop star Jalen Snead, foresees Penn Charter having a successful year. After going 7-1 in the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season, she is fully aware that it’s been since 1998 that Penn Charter captured an Inter-Academic League championship in girls’ basketball.
“I’m a junior now and I have to take more of a leadership role, and I want to be a leader for the underclassmen,” Aleah said. “I’m happy with just playing, because we only played eight games last year. I need to talk more on the court. I also have to be a little easier on myself, because I need to have more short-term memory.”
Head coach Joe Maguire, in his seventh season, saw his team move to 6-2 overall with the Neumann-Goretti victory. The Quakers have a combined 32-5 record over the last two years, and with the Snead-Bethea combination clicking, Penn Charter is going to be a tough team to stop.
“It helps having Aleah a lot, because she’s left-handed and I’m right-handed, and I can always see her on the left side,” Bethea said. “Neumann-Goretti was a tough team. We shut down for two weeks, and for getting back after two weeks, this means a lot getting back with a win.”
Maguire wanted Snead to be more of a leader. She’s very understated and with the graduation of six seniors from last year, there was a need for a vocal leader.
“We need Aleah to step up into the leadership role, and she’s growing and getting used to it,” Maguire said. “Then you add ‘KK’ (Bethea) and she has it all. KK has what I would is ‘it.’ We’re better when she’s out in front pushing the ball in transition. She’s so fast and she can shoot. She’s done a nice job with the physical aspect of it as well.”
Neumann-Goretti is undersized, but right now, the Saints are undermanned. Coach Andrea Peterson only had seven players, and played five the entire game due to COVID protocol.
The Saints were within 39-34, mostly due to Hayes, but tailed off in the fourth quarter.
“Mij is special, there is no doubt about that, and with my freshmen (5-5 guards Carryn Easley and Amaya Scott, who were out), this is a different game,” Peterson said. “You deal with the hand that you have, and I saw some nice things today.
“My girls are a bunch of dogs that compete to the end. They’re never going to give up and they’re going to continue to push. No one has seen us at our best. We’re going to continue to push towards the Catholic League championship.”
Neumann-Goretti: 14 | 9 | 11 | 10 || 44
Penn Charter: 14 | 10 | 15 | 14 || 53
Neumann-Goretti: Mihjae Hayes 24, D’Ayzha Atkinson 8, Amirah Hackney 5, Brooke Barnes 4, Saneaj Tyler 3
Penn Charter: Aleah Snead 18, Kayline Bethea 15, Maddie Shoup 8, Bella Toomey 6, Gracie Shoup 4, Liv Vieira 2
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who began writing for CoBL in 2021 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on Twitter here.