Jared Leveson (@jared_leveson)
(Ed. Note: This article is part of our 2022-23 season coverage, which will run for the six weeks preceding the first official games of the year on Nov. 9. To access all of our high school and college preview content for this season click here)
The West Catholic girls’ basketball team is taking nothing for granted this season.
The Burrs played their first game of the 2021-2022 season last Dec. 9 against Central Bucks West. They played their second game the following day in Washington, D.C, at the She Got Game Classic.
Messiah Reames (above) is entering his second year as the Burrs' head coach. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Then-first-year head coach, Messiah Reames, led his inexperienced squad into a hostile environment and a surprising 54-30 victory over Gwynn Park High School (Md.).
“It was a home game, like everyone in the building was for them,” Reames recalled. “Besides our few parents who rode down.”
Driving back home up I-95, positive vibes flowed throughout the team bus. Thoughts of the Burrs continuing their championship runs that they experienced under Beulah Osueke floated through their minds. Osueke led West Catholic to a 2021 PIAA State Championship and a 2020 PCL title. The Burrs thought they were poised to stay on top.
But only a year after the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person basketball activities were halted from Dec. 10 through Jan. 12 because of positive test results and contact tracing. The month off derailed critical development and instructional time for Reames’ inexperienced team. West Catholic placed eighth out of eleven in the Philadelphia Catholic League and finished with a 3-7 PCL record and a 7-11 overall mark.
The month-long shutdown provided the former Hofstra and Longwood assistant’s squad with a perspective that nothing is guaranteed.
“I think it had a major impact on us. We lost a lot of on-court instruction time and development time,” Reames said. “You can’t play basketball on zoom, right?
“Coming into this year, there’s a constant reminder, that these days we get in the gym aren’t guaranteed. And the last couple of years have proven that to us.”
The Burrs return four seniors, add two transfers and a host of talented first-year students to their roster. West Catholic’s mix of experience and young talent, paired with their work ethic and newfound respect and gratefulness for basketball, has Reames excited about this team’s potential.
A Philly native and three-time all-conference player at Cabrini, Reames has turned the Burrs’ turbulent 2021-2022 into fuel for their offseason preparation. The attitude surrounding the program is upbeat and competitive, and leading the charge is West Catholic’s senior class.
The Burrs have four seniors on their roster: Amina Reid, Khadijah Thomas, Jordan Cothron, and Layla Thompson. Reid, a 5-5 senior guard, was named captain and will run the offense. The other captain, Thomas, is a 6-2 forward who will provide size underneath. Cothron is a smooth guard that plays with a nice pace, and Thompson can protect the rim and rebound.
Reames indicated that, despite their age, his seniors are inexperienced and did not get on-floor experience or attend the school during Osueke’s tenure. However, this group has laid out the West Catholic standard for Reames’ two transfers and seven first-year students.
“I told the upperclassmen that the girls I’m bringing in are basketball players,” said Reames, who coached at Harriton High School from 2012-2016. “Not just people who play basketball.”
Transfer Kiajah Henry (2025) and Laila Farmer (2024) are highly athletic and coachable. Harry’s skill set is raw, but she rebounds well and can get up and down the floor. Formerly at Bonner-Prendergast, Farmer is a knockdown shooter.
Reames’ first-year class has him pumped. Four out of the seven started and contributed minutes in the preseason.
Point guard Ciana Blake (above) leads a talented freshman class at West Catholic. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Ciani Scott is a versatile ‘4’/’5’ who rebounds well and possesses guard-like skills. Jalyn Moore is another strong athlete with an endless motor on both ends of the floor. The most consistent freshman has been Jasmine Butler. The 5-11 wing attacks off the dribble, finishes in transition, crashes the boards, and makes sound decisions.
Reames’ most talented freshman may be Ciana Blake. The 5-8 combo guard’s skill set is advanced. She can already shoot, pass, dribble, and drive at a high level. The big thing for Blake will be transitioning and adapting to the speed and size of the competitive PCL. But Blake’s preseason performances have been promising.
“She’s been starting with the ball and playing the one,” Reames said. “So, like we’ve been expecting and demanding a lot from her and she’s responded well. She’s gonna be special for us.”
“They know everything is earned here,” Reames continued about his team. “It’s not about I’m a senior, junior, sophomore, or freshman.”
“We’re in a position right now where we’re gonna play with a lot of kids and get up and down.”
The expectation for the Burrs is to compete, no matter who the opponent is or the result. Reames is confident this year’s team is athletic and talented enough to compete with the PCL’s best.
But before PCL play begins, West Catholic will gain needed experience outside the Philadelphia area. The Burrs are returning to the She Got Game Classic, where they’ll play Colonial Forge (Va.) and Forest Park (Va.). The biggest out-of-league test will be when West Catholic ventures up to Long Island for a matchup against Long Island Lutheran..
“That’s gonna be a big game for us,” Reames said. “Just being able to experience something outside of our area, another high level program.”
Reames understands that if West Catholic wants to reach elite status again, it will have to compete against select programs. Moreover, the Burrs must pair that elite schedule with an elite work ethic.
Last year, Reames had players skip open gyms and practices for hair appointments and other non-basketball commitments. However, the Burrs’ commitment level this offseason has dramatically changed because of the seniors’ experience with the COVID lockout and his young and hungry underclassmen.
“Our level of commitment has been completely different.” Reames said. “Like when I put something out about us being in the gym, they respond, they show up, and they work. It’s been contagious.”
“With our returning kids already knowing what the expectations were and being able to lay that out and help the young kids, and those kids coming in eager to work, it speaks volumes.”
Last season showed the Burrs’ that continued championship success is not guaranteed. That outside forces can take basketball away instantly. West Catholic is young and inexperienced, and Reames knows it’s his responsibility to right the ship when things go off course. But the Lady Burrs are focused, driven, talented, and ready for the upcoming season.
“I’m loving where we are and where this program is heading,” Reames said. “I’m loving the kids I have in my program right now and I’m super excited about this year.”