Joseph Santoliquito (@JSantoliquito)
PHILADELPHIA — Their eyes invariably meet. It doesn’t matter where Cire Worley is on the court, the six-foot-tall Abington senior will find her father, Eric, a former Central and West Chester star, behind the baseline, in the stands, sitting behind the bench.
Cire could always find solace in dad’s knowing nod, or often advice on what to do when she’s uncertain.
In four years, Cire has rarely been unsure on a basketball court.
She knows when to drive to the basket, when to pull up, when to be aggressive under the boards, and when to go to the ball to make her teammates know she’s available.
At 6-0, she’s easily the tallest player on a very short team, doing more than scoring, rebounding and defending inside. She’s the only semblance of an inside threat the Ghosts have on offense or defense.
So, it’s no wonder that on Sunday, in the Maggie Lucas Play-By-Play Classic at Jefferson University, Cire’s shoulders carried the load and finished with a team-high 19 points, eight in the fourth quarter, in giving PIAA District 1 No. 1 seed undefeated Haverford High School all it could handle in a 55-47 loss.
Abington's Cire Worley became the Ghosts' all-time girls scoring leader on Sunday. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
It was a bittersweet defeat for Cire, who became Abington’s all-time leading girls’ scorer with 1,499 points, needing only eight points entering the game to surpass Deja Rawls’ career total of 1,487 from 2011-2015.
Cire did it over and through Haverford’s considerable length. Though overcoming obstacles is nothing new for her.
When she was 10, Cire lost her mother, Kim, to cancer. It forced Eric and his family to recalibrate their lives, and fortify young Cire that her future was going to be safe and bright.
Basketball played a big role in the healing.
“I was blessed, because everyone around us at that time tried to make life feel as normal as possible for Cire,” said Eric, who runs two nonprofit organizations. “My sisters, Janeen, Delia, Jamilia, stepped in, my mother, Karen, stepped in, they all live in Philly and are all in close proximity, which made that time easy for me and better for Cire.
“I use the phrase, ‘to be greater later,’ but Cire was raised in a basketball family and around the Philadelphia basketball community. She has her older sister, Dianna Thomas-Palmer, who Cire relied on heavily and has always supported her. I always knew Cire would develop and come into her own. I think her best basketball is still ahead of her.”
Eric Worley also mentioned another cousin, Aaliyah Worley, a former Engineering & Sciences standout who played at Stony Brook, as a positive influence and close friend to Cire, part of the "village" that's help raise her.
Kim Worley, who was a teacher, played at Northeast High School and Arcadia, then known as Beaver College.
Basketball was a staple of Cire’s upbringing.
“I would say I think about my mom and my grandmom, everyone I’ve had in my life who never got a chance to see me play, every day,” Cire said. “My mom was there early on. My mom inspires me. Basketball was a way to deal with (her illness). At the time, I moved forward as normal as I could. I had a lot of family and friends to help me.”
Abington's CIre Worley, above, is headed to play at UMass-Lowell next season where her older sister is an assistant coach. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
It was the village mentality that raised Cire, with the addition of Andrea Campbell, Cire’s stepmother.
“That support helped me, too, because I was fortunate to have all the women I had around me,” Eric said. “Basketball is what kept us connected and kept our minds off other things that were going on then. Ball is life in our family. It was with Cire’s mother, with me, with our family.
“It’s the connective tissue within ourselves, and with me and Cire.”
Cire was born into a basketball family and raised in the Philadelphia basketball community, although her inclusion has taken on a life of its own. On Sunday at Jefferson, she could not take two steps without someone pulling her aside to talk and congratulate her on the school scoring milestone in a gym filled with teams and players as widespread as Northeast Philly to South Jersey.
Cire doesn’t carry a memento of Mom. She doesn’t have to. She looks just like Kim.
What would Kim say to her if she saw Cire break the Abington all-time girls’ scoring record …
“She would probably say ‘Congrats, but I’m still better than you,’” Cire said laughing. “My mom would always say she’s better, because I didn’t get a chance to see her play. I saw my dad play. I could say I’m better than my dad, and I move faster than him.”
Eric nodded, “She’s probably right.”
Cire, who created The Bucket Get (Her) brand in 2021, has a younger sister, Taylor, who’s very good and already plays for Germantown Friends varsity as a seventh grader. Cire also has a college destination—UMass Lowell, where her sister, Dianna Thomas-Palmer, is an assistant coach.
“This game was going to teach us a lesson whether we won or lost, because it told us we can compete with a team like Haverford,” Cire said. “I could have made myself more available, and more vocal in the beginning of the game. I could have tried to reign everyone in when we were falling apart.
“We learned a lot today. I’m looking forward to playing for Dianna. She went to Penn Charter and went to Hofstra. I used to be at all of her games. I learned a lot from her.”
Apparently, a lot of people can learn from Cire.
“I’ve known Cire since she was 11 and I’m really proud of her, and everyone who knows Cire is really proud of her, but I’m more proud of her off the court,” Campbell said. “Cire is such a leader. She does so much to help others and she’s really resilient.
“Losing her mother at such a young age, and with everyone around her, has made her that way. Basketball has been a great release for her.”
Eric can’t help himself. He’s a proud dad. He has a right to be. Cire carries a 3.5 GPA and he sees the way she interacts and impacts others around her. She’ll likely finish with more than 1,600 career points, though she could have had 2,000 if her freshman and sophomore seasons were not stunted by the cancellations during the COVID-19 pandemic, when she scored a combined 629 (332 freshman year/297 sophomore year).
She scored 518 points as a junior and in each season that she’s played, she’s improved, averaging 15.8 points a game as a freshman, to 16.5 her sophomore year, to 19.2 as a junior, to 20.8 this year.
“I’m very proud of Cire and it’s always surprised me how she was able to maintain herself and continue to move forward after her mom had passed,” Eric said. “There were a lot of tears during that time. It goes back to having the solid family and the game of basketball to keep us focused on what we needed to do to keep Cire being the best she could be in the classroom and on the court.
“Cire was strong. She’s always been strong. She was strong throughout her mother’s passing—and she was 10. Her mother would have wanted that.”
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.