WEST CHESTER — The Westtown School hosted U.S. Juniors Nationals Spring East Coast Showcase this weekend. CoBL had staff during a good chunk of Saturday’s pre-live period action, which featured multiple teams from local programs like the Comets, Running Rebels and Belles as well as a few others from Mid-Atlantic Region. Here are some of those who stood out in front of the CoBL staff:
Perk Valley sophomores reunite with Comets
The Comets 16U GUAA team’s uniforms are a blend of gray, black and red but anyone seeing a little orange and brown mixed in wouldn’t be labeled crazy.
Adding Lena Stein to a roster that already included Quinn Boettinger, Bella Bacani and Julia Smith only adds to a noticeable Perkiomen Valley influence when the Comets hit the floor. Having 80 percent of the 2022-23 District 1 6A champions as part of a possible lineup is nice, so is being able to mix those four in with a whole lineup of really good players
Whether they’re on the court at the same time or not, the PV quartet is still where they want to be: together.
“We all spend so much time together that it’s like a family bond between us,” Boettinger said. “I think that helps bring together the rest of the team and it’s very beneficial.”
Perkiomen Valley and Comets 16U teammates, from left, Quinn Boettinger, Lena Stein, Bella Bacani and Julia Smith pose for a picture Saturday. (Photo: Andrew Robinson/CoBL)
Saturday, the four Perk Valley players started the first of the 16U squad’s two games but by the second half, they had started to break up and mix in with some other lineup combinations. Coach Ky McNichol kept that going in the second game, although there were usually at least two of the Vikings in a given unit as the Comets picked up wins over 16U teams from the Philadelphia Belles and Runnin’ Rebels.
“It just helps strengthen the culture,” Smith said. “When you have four players that already know each other’s games so well, it helps everyone else to fit in and helps us build off them.”
PV had a stellar season, going 28-2 and capturing both the PAC and District 1 titles. However, their campaign ended in the second round of the PIAA tournament with an overtime loss to Archbishop Carroll that the Comets quartet is absolutely using as fuel this summer.
“We have a lot more motivation coming off our season,” Bacani said.
Stein didn’t play with the Comets last year, but she couldn’t have asked for a much easier transition with three of her teammates already on the roster. The rest of it, picking up nuances like when Emily Knouse may make a cut or that Molly Rullo is always looking for a hit-ahead pass, is coming together quickly.
“This was my first tournament with the team and it was so easy,” Stein said. “I felt like I’d already been here for a while.”
With the first Girls Under Armour Association stop coming up next weekend at Spooky Nook, all four were eager to see how all the big game experience they acquired this winter will carry over.
“We’re all very close already and it’s only been five or six practices,” Boettinger said. “It’s going to be fun to translate that into the big games in the UA circuit and interesting to see how that goes for us again this year.”
“It definitely helps us play such good competition during the school season,” Smith added.
The Comets coaches have put an unwritten rule in place that the quartet isn’t allowed to all stand next to each other in practice but it’s not necessarily a needed one with how connected and engaged the whole roster is.
With the high school season running from the start of practice in November through March, then going right into AAU all summer, it’s a lot of time spent together. Bacani said the real secret to getting through it is “that we actually all hate each other,” before all four of them started laughing at such a ridiculous notion.
“It’s just like we’re sisters,” Bacani said. “Maybe get on each other’s nerves a little bit, but we all love each other in the end.”
There’s a big summer ahead of them but when they return to Perk Valley for their junior seasons, all four know there will be some serious expectations that come with it.
“I think they build off each other,” Boettinger said. “We work hard at PV but also think about getting ready for the Comets and when we’re here, we’re working just as hard but also getting better for our next season at PV.” — Andrew Robinson
Perretta back on sidelines for Comets
Comets director Linda Genther didn’t have to look far for someone to coach the program’s top 15U team this spring and summer.
She has a coaching legend living next door.
Former Villanova women’s coach Harry Perretta is guiding the group, back on the sidelines as a head coach for the first time since retiring in 2020.
“It feels good,” Perretta said. “It gives you a feel like you’re doing it, but they’re like grandchildren. Now, I do it and I just go home and I don’t have to worry about them later on. When I was coaching, I was thinking about everything 24 hours a day. Now, I think about it two hours per day.”
Former Villanova women's coach Harry Perretta is coaching the Comets 15U team this summer. (Photo: Owen McCue/CoBL)
Perretta coached at Villanova for 42 seasons, racking up 765 career wins, 11 NCAA Tournament appearances, 11 WNIT appearances and 17 Big East titles.
He hasn’t strayed far from the game, working as an analyst for FS1 during the 2021-22 season and acting as a volunteer assistant for the women’s team at his alma mater Lebanon Valley College for the past two years as well as helping out at the high school level at Bonner-Prendergast.
“I was busier than I actually wanted to be, but it was fun,” Perretta said.
He also watched his former program, led by two of his former players in head coach Denise Dillon and star forward Maddy Siegrist, make a run to the Sweet 16.
“I’m the only coach in history who leaves almost the Player of the Year for somebody else, but it was fun watching them grow and do well in the NCAA Tournament. It was a lot of fun.”
Before coaching this Comets team, Perretta had some connections with the group of girls, who are almost all in the Class of 2026, just finishing their first season of high school hoops this past year.
Megan Rullo (Cardinal O’Hara) lives on his block. Alexis Eberz (Archbishop Carroll) is the daughter of Michele (Thornton) Eberz, who played for Perretta at Villanova and is the daughter of one of his best friends. Megan Ngo’s mother Jen Zenszer played at La Salle against Perretta.
“I liked this group of kids, so I told Linda if she needed a coach I would do it,” he said.
His players were certainly excited to get the wisdom from the Big 5 Hall of Fame coach.
“It’s really cool,” Ngo said. “He’s one of the greatest coaches around, so it’s really cool to be able to play for someone who had a lot of accomplishments at Villanova.”
“I think what sticks out is there’s a lot of room to read what the defense gives us,” the point guard added. “It’s just really nice and flexible to be able to read and play on our own kind of.”
The Comets have practiced twice a week for about three weeks now. They began competition with Saturday and Sunday’s event at Westtown and will continue at Spooky Nook for the GUAA Session 1 next weekend during the evaluation period.
“It gives me a fix,” Perretta said. “I don’t ever want to go back to doing it on a full-time basis but I enjoy teaching kids.” — Owen McCue
Spring-Ford’s Azzara gets first D1 offer
Anna Azzara was a little surprised she got it, but don’t get that wrong, she’s glad to have it.
Azzara, the Spring-Ford junior and part of the Comets 17U GUAA team, picked up her first college offer on March 28 from the College of Charleston. A three-year starter for the Rams, Azzara has established herself as one of the top point guards locally and was excited to see it have a payoff.
Anna Azzara, Comets 17U
“It’s a great feeling,” Azzara said. “It’s a great program so to get an offer from there as my first, it’s amazing.
“It was a shock a little bit. I didn’t think about it when I first started talking to them, but getting to meet the coaches and players, I could tell it was a great program.”
This past season, Azzara helped Spring-Ford reach the PAC title game, the District 1 semifinals and the PIAA 6A quarterfinals. A true stat-stuffer, there’s not a lot the 5-foot-8 guard can’t do to help her team win a game from scoring, to rebounding, passing and her always strong defense but Azzara said she is trying to find ways to get her shot off a little quicker just to add that little extra edge.
Azzara’s been hearing from a few other programs as well. She’s looking at this first offer as a motivator more than anything.
It’s a sign college programs are watching, so don’t expect anything less than full effort from Azzara this coming circuit.
“I’ve still gotta compete, still gotta do my thing so not really,” Azzara said. “It’s a great feeling, but I still have to give my all every time. It doesn’t mean I can play less aggressively.”
Azzara, teaming again with Spring-Ford classmate Mac Pettinelli with the Comets, is liking what her team is shaping up to be. There are a couple new additions for this summer but their early returns looked good on Saturday ahead of next weekend’s GUAA opener at Spooky Nook.
“We get along so well on and off the court, so it’s always more fun to play with girls you like and have fun with,” Azzara said. “That’s a big part of basketball, you have to be able to trust each other and feel comfortable to do your thing.” — Andrew Robinson
Westtown’s Kanyamiheto-Watson gets chance to showcase her talent
The minutes were hard to come by for Vianna Kanyamiheto-Watson this past season.
That’s the case on a Westtown squad that won a second straight PAISAA championship, competed at the GEICO National Championships and featured a rotation filled to the rim with Division I talent all the time.
Vianna Kanyamiheto-Watson, Chester County Storm 17U
This summer, playing for the Chester County Storm 17U team, the goal is to showcase what she can do.
“That’s what my coach wanted me to do,” said Kanyamiheto-Watson, who just finished up her second season at Westtown. “He wanted me to play for a team like this, so I can actually develop being a ballhandler, getting in the game and stuff because I don’t get to do it much in the game in the season.
"But in practice I’m competing against D1 talent all the time. Everyone on our team is D1. It’s a great winning experience, but it also helps me — that’s how I learn doing things on the court."
Kanyamiheto-Watson isn’t overstating things when she talks about D1 talent. This past season, the Moose had seniors Grace Sundback (Delaware) and Joniyah Bland-Fitzpatrick (Seton Hall) committed to D1 schools. Juniors Zahra King and Savannah Curry are both high-major recruits and there’s a crop of youngsters that appear to be on that level as well.
“It really helps a lot,” she said. “I can take certain things like Grace’s shooting, I go in the gym all the time with her and shoot. Zahra, she has these freestyle drills that she does, I just go in the gym and do that with them and get workouts in. It’s really good to help me learn those different moves and get creative on the floor.”
Kanyamiheto-Watson may not be quite at that level, but the Harrisburg native certainly looked like a college-level talent on Saturday. The 5-7 Class of 2025 guard was aggressive in taking the ball to the basket and knocked down some shots from the outside, certainly taking advantage of an expanded role.
“I think I’m really good at getting downhill and creating shots for myself,” Kanyamiheto-Watson said. “I’m also a good team player. I can help my team on defense and I’m a really good communicator. — Owen McCue
Lansdale Catholic’s Mobley readying for increased role
Aubrey Mobley may have only played a handful of minutes in Lansdale Catholic’s run to the PIAA 4A state title but that doesn’t mean they weren’t valuable.
Aubrey Mobley, Philly Belles 15U
The Crusaders freshman guard, playing with the Philadelphia Belles 15U team coached by David DeShields this spring and summer, didn’t look out of place when she did get into a game this winter. It just so happened that LC had a really good first five it leaned on a lot, so Mobley made sure to use that as a positive experience as well.
“Even though I was a reserve, the energy on the bench was still there,” Mobley said. “I brought that energy into playing, that’s just how I do it.”
Mobley also recognized the value of just being around good players on a regular basis. Her AAU roster is talented and it will go up against plenty of other talented teams on the EYBL circuit this summer in their age bracket.
At Lansdale Catholic, she had the opportunity to go up against, play with and learn from five very talented players in the starting lineup including one of the best players in the state, Gabby Casey. Mobley knew that was an opportunity that couldn’t be passed up.
“It’s definitely going to benefit me with my aggression,” Mobley said. “Watching Gabby make the contact first is something I need to work on or how Jaida (Helm) always keeps playing no matter what.”
A 5-foot- 6 guard, Mobley always tried to bring a readiness to the floor when her number was called. While that mostly meant closing out some lopsided wins in the state tournament, she was happy to do whatever the team needed of her and she’s hoping to keep getting better and take on an expanded role next season.
Something Mobley is hoping to get better at this summer is using her voice more and taking control on the court. That’s something most young players have to figure out anyway and Mobley said seeing the way her Crusaders teammates worked together on the floor to overcome challenges was important.
“Seeing how supportive everybody was,” Mobley said. “When I did get in, they were cheering me on even if I did mess up. The support was mutual and that’s something I can always do.” — Andrew Robinson
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