By Owen McCue (@Owen_McCue)
UNIVERSITY CITY — Gabby Casey has some fond memories of the Palestra.
She and her Lansdale Catholic teammates hoisted a Philadelphia Catholic League title last there last season. Casey didn’t hit the iconic game-winner — that was Olivia Boccella — but she did tally the assist on the play that gave the school its first PCL championship.
Casey entered the Cathedral of College Basketball on Tuesday for the first time since that historic night last February. This time she was in a St. Joe’s uniform.
The next time she steps into the historic building, she'll have a few more moments to recall from her memory bank. Casey scored 16 points in a 77-49 win over host Penn — a sort of coming out party three games into the freshman’s college career.
“For sure the memories were coming back, like the shot from last year, and you know coming back in the building it’s a surreal moment,” Casey said. “And then playing for coach Griffin, it’s really amazing.”
St. Joe's freshman Gabby Casey scored 16 points in Tuesday's win over Penn. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL File)
Casey played nine minutes in the Hawks’ season opening win over Rider. She checked in late in another lopsided win against Yale in her second career game. Tuesday night, she and senior guard Emma Boslet were the first St. Joe’s players to sub in off the bench at the 4:14 mark in the first period. Casey tallied two quick assists.
She stayed in until the end of the period, hitting a short jumper to give her team a 15-14 lead then following with a defensive board and nearly sinking home a half court shot at the buzzer. Her night was just beginning.
Casey was out on the floor again to start the second quarter and didn’t come out until she’d already surpassed career-highs in points (six) and minutes (10) in the first half alone to help St. Joe’s to a 33-25 lead at the break.
The Lansdale Catholic product added five points in the third quarter and five more in the fourth. Her three with 8:27 to play gave the Hawks a 58-39 lead, signaling the rout was on. Casey finished 4-of-5 from the floor and 3-for-3 from 3-point range. Her 16 points were one more than the 15 she put up in the PCL title game last year.
“She won a championship in this building,” St. Joe's head coach Cindy Griffin said. “So we knew that she was ready, and we knew that given the opportunity she was going to be able to come and help us and she took advantage of that. I’m really proud of the way she came out today and gave us that punch off the bench.”
Casey was the Philadelphia Catholic League MVP and PA Gatorade State Player of the Year as a senior at LC, averaging 21.5 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 3.4 apg, 4.1 spg and 1.1 bpg. She went over 40 points twice and became the school’s all-time scoring leader.
Gabby Casey dribbles up the floor for Lansdale Catholic during the 2023 PCL Girls championship game. (Photo: Dan Hilferty/CoBL File)
The Hawks have three preseason all-conference players back who averaged double figures last season in Talya Brugler (16.7 ppg), Mackenzie Smith (13.8 ppg) and Laura Ziegler (11.6 ppg). Davidson transfer Chloe Welch, who had 13 points Tuesday, has added even more scoring punch, currently tied with Ziegler for a team-high 15.0 ppg.
They won’t need Casey to go nuclear to win games this season. It’s some of the other things that will help her continue to earn minutes on the floor.
“Coming off the bench and just trying to make an impact in any way I can either offensively and defensively and just trying to help my team get the win,” Casey said.
She rounded out her statline with three assists, two rebounds and a steal Tuesday, playing in-your-face defense during her minutes on the court.
“That’s what you want. You want to have that punch coming off the bench,” Griffin said. “Just being able to play Gabby in different roles and different positions. She’s one of our best rebounders for her size and for her position. She has a knack to go find the ball, and that’s not taught. That’s innate. She uses that to her advantage and our advantage.”
Casey’s Lansdale Catholic squad went 26-2 last season on its way to league, district and state championships. The Hawks put together a strong season of their own with a 20-11 campaign and WNIT trip.
After watching from not too far away last season, she’s happy to be along for the ride this time — and ready to play her part.
”I’m super excited,” Casey said. “They had a great season last year and then I’m just trying to help them have a better season this year. Everyone was so welcoming, which I think created a good chemistry.”