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District 1 5A: Ambrose sisters shoot Shanahan past Upper Moreland

02/17/2024, 12:45am EST
By Josh Verlin

By Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

It’s safe to say that Faith and Carmel Ambrose have been through a lot together the last few months.

The two sisters and Bishop Shanahan ballplayers have gone through injuries and illnesses, a December car accident and the ups-and-downs of a basketball season that hasn’t played out quite to plan. 

But the season’s not over, and they’re trying to keep playing together for as long as they can. They’ve got at least another week, as both Faith and Carmel stepped up for Shanahan in a 67-56 road win over Upper Moreland in the opening round of the District 1 5A playoffs on Friday night. 

Faith (left) and Carmel Ambrose are enjoying their only season of varsity hoops together. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

The sixth and seventh born in an eight-sibling family, the Ambrose clan is a hoops one, their mom playing hoops at Cabrini, older brother Jordan hooping at both Shanahan and Immaculata. Though they’ve played on summer basketball teams together, and got a few spare minutes last season when Carmen was swinging JV/varsity as a freshman, this is their first and only season of serious hoops together, Faith not aiming to play in college. 

“I’ll yell at her and she’ll get mad at me,” Faith, a senior, admitted, “but overall it’s really nice. We’ve always worked out and trained together so now actually playing together for the first time is really nice.”

“It can be frustrating at times,” Carmel, a sophomore, said with a laugh, “but I love (being) on the court with her. Everyone calls us twins, we’re basically the same, we always work out together [...] everything we do is together — school, sports, whatever.”

It hasn’t been a perfect season for Shanahan (11-11), which had high expectations after making it to the Ches-Mont championship, District 1 semifinals and PIAA 5A quarterfinals last year, winning 24 games and returning three starters from that group, Faith Ambrose included. 

Instead, it’s been a ‘bad luck’ kind of season for the Eagles, who haven’t been quite able to stay healthy. Carmel Ambrose started off the year with a finger injury that kept her out of two season-opening wins, but that wasn’t the worst of it. Faith and Carmel were driving to church on Sunday, Dec. 3 when a drunk driver swerved across the road and hit them head-on. 

Though the airbags deployed, the two were lucky to escape without major injury.

“A lot of chest and back pain because the airbags went off, and both of our knees got really banged up, I guess they hit the dash,” Faith said. “She was better quicker but I guess maybe because I was the driver, I saw it coming and I tensed up.”

The pair were both out the next week, returning as Shanahan lost to Coatesville on Dec. 12, the team’s third consecutive defeat. The next couple months saw the Eagles pull out some quality wins — Unionville, West Chester East, Downingtown East and more — while also losing to those same teams on return games, including its final three games of the regular season to fall short of the Ches-Mont playoffs. 

That gave them 11 days off to prepare for Upper Moreland, and most importantly to rest up and get healthy. And the results Friday were promising in a 5A field that seems wide-open heading into the quarterfinals.

Faith, a 5-foot-5 guard, contributed 16 points, five assists and four rebounds to the win. Carmel, a few inches taller, knocked down four 3-pointers for 12 points, adding four rebounds and three assists. 

“It’s fun to watch, of course it’s fun to watch, you’re always happy when you can see sisters play together and do well,” Shanahan coach Jim Powers said. “I’m enjoying watching, I’m sure they’re having fun with it. It’s been an up-and-down season, not just for them, but for all of us.”

The No. 9 seeded Eagles came out hot and never cooled off, getting two 3-pointers from senior Abbey Wolfe to open the game and one from Faith Ambrose as they opened up leads of 11-2 and 18-5. Upper Moreland’s Lianna Adames (16 points) hit her first four 3-point shots as No. 8 Upper Moreland closed to within 30-22 at halftime, but that was the closest the Golden Bears (15-8) got.

Carmel Ambrose took over in the third quarter, knocking down four 3-pointers as Shanahan scored 25 in the frame, including 6-of-8 from downtown. Faith had a hand in assisting three of those shots, including back-to-back triples to close out the quarter and send the Eagles into the fourth with a 55-38 edge. 

“I think we were executing well, I think we were running our plays well, I think the ball movement was there,” Carmel said, “and we were getting stops on defense and transitioning that into our offense, open looks.”

Lauren Foster (above) scored a game-high 23 points for Shanahan. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Shanahan’s leading scorer was another sophomore, Lauren Foster, who went for 23 points. The 5-10 wing was 3-of-6 from downtown and got fouled on three other 3-point attempts, going a total of 10-of-11 from the foul line as she surpassed 20 points, and not for the first time this season.

Foster was a steady force throughout the game, scoring five points in the first quarter, hitting a trey in the second, adding eight points in the third and seven in the fourth.

Her outing took the scoring load off senior wing forward Sam Blumenthal, who contributed nine points and more importantly 10 rebounds, as well as Wolfe, who finished with nine points and three assists.

“Lauren’s been hitting 3s all year for us, all year,” Powers said. “To watch Lauren do what she did tonight, we’ve seen that before. She’s had a couple 20-point games.”

“It’s definitely really nice because a lot of times, there’s a lot of pressure on the seniors,” Faith Ambrose said, “so when Carmel and Lauren shoot like that, it helps a lot, and those are the games we do the best.”

Shanahan has a tough road game ahead next Tuesday at Gwynedd Mercy (20-4), the AACA champions and No. 1 overall seed in the district. But unlike last year, when Rustin, Shanahan and Villanova all had 19 regular-season wins with Gwynedd and Upper Moreland one win behind, this year’s field is far more even, no one singular favorite in the group. 

Powers and his girls know they have what it takes to win three games and hoist a trophy at West Chester University early in March, but there’s no margin for error anymore.

“I think if we play like we played tonight, we’d have a chance with anybody in the district,” Powers said. “The district isn’t what it was last year, three of us finishing 19-3 and Rustin had the best player on the planet [Drexel freshman Laine McGurk]. This year it could go any way.”

By Quarter
Upper Moreland:    5   |  17  |  16  |  18  ||  56
Bishop Shanahan: 18  |  12  |  25  |  12  ||  67

Upper Moreland: 20-46 FG (8-26 3PT), 8-14 FT
Bishop Shanahan: 16-38 FG (11-23 3PT), 23-27 FT

Upper Moreland: Lianna Adames 16, Holly Gohl 15, Mikel Lancit 12, Lilly Hansen 8, Marie Meyers 3, Makaila Allen 2

Bishop Shanahan: Lauren Foster 23, Faith Ambrose 16, Carmel Ambrose 12, Abbey Wolfe 9, Sam Blumenthal 5, Taylor Bollenbach 2

District 1 5A Girls
First Round
9) Bishop Shanahan 67, 8) Upper Moreland 56
5) Lower Moreland 55, 12) Upper Merion 41
7) Phoenixville 57, 10) Chester 42
6) Villa Maria 69, 11) Sun Valley 41

Quarterfinals (Tues., Feb. 20)
1) Gwynedd Mercy vs. 8) Upper Moreland
4) West Chester Rustin vs. 5) Lower Moreland
2) West Chester East vs. 7) Phoenixville
3) Radnor vs. 6) Villa Maria

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