By Grace Jenkins and Francesca Rossini
Competing against Hempfield, their biggest rival, Manheim Township’s girls’ basketball qualified for states after conquering the team. Throughout the main season, Hempfield had beaten the team twice, the score close throughout both games. However, Manheim Township managed to win where it counted. The last time the girls’ basketball team made it to states was two years ago. With the end of the winter season, Manheim Township’s girls’ basketball finished with a record of 17-5, earning second place in the Lancaster-Lebanon League.
“We’ve lost five games this year. Three have been by two points each. One was three points, and the other one…so it’s a matter of nine points for four of those games that we lost,” JV Coach Mulligan said. This is his fourth season coaching at Manheim Township, and his twenty-fourth season coaching basketball in total. He started coaching at Conestoga Valley after playing basketball throughout both high school and college.
Despite the losses the team faced, much of the success is attributed to Manheim Township’s defense and determination. A notable game for Township was when they played against Twin Valley in the Holiday Tournament, a team with District One prospect, Peyton McDaniel. At the end of the first half, the score was 14-24 with Manheim Township losing by 10. However, Manheim Township turned it around, beating the favored team by two points.
“And she [Peyton McDaniel] was probably the toughest player we’ve seen this year, but we beat them [Twin Valley] on our home court. That kind of woke us up that yes, we can play pretty much anybody. We had defeated Reading earlier in the season, with the fact that we just beat a good — a very good — Red Lion team on our home court this past week who was seated higher than us in districts,” Mulligan said.
The team is composed of nineteen girls, evenly mixed among the classes with both sophomores and freshmen experiencing ample playing opportunities on varsity. Sophomore starters, Gianna Smith and Missy Welch, are key players.
Captains and seniors Katie Bushong and Ali Quinn play a vital role on the team. Their journeys began in third grade when they both played on the same team. Now, they are finishing their senior years together, just how they started: together. As a point guard, Ali Quinn controls the pace of the game by passing the ball and dribbling it up the court; she is also known for her layups and strong defense. Katie Bushong, a four-year starter, can be seen taking numerous free-throws, leading the team in the number of points; throughout the season, Bushong accumulated over a thousand points.
“I think we have been so successful this year because of how well we work together as a team and lift each other up. You can tell every single girl has [a] heart for the sport, and we all just elevate each other’s game,” Bushong said, commenting on the deeply rooted bond between the teammates. “I think that we have a really talked [about] group of girls this year with a lot of potential. Everyone gets along with each other, and we don’t have any drama on the team.”
During the postseason, practices consist of viewing tapes of the competition and scrimmages. Members from JV will still attend practices, despite the fact that their season has ended. They scrimmage against varsity members, trying out new plays in order to strengthen the team’s offensive and defensive skills. The coaches have access to footage of games from other teams through a system called Hudl. Before, if coaches wanted to examine how their competition played, they’d have to physically travel to the games and tape the matches themselves. Now, through Hudl, coaches can exchange tapes with each other that will get uploaded to the server.
The attendance of spectators is visibly lacking in comparison to the crowds seen at boys’ basketball. Due to this, the girls’ basketball team created several cheers, stomping and clapping to hype up their teammates on the court. Alijiah Bonano, 2019 graduate, is credited for having transformed the team spirit by creating the cheers.
“It’s kind of sad the only reason we have people come is because we all ask our friends to come. But I’m telling you, the boys that play that game don’t know half the people in their stands. And yet, half the people leave at halftime because they aren’t winning, you know what I mean? If they want to see a winning team, they should come to our games,” sophomore Missy Welch said.
Despite the lack of student body support in attendance at matches, the team managed to qualify for states. After losing the first round to North Allegheny, the season ended.