March 31, 2021

Picking Up the Pace with Uptempo Approach, PHS Girls’ Hoops Enjoyed Good Run This Winter

DEVINE INSPIRATION: Princeton High girls’ basketball player Nora Devine puts up a shot in a game this season. Junior forward Devine’s superb play in the paint this winter helped PHS go 7-3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Deciding to speed things up on the court, the Princeton High girls’ basketball team enjoyed a good run this winter.

Bolstered by an infusion of talented freshmen, PHS employed an uptempo style to end the campaign with a final record of 7-3, a marked improvement on the 5-20 mark the program posted in the 2019-20 season.

“The fact that more players were able to play bodes well for the future as far as that exciting brand of basketball,” said Tiger head coach Dave Kosa. 

“We had our end of season meetings; we went uptempo in practice and a lot of the girls said it was just fun to go to practice.”

PHS had a lot of fun in its season finale, defeating New Egypt 39-29 on March 6.

“New Egypt is always strong, it was a good last game,” said Kosa, who got 11 points and six assists from freshman star Casey Serxner in the win with Sofia Aguayo chipping in eight points and five rebounds and Nora Devine contributing six points, eight rebounds, and five blocked shots.

“It was nice to finish unbeaten at home. We didn’t have that many home games but of the home games that we did have, I think we were 4-0. We played well, we led from beginning to end and we played great defense.”

The squad’s quintet of freshmen Serxner, Leah Rose-Seiden, Delaney Keegan, Riley Devlin, and Gabby Bannett, proved to be a nice addition to the program.

“We knew we had good freshmen coming in, I was excited to see what we had with them,” said Kosa.

“They really exceeded our expectations. This year we had more options to score the ball. It translated into wins and success for us.”

Star point guard Serxner in particular was critical to the success of the Tigers this winter.

“Casey came on the scene to lead us on scoring, assists, and steals; she rarely turned the ball that much either,” said Kosa, noting that Serxner earned All-Colonial Valley Conference honors.

“I was talking to her and she thinks she could have played better. She hates coming off the floor even if she is in foul trouble. It is really great to have a point guard as competitive as she is. She is also very smart too. Her instincts are really good, some of the best I have seen. At half court in our diamond defense, she really adjusts well. She went sideline to sideline. There were times where she was anticipating passes and getting her steals that way. She really helped us.”

Junior forward Devine, who also received All-CVC recognition, was a big help in the paint for PHS, leading the squad in rebounds and blocked shots.

“Nora really started to come on towards the end, I am really excited for her next year to have a full season,” said Kosa.

“In the beginning, when we went to an up tempo, we were splitting time with Nora and Sofia [Aguayo] because being uptempo we need to have a lot of bodies. She really accumulated those numbers in pretty much half a game throughout the entire course of the season.”

The team’s lone senior, Brynne Hennessy, was an inspiration to her teammates throughout the season.

“Brynne led by example, she worked really, really hard,” said Kosa.

“Her forte is shooting the basketball so we are going to miss that. In practice every day, Brynne was grinding it out, doing what she needed to do. Even though she is a shooter, she worked hard on the other parts of her game as well. That is something important for us, we really want to play defense.”

Noting that his players worked through strict COVID-19 protocols, Kosa credited them with displaying a positive attitude on a daily basis.

“They were great; we talked about it in the beginning that we had to play with masks because it was what the district policy had us do,” said Kosa.

“We just made the best of it. Every game that we played we were thankful for playing. Some things were out of our control, like some of the teams that didn’t play us. It is the same thing in life. Some things are out of your control and what are you going to do, you make the best of things.”

In Kosa’s view, the program is poised to do some big things in the future.

“We do have a nice mix coming back, we will have four seniors next year,” said Kosa, whose returning seniors include Katie Chao and Molly Brown in addition to Devine and Aguayo.

“The fact that we added these new freshmen into the mix coming off of a subpar season and trying to mesh everything, playing 10 games while other teams are playing 15, really turned out awesome for us. Now we have 11 out of our top 12 back and we are able to play and do workouts over the summer and get everybody more accustomed to our system. It is really exciting going into next year.”

In order to produce an exciting campaign next winter, the returning players will need to put in the work during the offseason.

“We talked a lot about playing over the summer and playing spring ball, playing AAU,” said Kosa.

“That was the one thing about that group two years that went to the sectional semis, they were committed to playing a lot. They played during the spring and they played during the fall. Those close games that we had that year went our way because of all the chemistry that came from practicing together. That is something that we are trying to draw upon this year going into next year.”