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The Spartan Girls Basketball Team Embarks on the Long Road to Hershey

Quinn Schmidt, Entertainment Editor

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Quinn Schmidt
Members of the girls basketball team wore their jerseys to school for a spirit day.

In the world of girls basketball, the Lehigh Valley is dominated by programs that have ruled over the courts for years. Central Catholic, Bethlehem Catholic, Parkland, and Easton are among the biggest names in the Valley. But the leader of the pack comes from Southern Lehigh, where head coach Matthew Cooper has turned Southern Lehigh girls basketball into a virtually unstoppable powerhouse.

The Spartans haven’t lost to a Colonial League team in over two years. Their only five losses in that time were to state-ranked teams including Dunmore, Susquehannock, Berks Catholic, Cardinal O’Hare, and Archbishop Carroll.

Their performance inside District XI has been nearly perfect, with their accolades stretching on and on. They have repeated as Colonial League champions the past two years, and have also won back-to-back District XI gold medals. Last season, they had four players make the Lehigh Valley Live girls basketball all-star list, and all of four are returning for the upcoming season.

Senior Amanda Mobley is one of those returners who will look to continue her success. Last year she was able to provide the spark for the Spartans, relying on her phenomenal ball skills in transition to push her team to Southern Lehigh’s first PIAA quarterfinal appearance. She also averaged 12 points a game and 6 assists on her way to winning the Colonial League MVP award. The Rider commit has been contributing to the varsity level since her freshman year, and now that she has matured, Mobley will look to lead the Spartans in her fourth year as the main offensive weapon in their plentiful arsenal.

“She can move with the ball, she can get up and down the court,” Coach Cooper said, “She is the best point guard I’ve seen in girls basketball in this area.”

Mobley will have a great cast of supporting players behind her, led by juniors Ellie Cassel and Olivia Snyder. Snyder placed on the third team all state team last year, and is on pace to hit the 1,000-point mark with 836 entering the season. She has received over 20 scholarships to Division I programs, with Princeton and Harvard being among the schools to offer a full ride. Snyder averaged 15 points a game last season, and lead the high-octane Spartan offense in scoring. Fellow junior Ellie Cassel has been sensational in the paint, being the chief rebounder on the team since her freshman year.

Cassel plans to get some help in the rebounding department from senior Avery Bennett, who produced a solid season last year despite never being in the headlines. In last year’s District XI title game, Bennett paced the Spartans with ten points, eight of which came during a late fourth-quarter push.

However, all of the pressure may be placed on the final member of the Spartans starting five. Mobley, Snyder, Cassel, and Bennett are the four focal points who have proved themselves as elite varsity players, but the missing puzzle piece is still being searched for to round out the lineup. In the season-opening loss at the hands of Archbishop Carroll, junior Alyssa Rice got the start. But talented underclassmen are waiting in the wings to contribute varsity minutes, whether that be off the bench or in the starting lineup.

Archbishop Carroll was able to edge the Spartans in the battle of state championship contenders, Southern Lehigh ranked 2, and Carroll ranked 9. The tightly contested opener ended with a 48-45 score. But it looks to be smooth sailing for the Spartans for the rest of the regular season as they are favored in just about every Colonial League match-up.  

“It was a tough loss, but I think it really showed us what we need to work on and that we are not as good as what we think,” Snyder said, “I think it will motivate us to work harder in practice despite the bad schedule we have in the league.”

The lack of quality opponents could potentially be the Spartans’ kryptonite, as the next time they step on the court with a state-ranked opponent will be January 20 when they battle Cardinal O’Hara at home. It will be a challenge for the team to continue to play at a championship caliber even though they won’t be truly tested for another month.

It isn’t often that a Southern Lehigh team has realistic hopes of winning a state title. This could finally be the year the girls basketball program puts all the pieces together and brings home some new hardware.

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The Spartan Girls Basketball Team Embarks on the Long Road to Hershey