Mike Owens' 2017-18 girls' basketball awards: Team of the year, player of the year, and more

Jenkintown players run the trophy over to the fans after the Jenkintown vs Juniata Valley HS Girls Class A PIAA State Championship basketball game at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pa. on March 27, 2018. Jenkintown won in OT 51-46. ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer

Team of the Year

Led by senior twins Jennifer and Ashley Kremp and junior twins Mia and Natalie Kolb, the Jenkintown girls’ basketball team earned a huge degree of respect this season by winning the program’s first state championship.

The Drakes capped off a magical season by stunning District 6’s Juniata Valley, 51-46, in overtime of the PIAA Class A final at Hershey’s Giant Center. Jennifer Kremp sparked the come-from-behind triumph with 24 points, including four three-pointers, and six rebounds.

Camera icon LOU RABITO / Staff
Jenkintown senior tricaptains (from left) Jennifer Kremp, Amelia Mulvaney and Ashley Kremp accept the championship trophy from Morrisville coach Tanya Argueta (left) after the Drakes won the Bicentennial Athletic League title with a 45-20 victory over The Christian Academy.

The two pairs of sisters — all starters on both the field hockey and basketball teams — formed a special bond that helped propel them to a state crown. Senior Amelia Mulvaney rounded out the starting lineup for the Drakes, who averaged 50 points per game in the state tournament.

Coach Jim Romano’s squad went 31-1, won the Bicentennial Athletic League title, earned the District 1 crown, and finished with 17 consecutive victories. The team’s only loss this season was a setback against Class 6A state semifinalist Souderton on Jan. 24.

Romano, who joined the 600-win club this season, said Jenkintown, a small school located in a tiny borough of Eastern Montgomery County, is considered by many as the “Rodney Dangerfield” of girls’ basketball.

“All these years we understood the situation and where we stood,” Romano said following the state title game. “Now, we’ve put our name in the record books.”

The Drakes will be honored with a parade and ceremony on April 27.

For its overall dominance, Jenkintown is the Inquirer’s Southeastern Pennsylvania girls’ basketball team of the year.

Player of the year

Plymouth Whitemarsh senior Taylor O’Brien averaged 22.8 points per game over the course of a 23-6 season, scoring more than 20 points 20 times. The Bucknell recruit poured in 36 points against Upper Dublin on Jan. 6. She finishes her career as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 2,040 points.

Camera icon LOU RABITO / Staff
Plymouth Whitemarsh’s Taylor O’Brien

The Colonials went 14-0 in the Suburban One League American Conference during the regular season but finished sixth in the District 1 Class 6A playoffs. They lost to Neshaminy in the second round of states.

Coach of the year

In his sixth season at the helm, Morgan Funsten guided Upper Dublin to a 27-5 record and the program’s first state crown.

The Cardinals, who earned the ninth seed from District 1, capped an improbable playoff run with a 41-39 victory over fellow Suburban One League member Central Bucks South in the PIAA Class 6A championship game. Freshman Jess Polin scored a season-high 17 points, including two clutch free throws with 33 seconds remaining in the contest.

Camera icon CLEM MURRAY
Upper Dublin coach Morgan Funsten

Upper Dublin started the state tournament with a thrilling 42-35 double-overtime win over Cardinal O’Hara. Polin made a key three-pointer late in the second overtime. The Cardinals also beat Garnet Valley, Abington, and Souderton in the state tourney.

“I’m just so proud of these girls,” Funsten said after the state final. “With the run we went on in the playoffs, I thought we deserved this to happen.”

The UD Broadcasting Twitter account put together the following video.

Game of the year

In a three-overtime thriller, Souderton outlasted Central Bucks South, 52-48, in the District 1 Class 6A championship game at Temple University. Kate Connolly, who will be playing at Drexel next season, scored a team-high 18 points to give the Indians their first district crown.

Camera icon LOU RABITO / Staff
Central Bucks South guard Haley Meinel dribbles against Souderton guard Megan Walbrandt during the District 1 Class 6A championship game.

It was the fourth meeting of the season between the Suburban One League Continental foes, with Souderton winning three.


Rookie of the year I

Polin, a 5-9 freshman point guard, came up huge down the stretch for Upper Dublin. In addition to her other heroics, Polin made a free throw with 2.6 seconds remaining to give the Cardinals a 26-25 win over Souderton in the state semifinals.

Camera icon TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Upper Dublin’s Jess Polin (left) leaps during acelebration after their 26-25 victory over Souderton in the girls state class 6A semifinal.

Rookie of the year II

West Catholic freshman Destiney McPhaul was a key member of a young Lady Burrs (16-13) team that won the District 12 Class 2A title. They beat Steelton-Highspire, Southern Columbia, Mahanoy Area, and Penn Manor before falling to Bellwood Antis in the state final.