Sky’s the limit

Southampton’s Samantha White is leading the St. Basil basketball team to victory

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Nothing but net: Southampton native Samantha White, an alum of Our Lady of Good Counsel, has helped the St. Basil Academy girls varsity basketball team score an undefeated 26–0 record this season. St Basil was slated to compete in the state playoffs as the Times went to press. Samantha Bambino / Times Photo

At 2:55 p.m. on a recent Tuesday afternoon, the long-awaited dismissal bell rang through the hallways of St. Basil Academy, located in Jenkintown. A stretching trail of cars and school buses lined the perimeter of the parking lot, poised to transport students home.

Well, most of them anyway.

For a group of girls inside the gymnasium, the afternoon was only getting started. Freshly changed from their uniforms into sneakers, shorts and jerseys, members of the varsity basketball team, along with head coach Terry Mancini, were ready for their almost daily two hours of practice. With a brag-worthy record of 26–0, and the state playoffs mere days away, relaxation would have to wait.

Among the towering, talented upperclassmen trickling onto the court was 15-year-old Southampton native Samantha White, a freshman player who is making an early name for herself in the world of high school sports.

Before practice was fully underway, the Times sat down with White to learn about her early passion for the game, thoughts on becoming such an instrumental part of the St. Basil team, and what potentially lies ahead in her future basketball career.

Growing up, White admitted her athletic interests were slightly altered from what they are today.

“When I was little, I didn’t really like basketball that much. Softball and soccer were my main sports,” she reflected. “But then as I got older, I started playing CYO and AAU basketball, and my dad always had me outside playing and dribbling. I really began to have a love for the game.”

White joined the team at her elementary school, Our Lady of Good Counsel, where she was able to hone her skills at a rapid pace. She knew that when she got to high school, a basketball needed to remain in her hand. Still, never in her wildest dreams did White think her abilities were strong enough for the varsity team rather than junior varsity.

“It was really scary at first because when I came here, I didn’t know anyone,” she said. “But the girls and the coaches welcomed me, and they made me feel part of the team.”

Despite missing a handful of games earlier in the season due to an ankle injury, White has been a key factor in helping the team become fifth in the state. Along with having the best 3 point field goal percentage on the team, White averages more than 14 minutes per game. This is the sixth highest on the team behind the five starters.

“She’s been a real pleasant surprise as a freshman to be a big part of a team that’s 26–0. She’s one of the first subs off the bench, and she’s shown up big for us in many of our big games,” said Mancini. “Very skilled. Sky’s the limit for her. She has a lot of potential. When she fills out, she’s going to be a real good basketball player.”

For White, it’s a thrill to see almost a lifetime of effort come to fruition.

“It feels really good because I worked hard for this,” she said. “Every day at practice, my teammates, they push me and we push each other really hard to all get better.”

At the time of this interview, the state playoffs were three days away, kicking off on Friday, March 8. According to White, she and the other girls have one goal in mind this season — to get St. Basil to the state championship in Hershey for the first time since 2005. The team must play and win all five games to win the championship.

“It’s really cool. I’ve never been in a situation like this, so it’s a little scary but I’m excited about it,” she said. “We’ve been working really hard the past two weeks because we haven’t had a game lately. So we’re focused and concentrated.”

Eventually, White told the Times she has ambitions to play basketball at the college level. But she doesn’t have to worry about that quite yet. For now, she’s dedicating her attention to the playoffs, in addition to preparing the next generation of White athletes. This fall, she proudly announced that her younger sister hopes to join the St. Basil team as a freshman.

“Me and her work out all the time during the summer,” White said. “We always find a court down the shore. We’re always playing and trying to get each other better, so I’m excited for her to come.” ••

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com