Star power won’t be one of Cardinal Spellman’s strength like it has been in recent years. The lack of a surefire Division-I player like Maria Backman (Michigan), Onia Webb (Northeastern) or Troi Melton (Boston University) won’t keep the Pilots from again being one of the city’s best girls’ basketball teams.
Spellman is balanced, deep and led by the versatile duo of Jade Vega and Niajah Morgan. Both are dynamic offensive players and are committed to playing defense. Opponents can no longer defend the Pilots by trying to shut down their star.
“I think there is going to be confusion because they are not sure who to focus on,” Spellman coach Jane Morris said. “I think that puts us at an advantage.”
Her team showed off its balance in a 59–45 road victory over borough rival and host Harry Truman on Nov. 19. Vega tallied 18 points and eight rebounds, senior forward Kameron Stone had 14 points and 12 boards and Morgan chipped in 14 points. Lisa Fields paced Truman with 14 points, Aneisha Lyon has 12 and Dyonna Davis 10. Morris liked what she saw from her team, with it being so early in the season and in the atmosphere of a packed Truman gym.
“They handled it well,” she said. “I was really happy with what they did early on. Hopefully it continues.”
Morris can go 10 players deep and started five seniors against Truman even after losing Backman, Teresa Tartarone and Danelle Gibson to graduation.
Kameron will be Spellman’s best inside threat, but will have plenty of help. Senior Ashley Arias and Bailaou Diallou will both contribute in the paint. JaNaya Tate, a senior guard, is versatile on the wing and classmate Sade Rogers is a superb shooter. Sophomore Nicole Hill also impressed against Truman. Spellman wants to use its depth and athleticism to its advantage as much as possible.
“If we play defense together we are going to be able to create steals,” Vega said. “Which can lead to fast break points. We can push the ball.”
This group feels it missed an opportunity after Vega broke her arm to win a CHSAA Class A state title last season and head to the state Federation tournament in Albany. It is motivating this group to try to make it happen this year, especially with an older roster.
“We wanted it so bad, but when I broke my arm it kind of hurt,” Vega said. “We feel it gives us more fire to want to win and make it to states.”