By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – There is one fact that really points out what makes this year’s Philadelphia University women’s basketball special.
Despite a 16-5 record, and a perfect 14-0 mark in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference, the Division II Lady Rams have not had anyone selected as the conference’s player of the week this season. That’s not so much a slight as a it is a reflection of the reality that it’s really, really hard to pick just one player that makes this team go.
“I think we have eight starters,” Philadelphia University head coach Tom Shirley tells KYW Newsradio. “And I think the mixing and matching that we can do has really been a key factor for us. You can take somebody out and put another starter in, you can go a little smaller, you can go a little bigger, you can go a little quicker. And I think the ability to have all those pieces has really helped us this year, tremendously.”
The Lady Rams have eight players that average between 18 and 30 minutes a game. All eight average at least 6.9 points, seven have led the team in scoring in a game at least once this season and the leading scorer in the group comes off the bench.
That leading scorer is junior guard Najah Jacobs. The Central High School product pours in 15.4 points a game and mixes a lightning quick first step with an ability to make half her three-point shots (18-36).
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Jacobs says of the season so far. “Just winning games, it’s incredible. I think that we all just want it really bad, so we’re having a lot of fun while we’re doing it.”
Philly U has been a perennial contender during Shirley’s 25 seasons as head coach, but he admits this group is special.
“Even in the summer I thought we’d be pretty good,” Shirley says. “But I think the moment for us, in this program, is when the Holy Family game comes, because they are the queen of the hill, and I think when we beat them here (83-66 on January 28th), and played pretty well, we knew that the hard work we were putting in was paying off.”
While it has literally been a different hero every night for this team, Shirley spotlights a couple of players who have really helped them take things to another level this season.
“From a stability standpoint, no question, (senior point guard) Megan Finn,” Shirley says. “She’s the glue, she calms it down. She knows what everybody’s suppose to do and she’s really the leader of the band, if you will. The other thing is, the emergence of (sophomore forward) Mary Newell. She’s just such a physical presence inside, and having the playing the fewest minutes of the people that are playing this year, I think she’s really emerged as a dominant inside force.”
Finn, who hails from Collegeville, scores 7.2 points a game and leads the team with 76 assists. Newell, a Lansdale native, averages 8 points and 6.9 rebounds in just under 18 minutes a contest.
Five games left in the regular season and Jacobs thinks the sky is the limit for her squad.
“I think we’re capable of big things,” Jacobs says. “We have goals of winning the CACC, and I think we can do it.”
The Lady Rams will return to the court on Saturday when they host Nyack.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.