On Wednesday night, the Prep Charter (Penn.) High girls basketball team's season came to an end in the Pennsylvania Class AAA semifinals. While the Huskies' season-ending loss to Archbishop Wood (Penn.) High was disappointing, the fact that Penn Charter even made it past the quarterfinals was nearly miraculous, given the debacle that highlighted their journey to the team's penultimate game.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Prep Charter's long Saturday began before noon, despite a 2:30 tip-off for the Huskies' quarterfinal matchup against Oley Valley (Penn.) High. Amazingly, the team needed all that time before the game … and more, thanks to the chronic unreliability of the Philadelphia public school transportation system.
Quite simply, the Huskies' bus just never showed up. That left a team of some 12 players and two coaches to cram into two Philadelphia School District vans which the team somehow commandeered. Those buses then hit heavy traffic on the Schuylkill Expressway en route to Norristown (Penn.) High, where the quarterfinal was staged.
The drive from Prep Charter to Norristown typically takes less than 45 minutes in clear traffic, but it took the Penn Charter vans much, much longer, with the team pulling into the Norristown parking lot at 2:24, just six minutes before the game was scheduled to tip off.
"I have to tip my hat to Oley Valley," Prep Charter coach Paul Rieser told the Inquirer. "They were great about the situation."
In retrospect, perhaps Oley Valley wishes it hadn't been so hospitable. After delaying the tip off beyond the extended finish to the preceding boys tournament game at the site, Prep Charter started slowly, eventually clawing its way back to a 25-21 deficit at halftime. Then, after the break, the team found its legs, bursting to a dominant 17-5 third quarter run that paced an eventual 63-40 victory.
For his part, Rieser credited his team with adapting to challenging circumstances to come away with a huge tournament victory.
"We had some dead legs from sitting on the bus," Rieser told the Inquirer. "They say that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. We finally got into our rhythm."
Unfortunately for the Huskies, that was the last rhythm the team would hit in its season, with Archbishop Wood dominating its Philly-area rival in Wednesday's 41-27 rout at St. Joseph's University. While that ending might have been bittersweet, the team will certainly be able to look back and smile on a strange ride to one of the school's most memorable quarterfinals.