Before taking her game to the University of Hartford, Jabria Ingram is looking to lead the Saints to another PIAA crown
By Bil Gelman
Jabria Ingram knows she has a promising future on the basketball court, as she has signed a National Letter of Intent to play Division I basketball at the University of Hartford in Connecticut. But that’s the future. The present is the Ss. Neumann-Goretti High School girls basketball team. More specifically, the senior is focused on keeping the championship streak of three straight Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association AAA crowns intact. Ingram also had her sights set on closing out her high school career with another Catholic League crown, but Cardinal O’Hara had their eyes on the same prize on Monday night at the Palestra. In the end, the Lions were the ones doing the celebrating as they defeated the Saints, 54–39.
Neumann-Goretti head coach Andrea Peterson knew defeating O’Hara for the second time this season was going to be a challenge.
“O’Hara is a good team who does all of the little things,” she said heading into the contest. “Defense is going to be key.”
Ingram finished the game with nine points.
Being a senior and a team leader, Ingram entered the playoffs with a ready-to-go mentality, as there was no room for error.
“The pressure is on. It’s one and done,” she said. “This is my last chance. My last go around.”
Peterson relies heavily on her point guard, not just for her scoring, but the leadership she displays on the court.
“She is the leader, the rock, my coach on the floor,” Peterson, who has coached Ingram for four seasons, said. “She sees things on the floor. She will tell me ‘I see a mismatch.’ Her basketball IQ is very high.”
Ingram plays a big role in the scoring column, too, as she is averaging close to 20 points per game. In last Tuesday night’s 48–47 victory over Archbishop Carroll, Ingram did her part to the tune of 22 points, five assists and two steals. Junior teammate Tatiana Jones also delivered in the clutch, hitting the game-winning three with 2.9 seconds remaining in regulation. Peterson, in the process, picked up her 100th career victory.
Neumann-Goretti, who finished the regular season with a 12–0 record, opened the playoffs on Feb. 15 with a 71–42 quarter final victory over West Catholic.
“We did a good job of playing together,” Ingram, the Catholic MVP and first-team selection, said.
While the Upper Darby resident displays a consistent scoring touch, the Neumann-Goretti success story is about family, a family that trusts each other on and off the court. The Saints could easily walk around with a we-are-the-champions strut, but the results may not work out in their favor.
“We take it one game at a time, never look ahead,” Peterson said.
Besides the work ethic paying dividends in the win column, many of the student-athletes go on to enjoy success on the next level, with University of Texas, Rutgers University, James Madison University, University of Central Florida and University of Virginia being a handful of the schools with former Neumann-Goretti girls basketball standouts on their respective rosters. Many of them served as mentors to Ingram.
“I learned a lot from them,” she said. “A lot of top athletes came through here. It made me hungry and determined.”
Ingram will soon be joining them on the Division-I scene. She caught the attention of the Hartford staff last spring while playing in an Amateur Athletic Union tournament with her Books and Basketball squad. The school reached out to her, and has remained in contact throughout the high school season. The mid-size campus is a plus. In terms of facing the tougher competition, Ingram is up for the challenge.
“I think I will fit in well,” Ingram said. “We all play the same style of basketball.”
Hartford women’s basketball coach Kim McNeill foresees Ingram fitting right in with the current group of returning players.
“Jabria is a prolific scorer and playmaker who is expected to make an immediate impact at Hartford,” McNeill said in a story posted on the University of Hartford athletic website. “A very unselfish player, she is a student of the game and a fierce competitor who wants to win both on and off the court. Over the last three years, Jabria has only known one way, and that’s championships. That’s the mentality I want for my team and players.”
Speaking of championships, the focus now shifts to the PIAA tournament, which gets underway next week.