The connection between the Misericordia University women’s basketball team and the AAU programs out of Riverfront Sports in Scranton grew even stronger Friday.
Rachel McDonald became the second NEPA Elite player from the high school class of 2021 to commit to play for the Cougars.
The Abington Heights senior joins Valley View’s Skylar Bianchi, who committed at the beginning of the school year.
“When I visited there, I just loved the campus,” said McDonald, who was originally interested in the school’s physical therapy program, but is also considering other potential majors. “I loved everything about it.”
The existing connection also helped.
Coach Jason Rhine’s team includes sisters Erica and Morgan Haefele from Mid Valley and Gianna Delfino from Dunmore. All three played on JB Hoops teams out of Riverfront and Delfino’s sister Elisa was a teammate of McDonald on the NEPA Elite Lewis 17U team.
“When I visited, the girls on the team all came right up to me before practice,” McDonald said. “Coach Rhine has been nothing but good to me. He’s been around for two years watching my games. He’s been really good throughout the process and I’d love to play for him.
“Just the team culture, too. I knew a few girls on the team from the AAU program and with them being from around here, too. It’s good to know people going into it.”
That includes Bianchi, who McDonald discussed college decisions with when they often road together to AAU tournaments.
McDonald wound up choosing Misericordia, which has averaged 20 wins in Rhine’s four seasons. She also visited and considered other National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III programs at Fredonia (N.Y.), Juniata, Keystone, Lebanon Valley, Lycoming and Marywood.
With the NEPA Elite Lewis team this summer and fall, McDonald was the team leader in 3-pointers, ranked second in total points, third in scoring average and fourth in assists.
Known for her shooting prowess – she has more than 100 career 3-pointers at Abington Heights where she was a second-team Lackawanna League Division 1 all-star choice by NEPABasketball.com last season – McDonald has worked on improving her ability to drive to the basket in order to offset the way teams defend her.
Preparing to try to play in college at just 5-foot-4, McDonald has also worked through the years on improving her defensive play.
“You just have to be physical and not let anybody push you around,” McDonald said.
McDonald is the sixth member of the NEPA Elite program from the current senior class to make a college commitment.
Scranton Prep’s Cecelia Collins (Bucknell) and Rachael Rose (University of South Carolina Upstate) signed Letters of Intent for NCAA Division I scholarships.
Old Forge’s Olivia Ciullo (Susquehanna) and Riverside’s Kayla Rose (Dickinson) join McDonald and Bianchi in committing to Division III programs.
In addition, juniors Kylie Lavelle from Riverside and Moriah Murray from Dunmore have already given their verbal commitments to Division I scholarships from Drexel University.