Northeast: High School Duplicates Classroom Success on the Court

Brianna O'Donnell takes a timeout to lecture her players during their first round playoff game.
Brianna O'Donnell takes a timeout to lecture her players during their first round playoff game.
Head coach Brianna O’Donnell takes a timeout to lecture her players during its first-round playoff game.

Franklin Towne Charter High School has become a staple of educational growth in Northeast Philadelphia. The school, founded in 2000, stands as a viable option for families seeking alternatives to Philadelphia public schools as well as private institutions. Towne has reached a number of educational milestones including a 2009 Excellence in Education Award from The National Center for Urban School Transformation.

The achievements in the classroom have given the high school a strong standing in the local community. However, it is the achievements outside the classroom that are starting to garner a new type of attention for Towne.

On Friday, the Franklin Towne Charter girls’ basketball team squared off against Dobbins Technical High School in the first round of the Philadelphia Public League Playoffs. Although the Towne girls’ team currently has the No. 1 seed in its division, this game marked its second playoff game in team history. Last season the team lost its only other playoff game after gaining the final spot in its division. The team’s rise to the top of the division is only one of a recent string of athletic accomplishments that Towne has enjoyed.

A number of those achievements are tied to the head coach of the girls’ basketball team, Brianna O’Donnell. The ninth-year coach of the girls’ team also serves as the head coach of the girls’ soccer team, a unit that has won the last two Philadelphia Public League Soccer Championships.

O’Donnell, who has made a name for herself among city high school coaches, led her team against Dobbins in front of a raucous home crowd. Towne controlled the game, never relinquishing the lead. The leading scorer for Towne was junior forward Valentina Scalici, who tallied 14 points. Right behind Scalici was sophomore guard Alexis O’Neill, who contributed 12 points.

Franklin Towne defeated Dobbins 43-25 and will face Friere Charter School in the second round.
Franklin Towne Charter defeated Dobbins 43-25 and will face Friere Charter School in the second round.

The pair led Towne to the school’s first-ever girls’ basketball playoff victory as it toppled Dobbins, 43-25. Both players stepped up to the plate as Towne was missing its leading scorer on the season, junior guard Stefanie Ulmer, who averages 18.8 points per game, from the flu. O’Donnell said her players played with their missing teammate on their minds, wanting to make sure she would get to play in the second round.

The victory for Towne symbolized a correlation between success in the classroom and the field of competition. O’Donnell said she believes there is a connection between the two.

“I think the student athlete is one thing that really makes a high school thrive,” O’Donnell said. “Based on my experience in the classroom, year after year some of my best students are my student athletes.”

O’Donnell said she feels the success experienced in sport translates to other parts of a student’s life as the athletes learn skills such as time management, commitment and teamwork.

Franklin Towne has now achieved a sustained balance between academics and athletics. If the trend continues, Towne could seek to become the educational destination of choice in Northeast Philadelphia.

The Towne girls will square off against Friere Charter School in a home game for the second round Wednesday, Feb. 13 .

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