Never before in the 102-year history of the Philadelphia Catholic League Basketball has a Black female basketball coach won a Philadelphia Catholic League title, four PIAA District titles, and a PIAA state title in league history. But now, you can write Beulah Osueke’s name in the history book. She’s a high school basketball coach who has done all of that.
And now, the West Catholic girls basketball coach has become the first-ever African American female coach to lead her high school basketball team to a PIAA 3A state title in West Catholic High school history.
Eight years ago, Beulah Osueke took over the West Catholic coaching job after she attended graduate school at LaSalle University. She started next to nothing. She had a team of girls who wanted to play basketball but didn’t have the skills to succeed on the court. She built the team with a hope and a dream.
In Coach Osueke’s first season, her team went 0-18. In her early years, she saw more losses than wins. But the team started getting better with much better players. She overcame the death of her basketball star guard Akyra Murray who died in the Orlando Pulse nightclub mass shooting in 2016. The death sparked a fire in school’s basketball program and the team has been winning games ever since. By picking up better players, Coach Osueke was able to guide the West Catholic High girls basketball program to a level the team has never been before.
However despite all her great accomplishments, Coach Osueke has now decided to walk away from the game. She made the shocking announcement after leading the West Catholic Lady Burrs to a 2021 PIAA 3A state title. She made her decision based on wanting to do more things as a championship basketball coach.
“At this time in my coaching career, I want to reach out to other high school basketball coaches and build a coalition with them,” said Coach Osueke. “I want to do this around the city and make basketball a better sport on all levels.”
Today, there’s no word if Beulah Osueke will ever return to be a basketball coach in the Philadelphia Catholic League. Right now, all she wants to do is begin her retirement and enjoy all the great memories.
Two weeks ago, (on March 25th), the West Catholic Lady Burrs defeated the Mohawk Lady Warriors, 67-56, to win the 2021 PIAA Girls’ Basketball 3A state title at the Giant Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The game was shown on (PCN TV), the Pennsylvaina Cable Network.
West Catholic senior guard Ciani Montgomery scored a career-high 34 points to help lead the Lady Burrs to a state championship victory. Meantime, senior point guard Destiney McPhaul played a good basketball game. The Virginia Tech recruit scored 16 points and ripped down 11 rebounds for the Lady Burrs. McPhaul ended her fabulous high school basketball career with a championship state title.
The Lady Burrs also reached the state finals in 2018 but were beaten by Bellwood-Antis, 45-42. So this time around, the West Catholic team was more determined to win the state championship than ever before.
Against the Mohawk Lady Warriors, West Catholic had gotten off to a bad start. They had trailed 6-0 at the beginning of the first quarter. McPhaul started off slow.The senior guard made only six of her 17 shots in the game. However, Ciani Montgomery, another senior guard, went 14 for 18 from the floor. She hit two treys to lead West Catholic’s offense attack. Montgomery hit a three-pointer, from the right corner, beyond the arc to get the Lady Burrs on the scoreboard. Then West Catholic made a 13-6 run to lead the game,16-12, at the end of the first quarter. Then WestCatholic sophomore Amina Reid hit a three-pointer which gave the Lady Burrs a 19-13 lead to start off the second quarter. West Catholic extended their lead to 21-13 before the Mohawk Lady Warriors made a run to erase an eight-point deficit. The game was tied at 23-23 with about four minutes left in the first half.
This became a tight basketball game for both teams. Both teams were playing tough defense. But then Montgomery makes two baskets in a row and Eisha Walker added another one. That gave West Catholic a 29-26 lead at halftime.
In the third quarter, West Catholic switched up their defense. The Lady Burrs defended the middle and made it harder for the Mohawk Lady Warriors to score points inside the paint. They stretched their defense and forced Mohawk to shoot three-pointers from outside the arc. Coach Osueke also ran a box-in-one defense to stop the Mohawks’ inside game. The West Catholic coach demanded her players to play tougher defense. She was often seen pounding up and down her team bench.
In the second half, the game got much harder for the Mohawk Lady Warriors. They shot 7 for 20 from beyond the arc. However, in the third quarter, Mohawk managed to cut West Catholic’s lead to 39-35. But then West Catholic went on a 7-2 run. That’s when the Lady Burrs’ extended their lead to 46-37. At this point, Montgomery had scored 24 points. Before the third quarter ended, the Mohawk Lady Warriors had cut down the lead with a three pointer. West Catholic was clinging to a 46-40 lead.
In the fourth quarter, West Catholic continued to play tough defense. The Lady Burrs didn’t allow the Mohawk Lady Warriors to score inside the paint. Every time Mohawk tried to penetrate inside the paint, a West Catholic defender would be there to attempt to block the shot.
With 2:06 left in the game, the Lady Burrs were leading the game, 60-51. Destiney McPhaul began to lead the team’s offense. She scored 12 points in the second half and helped West Catholic extend their lead. Despite Mohawk’s effort to stage a comeback, the Lady Warriors still came up short.
Ciani Montgomery was able to seal the deal after she knocked down two foul shots with 53 seconds left in the game.
When the final buzzer sounded, the West Catholic players exploded on the basketball court. They staged a big celebration. Coach Osueke got mobbed by her players. She got caught up in the team celebration. She had tears of joy in her eyes. This was a state championship she always wanted to win.
“When I first became a head coach at West Catholic High, that was my goal to win a basketball state championship,” said Coach Osueke. I wanted the state championship. That seemed more possible for me to achieve. It’s funny, I never thought I would win the Philadelphia Catholic League basketball title. I thought that would be much harder for me to do.”
The West Catholic players never stopped celebrating. When the team arrived back at the school, a big crowd greeted them in the school parking lot. The crowd welcomed home the 2021 PIAA 3A State Champions. Ciani Montgomery was named the game’s Most Valuable Player. After graduation, Montgomery will attend Lincoln University. The West Catholic girls ended their basketball season on a great note.