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Donna Kennedy helped to set trend for girls basketball

Donna Kennedy is the all-time girls’ basketball scorer and arguably the greatest athlete in Catasauqua High School history, but she saw herself as a part in the renaissance of Lehigh Valley girls’ basketball history.

A renowned athlete for the better part of the last 40 years, Kennedy has kept her career in the proper perspective and doesn’t forlorn nor mince her words.

“I look as us players then as trendsetters,” said Kennedy, who is a 1979 Roughies’ graduate. “There were a lot of great players in the Valley – Tina Fritzinger, Ellen Malone, Jeannie Booros.

“We all helped put girls’ basketball on the map. It was the best basketball time in the Lehigh Valley and probably still is to date.”

Kennedy finished her career at Catty with 1,936 career points and helped lead the Roughies to the Colonial League’s first two titles in 1976 and 1977. She was a three-time league and District 11 First Team selection, and holds the school’s record for most points in a game (47). In addition to basketball, she was a three-time Colonial League All-Star in field hockey and softball.

She went on to star at Temple University, where she was a standout point guard, as she holds the school’s all-time assist mark (507) as well as being the third all-time leading scorer (1,156). Kennedy is a member of the Catasauqua, Lehigh Valley, Temple and Big 5 halls of fame.

From there, Kennedy returned to the Lehigh Valley and embarked on a successful high school coaching career.

Despite her list of accolades and accomplishments, Kennedy remembers her career in another way.

“I always will remember the friendships with my teammates,” she stated. “When I look back at it, that really meant something. It was a matter of all of us getting prepared to play together. We respected each other and we were good friends.

“Scoring my 1,000th point is something I won’t forget and we also were the first team to go to a state tournament.”

Kennedy noted that it was all about beginning and ending with the basics.

“Our teams were fundamentally sound,” she said. “We did things right. If somebody had trouble with something, we all made sure we got it. We were all good friends and grew up together.”

Former head coach Will Peifley knew he had a priceless player.

“Donna Kennedy played basketball at an elite level,” said Peifley. “She is one of the best girls’ basketball players in the history of the Colonial League, and must also be considered one of the best players in the history of the Lehigh Valley.

“Donna was one of the most complete players I have ever seen, and I still be believe that to be true after following numerous girls’ basketball programs for many, many years.”

Assistant coach and head softball coach Chris (Thomas) Mondschein also marveled at Kennedy’s feats.

“I consider Donna Kennedy to be one of the most outstanding female athletes of our time,” she said. “As a softball player, Donna could be counted on as a consistent and power hitter offensively, but also as a superb shortstop who very seldom allowed any passed balls. Some of her defensive skills and athletic ability to throw out a runner still amaze me. Her agility and footwork made the sport look easy.

“Watching Donna perform on a basketball court was always a thrill for me, as she was just so smooth as a player – offensively and defensively. Donna’s athleticism was unmatched, and for years, I have not witnessed too many other female athletics who compare to her.”

Kennedy had to switch gears at Temple as she went from shooting guard to point guard. Yet, the transition went smoothly. Temple won the Big Five championship in her senior year there.

“I went from not being the scorer, but to being the feeder,” she said. “It wasn’t as demanding as I thought it would be. I knew I had to be patient, and I did get my share of shots. We had a talented team with one 2,000-point scorer and three 1,000-point scorers.

“It was a team that really worked well together.”

Kennedy discovered her athletic roots in her household. Older brother Barry also is a member of the school hall of fame and guided the Roughies to league titles in 1975 and 1976 as an all-league punter and quarterback. He also was an all-state and Big 33 selection. Kennedy went on to a solid career in both capacities at East Stroudsburg University.

“We were very happy for each other,” said Donna about their relationship. “We did work to do better than the other. But he really helped me and showed me how to adjust. He made it better for me.”

Currently a physical education teacher at Allen High School, Kennedy’s final chapter included a successful run as a head coach at Salisbury as well as Allen and had a short stay as a boys’ coach at Raub Middle School.

“I left coaching to pursue my master’s (degree),” she said. “I also left after my father had passed away. I had thought about getting back into coaching.

“The philosophy of the game has changed. We all played year-round together whether it was field hockey, softball or basketball. I would be at the park from nine o’clock in the morning until someone would come down and get me to go home.

“I just loved playing the game.”

In Catasauqua and throughout the Lehigh Valley, it was hard pressed to find someone who played it finer than Kennedy.