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Southmoreland senior to continue hoops career at Valley Forge CC

| Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

It didn't take long for Mariah Bentz to acquire an affinity for Valley Forge Christian College.

One visit for the Southmoreland High School senior to the Phoenixville campus and she was hooked. She was hooked to a point that the Southmoreland senior will play basketball at Valley Forge.

“I just fell in love with the campus,” Bentz said during a recent break from practice. “There was a very nice environment. It had a really good feel to it.”

Bentz said initial contact with her was made by Gretchen LeVan, Valley Forge Christian College coach. “I didn't really know the college existed,” she said with a laugh. “She convinced me to go down and visit.”

Valley Forge Christian College is located in Chester County, 35 miles northwest of downtown Philadelphia.

Bentz returned to the court this season after missing nearly all of her junior year with a left knee injury that required surgery and is averaging about 7.4 points and 7.8 rebounds a game.

She has made steady progress throughout the season, but did suffer a little setback with the knee. A strain cost her about a week of playing time.

“I just had to get the swelling down,” Bentz said, before adding. “(The season is) good. I'm happy with it so far.

Brian Pritts, the Southmoreland girls basketball coach, said he's noticed improvement every day from the 6-foot, 1-inch forward.

“She's getting more and more comfortable,” Pritts said. “I think early on she had a little bit of fear. She was a little tentative. As she plays more, she gets more and more comfortable. She's doing some nice things for us. She's going to be a force we're counting on down the stretch.”

The coach is excited about the opportunity his player is receiving.

“Anytime we have a student athlete that can go on and not just continue their education, but do it by playing a sport and staying involved in something, the further up you go from high school to college the more responsibility it teaches you along with the academic end of it.,” Pritts said. “I'm happy for her. I'm proud of her. I think she'll go there and she'll do well.”

Before then, Bentz has set some goals for herself before the end of her high school career.

“My main goal is to not injure myself. That's my goal every year, but it's only worked a couple times,” she said. “Obviously, (I want) to get better and not have as many stupid little mental mistakes.”

Paul Paterra is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-887-6101 or ppaterra@tribweb.com.

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