Ellen Chernaskey fully expected to hit the basketball court with her typical fervor Saturday afternoon in Pope John Paul II's Pioneer Athletic Conference semifinal against Methacton.
Some 48 hours before the game, however, the Golden Panthers senior forward and spiritual leader received news that nearly floored her.
Chernaskey — one of the league's most popular and engaging players — was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy (a weakening of the heart muscle that often occurs when the heart cannot pump as well as it should), effectively ending her PJP career in a cruel twist of fate.
"It was definitely upsetting news,' said Chernaskey, who had to watch from the bench as the Golden Panthers put forth an inspired effort before falling 48-44 to the Warriors. "I was just sad I couldn't finish the season with the team, especially because it's my senior season and they're the best teammates in the world.'
The 5-foot-8 Chernaskey, who averaged 8.1 points per game for the Frontier Division champions, had been having trouble with her breathing for the past year, according to her father Ray, and was initially diagnosed with "sports-related Asthma,' and "prescribed two different inhalers.'
Still, Chernaskey — normally the alpha female of the squad — began to tire much quicker than her teammates.
"I could tell something wasn't right,' she said. "We'd be doing extra work or something, and my teammates would be fine, but I'd be almost keeling over.'
At the behest of her mother, Diane, Chernaskey had her heart checked by a local cardiologist and the echo cardiogram came back with the bad news.
"Your heart is supposed to be 60-to-70 percent strong,' Chernaskey said. "But mine was like 45, so it was extremely low and weakened. They told me it was probably from a pre-existing virus from years ago.'
"We are lucky she didn't drop dead on the court,' Ray Chernaskey said.
The good news is that Chernaskey can be treated with medication, and there is a good chance she could recover in three-to-six months and continue her basketball career in college at West Chester.
For now, Chernaskey will have to be content trying to motivate her teammates as they try to reboot and make a run in the District 1-AAA Tournament.
"Ellen provided so much for us,' PJP coach Dave Baker said. "People don't realize it's not just the points. It's the other stuff. The blocks. The assists. The tips. The diving on the floor. That's the stuff she brings that you can't measure, and that's what we're going to miss so much.'
Top seed and defending champion Perkiomen School opens the Tri-County League playoffs Monday at home against eighth seed Renaissance Academy at 4 p.m. The Panthers received the ninth seed in the upcoming Pennsylvania Independent Schools Athletic Association Tournament and will open against eighth seed Springside Chestnut Hill at a date, site and time to be determined. Hill School is the 13th seed and will face fourth seed Germantown Academy at a date, site and time to be determined.
Methacton's Kelly Glatthorn, who scored 14 points in the Warriors' 48-44 PAC-10 semifinal win over Pope John Paul II Saturday afternoon and 14 more in a 46-35 non-league loss to Emmaus later that night, is two points shy of becoming the school's fourth 1,000-point career scorer. Glatthorn is set to join Renee Womack (1,696), Lauren Ruhl (1,316) and Maegan Galie (1,313) as Warriors who have reached the milestone.
Wednesday's PAC-10 championship between Spring-Ford and Methacton, set for Phoenixville at 7 p.m., will be the third straight title-game meeting between the Rams and Warriors. Spring-Ford won 53-23 last year and 62-33 in 2012.
The squads split the regular-season meeting, with Spring-Ford taking the opener 50-40 before Methacton took the rematch 47-43, snapping the Rams' 41-game league winning streak.
Follow Darryl Grumling on Twitter at @MercSmokinD.