Ava Sciolla, Pennsbury basketball, raising funds, and spirits, for one of their own. Here's how to help.

·8 min read

Once a Falcon, always a Falcon.

When one of their own is in need, the Pennsbury basketball community rallies like no other. And that’s just what one Falcon needs right now.

Frank Sciolla, Pennsbury’s head girls basketball coach, was taking a much-needed social media break this summer. When he logged back on in late July, Sciolla’s notifications were blowing up. The news had just come out that Joey Monaghan, a 2017 Pennsbury graduate, had been diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer, metastatic sarcoma, in his back.

Learning that Monaghan would need extensive medical care and hospitalization, Sciolla wasted no time in finding a way to help. Within an hour, and with the help of his Pennsbury family and his daughter, Sciolla had a plan.

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Homecoming … for a cause

Ava Sciolla graduated from Pennsbury High School on June 8. Two days later, she was settling into her dorm room at the University of Maryland.

Ava, a perennial All-State basketball player who was named the Pennsylvania 6A State Player of the Year as a senior, had a busy summer, taking classes and practicing with the Maryland basketball team. She had a four-day break in mid-August, and once she talked to her father, Frank, she knew exactly what she wanted to do with her time off.

“My dad and I had talked about me hosting a basketball clinic, but there was never really a great time,” said Ava. “Once I heard from my dad about Joey, I knew this was the right time.”

On Tuesday, Aug. 16, Ava will host the ‘Playing for Joey’ basketball clinic at the Pennsbury Racquetball Club. The clinic is open to boys and girls from first to ninth grades, and is free of charge. Donations will be accepted, with all proceeds going to help the Monaghan family with Joey’s extensive medical costs.

While the Sciollas hope to raise enough money to alleviate some of the financial burden from the Monaghans, monetary support isn’t the only goal of the clinic.

“It’s not just the money,” said Frank. “But we also want him to know how much support he has.”

Frank has known Joey since he was a child and watched him grow up on and off the basketball court. Joey, who played for the Pennsbury Recreational Basketball League as a child, was “always out on the playground, just trying to get better.”

By high school, Joey had improved enough to play varsity basketball for the Falcons, and then continued his basketball career at Marywood University. Monaghan graduated college in December, and had scored a job working in ticket sales for the Philadelphia 76ers. In addition, he joined his childhood coach, Mike McFadden, as an assistant coach for McFadden’s AAU basketball team.

For a kid who just loved basketball, and happened to be very good at it, it was a dream come true.

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And while Joey was a great high school and college basketball player, his skills and stats on the court are the last thing that people remember about him.

“This is a good kid,” said Frank. “I know that’s a cliche, but in Joey’s case, it’s really true.”

“Joey has always been supportive, not just of me, but of girls' basketball,” said Ava, who has known Monaghan since she was a child. “He’s always such a positive person, and it’s just tragic that he is going through this.”

Ava Sciolla won the PIAA Class 6A Player of the Year award during her senior season at Pennsbury. Now at the University of Maryland, Ava will be returning home to host the 'Playing for Joey' basketball clinic on Aug. 16, 2022.
Ava Sciolla won the PIAA Class 6A Player of the Year award during her senior season at Pennsbury. Now at the University of Maryland, Ava will be returning home to host the 'Playing for Joey' basketball clinic on Aug. 16, 2022.

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Pennsbury's Ava Sciolla recently scored her 1,000th career point. She's pictured here with her mom, Amanda, brother Dante and father Frank.
Pennsbury's Ava Sciolla recently scored her 1,000th career point. She's pictured here with her mom, Amanda, brother Dante and father Frank.

From player to coach

Mike McFadden was Joey’s basketball coach for years, from his early days with the Pennsbury Recreational League, up to his senior year of high school in AAU basketball.

The two had stayed in touch while Joey was in college, and McFadden was delighted when he broached the idea of coaching.

Joey joined McFadden’s Philly Heat North 10th grade girls squad as an assistant coach, and had an instant rapport with the players, who include McFadden’s own daughters, Brianna and Brooke, both of whom play for Conwell-Egan.

“He’s known as ‘Gentleman Joey,’ said McFadden. “He’s a really sweet kid and unbelievably positive. It’s refreshing to see someone his age with that kind of outlook, he’s never negative.”

Not only did Joey have a unique personality, he was a one-of-a-kind on the basketball court.

“He played so hard, with so much energy, and brought something to the court that I had never seen before,” said McFadden.

Earlier this year, McFadden noticed something familiar in Layla Matthias’ style of play. Finally, it dawned on him: “She plays just like Joey.”

Matthias, who will be a junior at Pennsbury this fall, and the rest of the Philly Heat players met Joey for the first time at an open gym, where everyone ‘just had a blast.’ The girls were delighted to have Joey as a coach, and were devastated when they learned he had cancer.

When the team headed to Virginia, without Joey, for the U.S. Junior Nationals, the girls decided to dedicate the tournament to their young coach. After defeating one of the top teams in the country by two points, the girls stormed the court shouting ‘For Joey!’

Spreading the word

While there haven’t been many who could play like Joey, Ava and Frank Sciolla are hoping that many will be ‘Playing for Joey’ later this month.

“Ava didn’t hesitate to become involved, and we’re hoping some former Pennsbury players will also want to be involved,” said Frank.

Frank is anticipating that Ava’s role in the community and her social media reach will help find an even bigger audience. Ava plans to post a video on her social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, with details of the fundraiser.

“I want to reach people that I know,” said Ava, “As well as people I don’t know yet.”

Ava has already made an impact on her new teammates. One of her teammates from Maryland will be assisting Ava at the clinic.

While Joey can’t be at the event in person, Ava wants to make him feel like he’s sitting courtside at the Pennsbury Racquetball Club.

“I’ll be taking videos during the event, and going live on Facebook,” said Ava. “I will be corresponding with Joey throughout the event so he can see everything for himself.”

Ava was the ideal choice to host the clinic. “My players really look up to her,” said McFadden. “She’s very supportive of the younger kids and a true role model.”

McFadden also plans to help out in any way he can. “I’ve always been proud to be a part of anything Joey’s doing, and I’m ready for whatever Frank wants me to do.”

“A true shock”

Joey’s diagnosis of cancer, and the subsequent news that it was in an advanced stage, was both shocking and devastating to his family and friends.

It was especially hard for McFadden to reconcile, after spending much of his summer with Joey on the basketball court.

“He’s an athlete in incredible condition,” said McFadden. “He watches his diet, he doesn’t smoke, he’s young. Just the last person you expect this to happen to.”

McFadden recalls Joey dealing with ongoing back pain, and the suggestion that it might be due to kidney stones. A visit to the doctor, of course, found something much more serious, though it would be two more works before Joey received his diagnosis.

“I don’t know how he got through those two weeks,” said McFadden. “He or his family.”

Family first

McFadden is hopeful that the support from the Pennsbury community and beyond will help boost the spirits of Joey’s family.

Joey’s mother, Sue Duffy, recently dealt with a bout of cancer herself. She’s spent the past two weeks at her son’s hospital bed, refusing to leave his side. Duffy spends her nights on a cot in Joey's room, taking only two brief reprieves after pleas from Joey’s father and stepfather.

Thankfully, Joey is expected to go home soon.

“Sue was overjoyed that so many people were thinking about her son,” said McFadden. “She knows we’re all behind him.”

While Joey is obviously beloved by everyone in the Pennsbury and local basketball communities, he’s also made quite an impression on his new employers.

Josh Harris, the owner and managing partner of the Sixers, stopped by to visit Joey in the hospital.

While the future remains uncertain, everyone who knows Joey is choosing to adapt his outlook on life.

"Joey’s been so positive since his diagnosis,” said McFadden. “We need to be positive for him.”

Ava echoes those thoughts. “I want to bring some positivity to him. I can’t wait to see how many people will be stepping up to help.”

Those in the Pennsbury basketball community wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Basketball is an amazing way to bring people together in a time of need,” Frank said. “And this is one of those times.”

‘Playing for Joey’ Basketball Clinic

The ‘Playing for Joey’ basketball clinic will take place on Tuesday, Aug. 16 at the Pennsbury Racquetball Club, 375 W. Trenton Ave. in Morrisville.

Session 1: Grades entering 1 -5 (9 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.)

Session 2: Grades entering  6-9 (10:30 a.m. - noon)

To register, sign up online.

To make a donation: 

Cash donations will be accepted at the door; checks can be payable to Falcons Elite.

Online donations can be made through Venmo: @Falcons-Elite-1

For more details, click here.

This article originally appeared on Bucks County Courier Times: Ava Sciolla hosts clinic for fellow Pennsbury grad battling cancer