Cumberland Valley alumnae Jackie Falconer, Kelly Jekot reunite — briefly — on the court

Former Cumberland Valley stars Jackie Falconer, left, and Kelly Jekot reunited for the first time on a basketball court in four years back in January when Villanova faced Penn in Big 5 action at the Palestra in Philadelphia. Jekot made her second start as a freshman, finishing with seven points, six rebounds and five assists.

Jake Adams The Sentinel

Their meeting was a rushed one.

Kelly Jekot and Jackie Falconer said a quick “hello,” exchanged smiles and pleasantries, took a quick photo and departed. Jekot, after all, had to catch her team’s bus.

It was an appropriate parallel to their career arcs at Cumberland Valley, where both played basketball in high school. Falconer was a senior during the 2012-13 season when Jekot arrived in the Eagle Dome as a freshman, full of potential and destined, in hindsight, for greatness.

Four years after spending one season together chasing a dream and falling just short — the Eagles made it to the PIAA Class AAAA championship in 2013 — the two got just a few seconds together after Jekot’s Villanova Wildcats beat Falconer’s Penn Quakers 60-48 in a Big 5 clash at one of the country’s most historic venues — the Palestra.

“I was really excited,” Jekot said.

“It was pretty brief because she was going to miss her bus,” Falconer said of the meeting, which even drew CV athletic director Mike Craig. “I got to talk to her parents for a little.”

The reunion, though, wasn’t as it was billed.

Jekot, a reserve for the Wildcats (9-9) and is back at her natural shooting guard position, made her second start of the season, playing 32 minutes and finishing with seven points, six rebounds and a game-high five assists. But Falconer, a senior captain, did not play. Still, it was a proud moment for former teammates and the program they once belonged to.

“Of course,” Jekot said when asked if she missed seeing Falconer on the floor. “I think she’s a hard worker and deserves to be out there.”

“Half of me was upset, because (I want to win), but the other half was proud because she’s worked so hard,” Falconer said.

The two haven’t had much time to catch up despite living a few miles away in and around Philadelphia. But they have kept in touch over the years — Jekot is close friends with Falconer’s younger brother, Robert, who golfed at CV, and Falconer has seen a few CV games since she graduated.

“I would come back to the games and really enjoyed seeing her,” Falconer said.

The Penn forward, who’s an Economics major, has fallen for the City of Brotherly Love. She especially enjoys the late-night access to food and other shopping or other excursions. She has a job lined up with Wells Fargo, where she interned in the summer.

And she proudly calls herself a two-time Ivy League champion and while well on her way to a third — Penn is atop the standings at 3-0 in league play. Falconer helped the Quakers (9-5) win it her junior year as a role player off the bench and spent days waking up next to her roommate, unable to comprehend it.

“I’ve been lucky enough to do it twice,” Falconer said. “I had goosebumps probably for a couple days.”

Jekot seems to be acclimating to the city life as well, albeit it few miles farther from Center City.

She’s played in all 18 games this season, averaging 20.4 minutes, 5.6 points (33-percent shooting) and 3.7 rebounds. She’s in the top six on the team in all three categories.

“My teammates and my coaches are doing a really good job, especially as a freshman,” Jekot said of the adjustment, adding that her family visits often.

But there are still firsts for the fresh-faced Wildcat. Wednesday’s meeting with Penn was her first foray in collegiate hoops at the Palestra.

“It was really cool, especially because it’s where the Big 5 is supposed to be played,” Jekot said.

“I have to admit, I take it for granted sometimes,” Falconer said. “(I have) to step back and look at where I get to play every day.”

And Jekot is still getting used to Big 5 competition, which features some of the most intense rivalries in college hoops. The two former Eagles find great pleasure in those matchups.

She could learn a lot from Falconer, if ever there was time.

Their careers have intersected twice now, always when one is beginning and the other ending. Falconer was the lone senior on the last CV team that can’t call itself a state champion, whereas Jekot has reaped the rewards ever since, a three-time state champ and two-time Gatorade Pennsylvania Player of the Year.

Jekot in some ways can thank Falconer for the Eagles’ success. Falconer was a sophomore when the team went 4-18.

“That was kind of, I guess, rock bottom for me in high school,” she said.

But the Eagles made states just a year later and then lost 60-45 to Spring-Ford in the state championship at Giant Center in Falconer’s final season. The success Jekot and the Eagles in the three years since, in part, be traced back to those growing years, including Falconer’s last.

“That year I was the only senior,” Falconer said. “That was kind of an adjustment, so I really had to rely on underclassmen.

“I kind of see them all as little sisters.”

And now she’s passing off the baton again to a new era. Jekot and classmate Morgan Baughman — who drilled a pair of last-second free throws just to help CV stay alive in the state playoffs — are playing Division I ball now, with Baughman at Niagara.

And Jekot’s younger sister Katie will become another CV representative in the Big 5 when she joins Saint Joseph’s in the summer.

But for one last day, Falconer and Jekot got to share a gym again.