Some of the greatest basketball teams in history have been constructed around three superstars. On the John S. Burke Catholic girls squad, this trio comes from the same household.
Jackie, Brenna and Caileigh Costello have led Burke Catholic to a two seed in the Class B tournament, wedged between No. 1 Onteora and No. 3 Marlboro. The season started with a bang, as Burke downed the same Marlboro team that had its way with Burke a season prior, and has continued on a solid path under the guidance of first-year head coach Shawn Thomas. But the upcoming playoffs are not only about showing how much this team has grown in the past year. It’s also about proving to young girls in the community that they can accomplish just as much as the boys can, if not more.
The Burke triplets realize the postseason is about more than seizing their first Section 9 crown.
“The boys sports get a lot of attention,” said Jackie, the eldest of the Costello triad, “and a lot of the girls, no one comes and supports. If you’re a stronger team, it makes girls want to play.”
It’s not hard to see why this team has vastly improved after speaking with Thomas. Following a recent smothering of Sullivan West, the coach was focused more on areas of improvement than celebrating a victory.
“When the game situation is on, you’ve got to execute,” Thomas said. “You can’t just let it all fall apart.”
The Costellos are the glue keeping this unit upright. Being the same age — give or take a few minutes — and sharing the same passion for basketball has given each of them a reason to work harder. There’s not just one athlete trying to prove she’s the best in the family. There’s three. When asked who the top basketball player is among them, the Costellos start talking over each other, making a case to a one-man jury why they are most deserving of the title of number one Costello on the court.
This is why each of them is great in their own right.
“We’re best friends,” Caileigh said. “We do everything together.”
The only triplets in school, the Costellos enjoy going to the same classes and competing in the same sports. But they don’t want to be known simply as The Triplets because each of them has their own value and self-worth. Undecided on college, they know there is a possibility they could all be in different places when they begin their next chapter.
Even if the Costellos are separated, their goals will be aligned with each other.
“They want to reach as high as they can go,” Thomas said.
This is the Burke girls basketball team’s mindset at the moment, confident in the ability to upend Onteora and Marlboro en route to a section title. It is unchartered territory, for both the players and the coach.
Said Thomas: “We have talent. We have heart. We have grit. They have desire. It’s just the IQ. The understanding of the game. The understanding of situations. The understanding of what teams are doing to us and how do we attack.”
Each game, that understanding of what it takes becomes a little more clear. The season could also end in a flash. Such is the madness of March (and February, since the postseason starts for Burke on Saturday against seventh-seeded Ellenville). These girls are determined to keep the season rolling as long as possible for more than validating their own potential. Competing at a school that has thrived in football and boys soccer and made the “SportsCenter’’ highlight reel for a buzzer beater in boys basketball, the girls feel like it’s their turn.
For the Costellos, this is about more than proving to themselves or each other that they can do it. It’s about showing every young girl watching what is possible.
“It would bring so much attention the girls program,” Brenna said.