District notebook: Westminster basketball heads for Tampa event

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It is becoming more common for high school basketball teams to head south to Florida for a late December or holiday tournament, but that has not been the case for district college teams.

Many Division II, Division III and NAIA teams take a week or so off over the holidays, but Westminster will spend at least part of its holiday break in Florida this year to play in the Tampa Prep Classic.

The Titans (4-5) will play LaGrange (Ga.) (6-1) Saturday, then play DePauw or Connecticut State Sunday in the championship or consolation game.

Westminster has won two of its past three games after a four-game losing streak, so the Titans have some momentum. They will need it because LaGrange has won three games in a row and averages 79 points per game.

The Titans have gotten big contributions from some former WPIAL players, including leading scorer and senior guard Doug Smith (South Park), one of the top players in the Presidents Athletic Conference.

Smith has started all nine games and averages 16 points and 7 rebounds per game, but in conference games he is averaging 22 points and 8 rebounds.

Two other contributors from the WPIAL are junior Anthony Thomas (Union), who has started all nine games and averages 13 points and 3 rebounds, and senior guard Rueben King (Highlands), who averages 5.8 points and 1.8 rebounds in about 20 minutes per game off the bench.

The Titans won't have much time to get ready for the resumption of PAC play after returning from Florida because they play host Wednesday to Bethany.

Brown excels

One of the top women's basketball players in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference is Edinboro junior Kiara Brown (Ambridge), who averages 15.6 points, 3.1 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game.

Brown is the Fighting Scots second-leading scorer and has turned in the second- and third-highest scoring games for her team with a season-high 26 points in a 79-60 win against Davis and Elkins and 23 in an 84-59 loss against Bloomsburg.

With Brown in a featured role, the Fighting Scots lead the PSAC in scoring (78.3 ppg) and are second in field goals made (279).

Edinboro is 7-2 and has a four-game winning streak, but will face a tough two-game stretch to open the second half of the season, visiting Shippensburg (7-3, 3-2) and Millersville (6-1, 4-1) Jan. 4-5.

Austin returns

Former North Catholic standout April Austin is one of the top players for the Point Park women's basketball team, but she was ineligible to play the first semester because she only had a half year of eligibility because of transfer rules.

Austin sat out the first semester so she would be eligible for the meat of the Pioneers schedule and playoffs. She has played three games since becoming eligible, and the Pioneers (10-2) have won all three. She has given them a boost while averaging 8 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.25 steals per game.

The team already was rolling without her.

Point Park now has five players who average at least 8 points per game, led by former New Castle standout Ja'Nia McPhatter, who averages 15.2 points and a team-high 9.6 rebounds per game.

Wrestling starting back up

Most district teams finished the first half of their season around Dec. 19 and took a holiday break, but the PSAC teams will resume their schedule this weekend with many invitational meets scheduled.

East Stroudsburg and Millersville will travel to Wilkes-Barre and compete in the Wilkes Open all day today.

Lock Haven will play host to the 13-team Brute Open Saturday. Bloomsburg also will participate in the event that has a loaded field, including nationally ranked Pitt, Old Dominion, Binghamton and Kent State.

Clarion and Edinboro will travel to Northwestern this weekend to participate in the prestigious Midlands Open, which features 30 teams and some of the most competitive weight-class fields of any event this season.

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Paul Zeise: pzeise@post-gazette.com and Twitter @paulzeise.


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