As the Lady Raiders ran up and down the Cornell High School basketball court at a recent practice, Mason DePetro was just another member of the team.
All of the players practice six days a week -- at least 20 hours each week. And although the regular season was almost over and the Lady Raiders knew they had made the playoffs, all were working hard.
Mason, who has worn number 11 on her game jersey since seventh grade, is a standout in a way that isn't readily apparent at practice.
The 18-year-old has scored 1,145 points during her Cornell High School basketball career -- a record for a female player at Cornell.
"This is a huge accomplishment for me because I've worked hard over the last few years," Mason said. "I am proud of myself and it is a great feeling knowing that I am the only girl to ever do so in the history of Cornell High School."
The daughter of John and Palma DePetro of Coraopolis, Mason has been playing basketball since fifth grade. She's now 5-foot-4 and usually plays shooting guard on the team for the district, which serves students from Coraopolis and Neville Island.
"In seventh grade, I could tell Mason is a natural, with the potential to reach 1,000 points," said Shawn Urbano, head coach for the girls basketball team.
Here's the numbers Mason has averaged per game this year: 16 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks.
Her high school basketball career has been historic in ways beyond topping the 1,000 point mark. The Lady Raiders have qualified for the WPIAL Class A playoffs all four of her high school years.
"It is special because ... girls basketball never made it to the playoffs until the last few years," Mason said. "It's special that I was part of it for four of them."
Mr. Urbano, a Robinson police officer who came to Cornell in the 2007-08 season, was the first girls basketball coach to send a team to the playoffs.
Now in his sixth season as Cornell's girls coach, his teams went to the playoffs in five of his six coaching seasons. He has been coaching for 23 years -- since his senior year in high school.
Last year, the Lady Raiders advanced to the WPIAL quarterfinals. The top four teams in each section make the playoffs, which start Friday.
Shortly after the basketball playoffs end, track season begins, and Mason will be practicing with that team, too. She competes in the triple jump and runs in whatever races the coach needs her to run. For the past four years, she also has helped Mr. Urbano coach the junior high school basketball team.
And if that wasn't enough, she also is a Cornell cheerleader, cheering for the boys sports, including basketball.
Participating in multiple sports and activities is one of the advantages of attending a small school. Cornell's class of 2013 has 50 students; the district has 725 students in grades K-12.
Thirteen girls are on the basketball team, and six are on the cheerleading squad.
Injuries are a big issue on a small team.
Junior Allison Cosgrove and senior Marcena Shepherd have both been out for most of the basketball season with ACL tears, which led to surgery. Both watch practice and games from the sidelines, wearing braces that go from knees to ankles.
"Yes, everybody plays," Mr. Urbano said. During practices, he's often on the court playing with the girls so they can be divided into two "teams" for practice games.
The junior varsity squad has only seven girls, so some get to play both varsity and junior varsity.
"Basketball has been my life," Mason said. "We practice 10 months out of the year, and when I'm not practicing with the school, I'm playing outside with friends. As a senior, I am sad that [these WPIAL playoff games] may be the last time that I step onto the court."
Mason plans to go to college next year, but she doesn't know where yet. It's not clear whether basketball is in her future -- recruiters have not come calling.
Linda Wilson Fuoco: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-722-0087.