East Xtra: Jeannette, Gregory off to good start

GIRLS BASKETBALL

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Last season at the Franklin Regional tipoff tournament Ciara Gregory scored 50 points in a game.

This season Gregory did not score 50 points in the tournament but she did something that is just as hard and made coach LuAnn Mills just as happy.

Gregory was about as consistent as a player can be, pouring in 40 points on Friday and following it up with 39 on Saturday.

Gregory was happier with the overall tournament this year and it had little to do with her 39.5 points per game average. A year after starting the season 0-2 with two losses at Franklin Regional, the Jayhawks split their games, defeating the host team, 70-66, but losing to Mount Pleasant, 61-53.

The Jayhawks (3-1, 2-0) then won two section games, routing South Allegheny, 77-47, as Gregory scored 34, then defeating Riverview, 76-63, Monday as she poured in 36 more. They were scheduled to play a non-section game at Monessen Wednesday.

Gregory is a player who can fill up a stat sheet. A 5-foot-7 senior guard, she averaged 26.7 points per game last season to lead the WPIAL. Her 50-point performance was the top single-game scoring performance last season for any player in the WPIAL and she was named to the Post-Gazette's Fab Five team. A four-year starter for the Jayhawks, she has already scored more than 1,000 career points. But team accomplishments are what really drive Gregory.

She got a taste of WPIAL gold at a young age, helping Jeannette win the WPIAL Class AA title as a freshman. She also felt postseason heartbreak, losing in the WPIAL finals as a sophomore and suffering a first-round upset to New Brighton last year.

"I don't really have any personal goals in mind," Gregory said. "I just want to keep winning and get back in the playoffs. I don't want to lose in the first round like last year."

Already Gregory looks well on her way to surpassing her scoring average from last season. She hit six 3-pointers in the win against Franklin Regional.

"I know she has improved from last season," Mills said. "She is an all-around better player. She has worked hard in the offseason. She worked out with our trainer and has been on a fitness program all year long. It really shows."

Gregory has been creating a lot of her own offense this season. She scored a handful of points in the tipoff tournament off steals and her outside shooting has been on the mark.

"My [outside] shot has been pretty consistent," Gregory said.

With her scoring more than 1,000 career points, opponents were well aware of Gregory before this season and now after her tipoff tournament outburst, she can expect to see more double- and even triple-teams from opponents.

"We saw double- and triple-teams and unfortunately we didn't do a very good job of playing against that versus Mount Pleasant," Mills said.

Growing up as a big basketball fan, Gregory would often attend WPIAL playoff games, some at Duquesne University's A.J. Palumbo Center, home of the WPIAL finals.

"Being in middle school and going down and watching the game, you just hope and wish someday you could get down there," Gregory said. "To do it as a freshman was the best feeling ever."

With four returning starters back, including Gregory, the Jayhawks have all the makings of a contender this season.

Senior forward Sydney Pecoraro, junior guard Monique Redman and senior guard Delaney Cortazzo are all returning starters along with Gregory. Sophomore Monica Carl is a new starter this season at forward.

The team is now in its third season playing in Mills' system.

"We have been running the same offense," Mills said. "When I got here, things were pretty raw, we were teaching a lot of new things. This year we are doing OK, pretty satisfied with our play so far."

Last season Jeannette went 11-1 in Section 3-AA to edge Greensburg Central Catholic (10-2) for the title. Shady Side Academy was a playoff team a year ago and South Allegheny and Riverview move into the section.

"I know Central is always going to be a good rivalry," Gregory said. "There will be a couple new teams and some new faces."

Gregory has committed to play at Charlotte next season. She choose the Division I school in North Carolina over her other finalist, William & Mary.

hsbasketball


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