2013-14 WPIAL Class AAAA Girls Basketball Preview

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SECTION 1

Team to beat

Hempfield: The Spartans have won 16 section games in a row, including 14 last season in Aaron Epps' first year as coach. The Spartans will return senior all-section guard Monica Burns (18.5 ppg, 4.0 apg) and junior forward Leah Knizner (10 ppg).

Contenders

Penn-Trafford: The Warriors didn't win the section title for the first time in three seasons, finishing second, but with junior all-section guard Maria Palarino (13.5 ppg) returning, they should be in the hunt again.

Norwin: The Knights have made the postseason 11 seasons in a row and have one of the best young guards in the league in sophomore Alayna Gribble (13.7 ppg), an all-section selection as a freshman.

Latrobe: LuAnn Mills comes over from Jeannette to coach a team that returns a talented trio in seniors Taley Dunaway and Emma Kate Womack and sophomore Maddy Kollar.

Others

Albert Gallatin: The Colonials have gone from two to seven to 11 wins over the past three seasons and return second-leading scorer Taylor Spence (11 ppg).

Laurel Highlands: Kenny Riddell takes over the coaching duties after the Mustangs didn't win a game last season after moving up from Class AAA.

Kiski Area: The Cavaliers will try to improve on their win total of six last year, but must do it without graduated all-section forward Maddie Antone (18.7 ppg, 13 rpg).

Connellsville: Kenny Johnson is in his first year as coach of the Falcons, who improved from zero wins in 2011-12 to eight in 2012-13.

SECTION 2

Team to beat

Fox Chapel: The Foxes return three starters from an 18-win team that advanced to the WPIAL quarterfinals. Fox Chapel is led by 6-foot-3 senior center and Post-Gazette Fab 5 selection Erin Mathias (17.3 ppg, 13.6 rpg), a Duke recruit who is ranked the No. 38 player in the country in the Class of 2014 by ESPN.

Contenders

Plum: All-section senior guard Krista Pietropola (16.8 ppg, 8 rpg), a Youngstown State recruit, and junior forward Courtney Zezza (12 ppg, 9 rpg) are back to lead a team that won 17 games last season.

Gateway: The Gators won the section title and advanced to the WPIAL semifinals last season and return three starters, including senior point guard Jada Epps (8.4 ppg). But the Gators must replace all-section guard Chelsea Richardson.

Penn Hills: The Indians return Jade Ely (11 ppg) and junior Marlon Herring (7.1 ppg, 11 rpg), and the addition of heralded freshman guard Desiree Oliver should help ease the loss of all-section guard Gloria Schi-fino.

Others

Franklin Regional: Baylee Buleca (9.7 ppg, 10 rpg) is a four-year starter at forward, but leading scorer Maggie Kimmich (15 ppg), who graduated, must be replaced.

Woodland Hills: The Wolverines won only three section games last season and must replace 75 percent of their scoring with the graduation of Delrika Jones-Carey and Desiree Garland.

McKeesport: The Tigers will look to junior point guard Nassiah Bray to help snap a 13-game section losing streak.

SECTION 3

Team to beat

North Allegheny: Sophomore guard Abby Gonzales, an all-section selection as a freshman, senior guard Taylor Brennan and junior Meg Morningstar return froma section championship team that advanced to the WPIAL quarterfinals.

Contenders

Shaler: The Titans made the playoffs in Neal Martin's first season as coach and have a solid nucleus returning, led by junior all-section center Andi Lydon (9.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg) and senior point guard Carly Harris (6 ppg, 5 apg).

Seneca Valley: After missing the postseason by one game last season, the Raiders will look to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2008 with the return of the majority of their rotation, including senior forward Abbie Trzeciak (12 ppg, 8 rpg) and junior guard Meghan Hess (8 ppg, 6 apg).

Oakland Catholic: The Eagles traditionally are a powerhouse, but they had the second-worst scoring team in Class AAAA last season (35.6 ppg) and lost their top scorer, Mara Fitzgerald (16.5 ppg). Senior forward Madison Caufield (6 ppg) returns.

Others

Butler: The Golden Tornado finished second in the section last season, but must replace all-section guard Caitlyn Baxter. Lauren Bresnahan is the only senior on the roster and will be joined in the frontcourt by junior forward Julia Baxter.

North Hills: The Indians will look for improvement over their three section wins last season with the return of senior forward Bre Bertram and sophomore point guard Jamie Halloran.

Pine-Richland: Senior point guard Marisa Hombosky returns to a Rams' team that lost 14 of its final 15 games last season.

SECTION 4

Team to beat

Baldwin: The Highlanders return everyone from their 2013 playoff team, which didn't have a senior on the roster. Baldwin will be led by a strong backcourt of seniors Mandi Johnston and Nikki Corcoran and junior Amanda Larkin.

Contender

Mt. Lebanon: The Blue Devils' five-year streak of reaching the PIAA final was ended by Chartiers Valley in last season's state quarterfinals. They return two starters, both seniors, in 6-1 forward Christine Ehland (11.4 ppg) and point guard Margie McCaffrey.

Others

Bethel Park: The Black Hawks return three starters from their WPIAL title team. But Drexel recruit Megan Marecic (15.8 ppg), the top vote-getter on the all-section team a season ago, is likely out for the season with a knee injury.

Chartiers Valley: New coach Ashley Battle, a former WNBA player who won three NCAA titles as a player at UConn, will have to replace all-section guard Mariah Wells, who graduated, and talented junior guard Alexa Golden, who has a torn ACL.

Upper St. Clair: The Panthers, a WPIAL quarterfinalist in 2013, lost leading scorer Jordan Serio, but return her sister, Madison, in the backcourt.

Canon-McMillan: The Big Macs return a strong frontcourt that features all-section senior forward Olivia Lorusso (14 ppg) and junior forward Danielle Parker (13 ppg).

Peters Township: New coach Bert Kendall takes over an Indians' squad then went winless in the section last season.

Preseason Rankings

(Team, Last season)

1. North Allegheny 20-4

2. Fox Chapel 18-6

3. Baldwin 11-12

4. Mt. Lebanon 24-4

5. Plum 17-6

Players to Watch

Julia Baxter, Butler, 5-11, Jr., Forward

Baylee Buleca, Franklin Regional, 6-0, Sr., Forward

Monica Burns, Hempfield, 5-8, Sr., Guard

Madison Caufield, Oakland Catholic, 5-10, Sr., Guard/Forward

Christine Ehland, Mt. Lebanon, 6-1, Sr., Forward

Jade Ely, Penn Hills, 5-8, Soph., Guard/Forward

Abby Gonzales, North Allegheny, 5-8, Soph, Guard

Alayna Gribble, Norwin, 5-10, Soph., Guard

Mandi Johnston, Baldwin, 5-5, Sr., Guard

Olivia Lorusso, Canon-McMillan, 5-10, Sr., Forward

Andi Lydon, Shaler, 6-1, Jr., Center

Erin Mathias, Fox Chapel, 6-3, Sr., Forward

Meg Morningstar, North Allegheny, 6-1, Jr., Forward

Maria Palarino, Penn-Trafford, 5-10, Jr., Guard/Forward

Krista Pietropola, Plum, 5-10, Sr., Guard

Madison Serio, Upper St. Clair, 5-3, Jr., Guard

Abbie Trzeciak, Seneca Valley, 6-0, Sr., Forward

Harper Zimmer, Bethel Park, 5-8, Sr., Guard


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