WPIAL Class A Girls Basketball Preview
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TEAM TO BEAT
• Quigley: The Spartans went undefeated in this section last season and advanced to the WPIAL quarterfinals -- the second consecutive season each of those things happened. Senior guard Kayla Taormina was named to the all-section team last season after averaging a team-high 16 points per game.
• Rochester: The Vikings went 10-2 in the section last season and allowed only 35.9 points per game -- second-least in Class A. But 5-foot-4 junior guards Sam Robson (9 ppg ) and Jenna Besong are the lone returning starters.
• Monaca: The Indians have been regular WPIAL playoff participants in recent seasons and hope to be in the mix again before the school district merges with Center Area. Former Freedom boys' coach Tim Morgan takes over as coach.
• Union: New coach Damian Cassano has reason for optimism with four senior returning starters: guards Caitlin Clingensmith, Bridget Boyles and Noelle Hannon and forward Ashley Sankey.
• Sewickley Academy: The Panthers went 5-13 last season and have not had winning record since 2005.
• Western Beaver: The Golden Beavers were winless last season after qualifying for the WPIAL playoffs the previous two seasons.
Beaver County Christian: The Eagles are new to the WPIAL and would love to duplicate what the school's girls' volleyball team did -- win the WPIAL in their inaugural season in the league.
TEAM TO BEAT
• Clairton: The Bears return four starters from last season's playoff team, including 5-10 junior forward Alexis Sayles (13 ppg ), 5-5 junior guard Chelsea Page (11 ppg) and 5-8 senior forward Brittnee Thompson.
• Serra: Despite being hit hard by graduation and by players transferring, the Eagles figure to take on their customary role as one of the section favorites. Five-foot-six senior guard Jade Stewart (12.4 ppg) is their top returnee.
• Avella: The Eagles return five players with starting experience from last season, including 5-10 senior forward Joelle Yamber (5.7 ppg ), 5-7 senior forward Jasman Papa (11.0 ppg) and 5-8 junior guard Ana Barr (7.0 ppg).
• Cornell: Four players return with starting experience, so the Raiders could be a sleeper. After not winning a section game the previous three seasons, Cornell surprised by making the playoffs last season. Senior guard Nikke Goode, junior guard Deanna Carter and sophomore guard Karissa Lee are the top returnees.
• Fort Cherry: Coach Bob Miles' daughter, 5-10 senior guard/forward Marissa, averaged 14 points per game last season and was named to the all-Section 3-AA team. The Rangers moved down from Class AA, where they went 11-13 last season.
• Chartiers-Houston: The Bucs went only 5-19 last season but that was in Class AA, where they had not made the playoffs since 2003-04.
TEAM TO BEAT
• Monessen: This section is called Section 3 in name only -- six of the seven teams made up what was called Section 2 last season. But the one team that stayed put, Monessen, is the reigning section champion and favorite again this season. Senior forward Samone Stepoli (8.5 ppg, 10.4 rpg) is the top returnee for the Greyhounds, who won their first 26 games last season.
• California: The Trojans boast five returning starters from a team that made the playoffs last season, including 5-7 junior guard Morgan Moluski (13.1 ppg ), 5-8 junior center Kristina Wagner (12.7 ppg, 10.7 rpg) and 5-6 sophomore guard Dani Zaijeck (6.2 ppg, 6.4 apg).
• Carmichaels: 5-10 senior forward Jordan Duke is the top returning scorer in the section (15.7 ppg ). The Mighty Mikes have qualified for the playoffs four seasons in a row but have not won a postseason game in that time.
• Geibel: The Gators have lost only two section contests the past three seasons combined, but their string of three consecutive section titles might be in jeopardy. The team's top two scorers last season were seniors.
• Mapletown: The Maples return four players with starting experience, including senior point guard Kaitlyn Novak, who averaged 10.8 points per game last season.
• West Greene: Guard Samantha Milliken was an all-section performer after averaging 8.9 points and 8.2 rebounds as a junior last season for the Pioneers.
• Jefferson-Morgan: The Rockets went only 3-20 last season after making the playoffs the previous two campaigns.
TEAM TO BEAT
• North Catholic: The Trojanettes are seemingly always the team to beat in whatever section they play in. The team went 20-4 in the regular season last year but was shocked in the second round of the WPIAL playoffs by Avonworth, which is now a Class AA team. The Trojanettes will be le d by 6-foot senior Lauren Savulchak, who averaged almost 10 points per game last season. Also, guards Erin DiSanti and Ashley Bellovich return.
• Mount Alvernia: The defending WPIAL champion lost its top two scorers to graduation but returns 5-5 junior guard Gabrielle Holko, 5-11 senior forward/center Kat Owunna and 5-8 senior guard/forward Tahlar McIntosh as starters for longtime coach De Porucznik.
• Winchester Thurston: The Bears return to the WPIAL this season and should make an immediate impact with the likes of 5-10 junior forward Jimyse Brown, 6-foot junior forward Inaya Stephenson (a transfer from Schenley), 5-6 junior point guard Angel Gold (a Serra transfer), 5-6 senior guard Kate Onorato and 5-7 junior forward Haileigh Edmonds.
• St. Joseph: The Spartans are ranked No. 5 in the WPIAL, but No. 4 in this section. They have a dynamic one-two scoring punch in junior guard Jacqi Diez (22.4 ppg) and senior guard Clare Barkowski (14.2 ppg).
• Vincentian: A WPIAL semifinalist each of the past two seasons, the Royals might have one of the top teams in Class A ??? but could be left out of the playoffs because this section is so loaded. Vincentian is led by senior guard Lindsey Primyon, who averaged 13.9 points per game last season.
• Ellis School: The Tigers return to Class A after four seasons in Class AA, where they went 10-12 last season and won only nine section games the past four seasons.
• Trinity Christian: The Falcons move from Section 3, where they won only nine section games during the past five seasons combined.
First Published November 28, 2008 12:00 am