Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

After Rough Start, Planets Are Aligned

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

After Rough Start, Planets Are Aligned

Article excerpt

With a young team struggling out of the gate and sitting at 0-5 on Dec. 20, outsiders might have told the Mars Area girls' basketball team to start looking forward to next season.

The 15 players on the roster and three coaches were not about to consider this a rebuilding year, however, so instead of looking toward next season, they looked toward next year -- as in 2012.

Despite a 2-8 record, the Planets embarked on their section schedule on Jan. 5 with a 0-0 record in section play. Turning the calendar to 2012 coincided with turning the season around.

Mars won eight of its nine section games to all of a sudden go from rebuilding to fighting for a section title with Hampton.

"We didn't have a great record in December and everyone kept telling us to hang in there and look toward the future," Mars coach Tony Howard said.

"For us, we were talking about January and February as our future. Our future is 2012, not next year or the year after that."

Overall the team is 10-11 but Mars might be the best 10-11 team around these parts. Mars and Hampton (11-9, 8-1) are tied atop Section 1-AAA, both with one section game remaining to be played tonight.

Mars scored its biggest win of the season a week ago when it knocked off Hampton, 48-46, to create the tie atop the standings.

If you ask Howard, he will point to the first meeting against Hampton as the turning point of the season.

His team was 4-8 overall and 2-0 in the section when it lost a close game at Hampton, 38-34, on Jan. 12.

The Planets overcame a halftime deficit to score the first 12 points of the third quarter and built a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter but then their shots stopped falling, Hampton clawed back into the game and eventually won.

"To be honest with you, that was our biggest game of the season," Howard said. "We felt we should have won that game. We had a lot of opportunities but in the fourth quarter, we didn't make some shots that we normally make. We picked up a lot of confidence there. We were disappointed that we didn't get that one, but the girls started to believe."

In December, five games into the season and still winless, Howard was in a precarious position. …

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