Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Upper St. Clair in Turnaround

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Upper St. Clair in Turnaround

Article excerpt

Thirteen turned out to be an unlucky number for the Upper St. Clair girls' basketball program. The Panthers missed the WPIAL playoffs last season for the first time in 13 years.

Coach Ernie Koontz has a long way to go with his team before USC is dominant in Section 4-AAAA. The Panthers were routed at section favorite Bethel Park, 52-23, on Dec. 16. However, an interesting thing has happened since Upper St. Clair's defeat at Bethel Park.

USC (8-5, 2-2) went on a five-game winning streak before losing at Canon-McMillan Monday, 59-46. This included back-to-back section wins over Ringgold and Trinity as well as a 3-0 showing at the USC round-robin holiday tournament last week after defeating Seton- LaSalle, Beaver and Charleston George Washington.

Three of the victories, 61-58 over Seton-LaSalle, 40-39 over Trinity and 66-61 in overtime against Beaver, went down to the final minute. USC is 4-1 in games decided by six points or less. Koontz believes this is a good sign for a sophomore-oriented team learning how to win consistently at the varsity level.

"We're hoping that the maturation of this young team really comes around the second half of the season," Koontz said.

Only two experienced players came back this year: the Panthers' top scorers 5-11 junior forward Katie Wood (11 points per game) and 5-9 senior guard Ashley Zemba (10.8 ppg).

"We don't have any standouts right now," Koontz said. "But Ashley Zemba has been pretty consistent and Katie Wood has come on strong the last four or five games. She's had a couple 20- to 25-point games recently."

Other seniors on the 19-player roster are 5-7 backup guard Kristen Bittner and 5-7 starting guard Jill Pawlak.

Others in Koontz's player rotation are 5-2 sophomore guard Christy Gabor, 6-0 sophomore forward Brittany Howie, 5-5 soph guard Nora Fitzgerald, 5-6 soph guard Alex Jaffe, 5-10 sophomore forwards Amanda Wehan and Kelly Joyce, plus 5-11 junior forward Brittany Finley, expected back on the court soon after missing several weeks due to a broken foot. …

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