Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Overlooked Jeannette Takes Lead in Section Jayhawks' Success Result of a Building Process

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Overlooked Jeannette Takes Lead in Section Jayhawks' Success Result of a Building Process

Article excerpt

For most of the season, they have been overshadowed by section rivals Greensburg Central Catholic and Shady Side Academy and by their male counterparts at the school.

Now finally people are starting to recognize the talent on the Jeannette girls' basketball team, thanks in large part to a 17-1 start -- 11-0 in Section 4-AA -- that included wins over Shady Side and Greensburg Central, two private schools that shared the section title last year.

Coach Janine Vertacnik noticed the talent a long time ago, well before this group of seniors was even in the ninth grade. When Vertacnik came to Jeannette seven years ago, she coached the middle school program.

She recognized the talented fifth grade class and saw the potential. Knowing that, she put the team into every winter league and tournament she could find regardless of the level of competition.

"I've been with them since fifth grade, I feel more like a mother than a coach," Vertacnik said.

"I put them in every competitive place I could put them. I could see they were very talented. I put them in tournaments and sometimes they got beat up. They were the shortest kids on the block but here we are eight years later."

Where they are is in the driver's seat of Section 4-AA after winning their first 10 section games, including a sweep of Shady Side Academy and a 57-54 win over Greensburg Central Catholic last week.

The group of seniors, including guard Kayla Cook, the all-time scoring leader in program history, guard Kirstie Cortazzo and forwards Samantha Linsenbigler, Shanice Cook and Tanesha Bone, has come a long way since Vertacnik arrived at the school.

They struggled against the tough competition in middle school but then in eighth grade the group went 16-0 playing against mostly Class AAAA schools.

Vertacnik reminded her team of that 16-0 season on the first day of practice before this season.

"There is no reason we can't go undefeated this year," Vertacnik recalled telling her team.

"We pretty much all agreed and felt that way."

Between the 16-0 eighth grade year and this successful season, there were plenty of bumps in the road. A few players quit the team and one player, Tanesha Bone, was lost for her sophomore season after tearing her left ACL. …

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