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Highlands girls stress fundamentals

With the graduation of some key players and an influx of new ones, Highlands girls basketball coach Meghan Ziemianski has had to return to basics in the early stages of preseason practice.

Ziemianski is an art teacher, but this picture may take some time to complete.

"We want to work on some (more advanced) things, but we haven't gotten into much yet," Ziemianski said. "We have some girls who have never touched a basketball. We have some super athletic girls; we just have to get them basketball-minded."

Highlands, which went 13-10 last season, must replace graduates Sidney Grabigel (12 points per game) and Brittanie Cassoni. But it does return 6-foot senior guard Abby Hetrick, a player the Golden Rams can build around.

"She is going to be very important to us," Ziemianski said. "We think her scoring will probably increase."

Hetrick, who also averaged 12 points per game and could be among the area's top scorers this year, will be complemented by junior forward Taylor Becker and junior guard Brittany Cook.

Two potential contributors, juniors Shayna Panchik and Rachel Edwards, transferred to St. Joseph.

Panchik potentially was the starter at point guard. But Cook will likely take that spot.

Sophomore Nicky Misejka will also compete for a starting spot in the backcourt.

Some newcomers include seniors Carly Deskins, a soccer standout, and Julie Helgert.

Although she lost players to St. Joseph and others, such as senior Vicki Crise and sophomore Carly Hines, left the team, Ziemianski wants to dispel rumors that Highlands has a shortage of players.

"That's not the case at all," she said.

In fact, Highlands' program could be growing in the near future. Ziemianski has 14 varsity/junior varsity players, and she said the seventh-grade program is on the rise after being down in the past.

"We have some girls who haven't played in forever," Ziemianski said. "They want to play and help us, and that's a plus."

Highlands has made the WPIAL playoffs in all three of Ziemianski's seasons as coach. The Rams are 38-34 during that time, including 1-3 in the playoffs. Two of the playoff losses have come in the preliminary round.

Not alone in her thinking, Ziemianski thinks Mars will be a strong contender for the Section 1-AAA title.

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