Patterson's emergence steadies West Mifflin

| Thursday, March 29, 2012

Before the school year started, all signs pointed to Ciara Patterson being an important cog for the West Mifflin girls basketball team.

She was supposed to have another year of development playing under a group of seniors headed by Jayla Leftwich before emerging as the go-to player for the Lady Titans in the 2012-13 season.

That was before the switch flipped and the entire program was in disarray.

Leftwich transferred to Oak Hill Academy in Virginia just before the start of the season. Senior guard Thea Lewis was out with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.Then, on Dec. 18, sophomore guard Taylor Thomas severely wounded during a shooting.

One of these incidents would have been enough to shatter most teams, but thanks to Patterson, the 2011-12 Daily News Girls Basketball Player of the Year, the team was able to stay on course and qualify for the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs.

"We had a young team, and we figured that we had to stay with it and we all had to play big," Patterson said. "We had to step up, and someone had to be a leader and get everybody together."

Patterson, a 5-foot-7 point guard, finished third in Class AAA scoring behind Hopewell's Shatori Walker-Kimbrough (25.6) and New Castle's Kaylynn Waters (25.5). Patterson averaged 21.1 points per game.

Perhaps nothing showed Patterson's growth as a player more than how she did against South Park, the Section 4 champion and a WPIAL Class AAA finalist. In two games she scored 69 points, including 38 on Feb. 6 in a 76-50 loss.

"In that South Park game when she put up 38 points, she was impressive," West Mifflin coach Rob Yeschenko said. "South Park's defense can be tenacious, and she showed that she can break down a defense. Even though we took the loss, what she did in that game ... it was just amazing at times."

Though Yeschenko may have been in his first year on the bench, he wasn't the least bit surprised by Patterson's instant success and quick growth.

"With her demeanor on the court, she plays with a leadership that you rarely see with a sophomore," Yeschenko said. "She leads with her play. She can be dominant at times and, overall, she's just a true competitor, and you can see it in her eyes when she's on the court."

Even though she still has two years left, Patterson is already garnering Division I interest. She took a visit to Drexel University in Philadelphia last weekend and should have quite a few more trips penciled into her itinerary in the next year or so during the recruiting process.

Still, though Patterson is among the best young players in the WPIAL, she knows that there is still room for improvement.

"I know that I have to better my game, both on and off the court," Patterson said. "I really have to work on my attitude because everyone has told me growing up that my attitude was going to be my downfall, and I've been working on it and it's getting better."

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