Basketball tradition in North Carolina lured Gregory
These days, Ciara Gregory is the face of Jeannette High School basketball team and the Lady Jayhawks' WPIAL playoff run.
And with her 30 points per game average, it's easy to see why.
However, next year at this time, Gregory's impressive basketball skills will be on display on an even bigger stage.
She'll be playing at the college level at a highly successful NCAA Division I program in a basketball crazy state.
Gregory, a 5-foot-7 shooting guard, has signed to play with the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
The local product had more than 15 Division I scholarship offers, but her choices came down to William and Mary and UNC-Charlotte.
Given that basketball is in her blood, UNC-Charlotte won out.
“I know North Carolina is a big basketball state, and I love basketball,” she said.
UNC-Charlotte is a big time women's basketball program having a banner season.
The 49ers picked up their 21st win of the season on Sunday, downing George Washington 68-56.
They entered the week 21-4 overall and 10-1 in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
The team appears poised at an Atlantic 10 Championship and NCAA Tournament run.
Gregory liked all aspects of the program, beyond the team's on-court success.
“I like the campus . . . I got to sit in with the team, the coaches, and I really liked all of them. It felt comfortable,” she said.
Being such an in-demand basketball star meant a lot of attention for Gregory this season.
She admits that the recruiting process at times could be too much, distracting her from the current Jayhawks' season.
“It was a stressful process. I'm glad it's over,” she said. “I know I made the right decision.”
When Gregory takes the court in Charlotte next year, that means there will be two Jeannette products playing Division I college basketball, both in the Carolinas.
Kayla Cook, also a Jeannette grad, is a junior guard at Coastal Carolina University in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Gregory said that Jeannette basketball tradition is a source of pride for her.
“I haven't had a chance to really talk to her, but I know if I needed her, she would be there for me,” Gregory said of Cook.
Big game for Cook
Speaking of Kayla Cook, the local product had one of her biggest games of the year in what was one of Coastal's biggest wins of the season on Saturday.
The 5-foot-10 junior guard had 13 points in the Chanticleers' 70-67 overtime win over Coastal Carolina. Coastal trailed by a whopping 17 points in the second half but stormed back to force overtime.
The Chanticleers took the game when Shatia Cole hit a layup and the “and-one“ free throw with 8.1 seconds left to seal the victory.
The win is the Chanticleers' sixth in their past seventh games. At 12-13 overall and 7-8 in the Division I Big South Conference, they're still in the running for a favorable seed in the conference tournament.
Cook now has 116 points, a 5.0 per game average. She also has 17 steals and 70 total rebounds.
Next up is a road game against Charleston Southern tonight (Thursday).
The game will be broadcast at GoCCUSports.com.
Baurle takes conference title
He's just a freshman, but already Matt Baurle is a conference champion ... three times over.
The Jeannette area native and Penn-Trafford High School graduate is breaststroke specialist on the Division III Westminster College swimming team.
On Saturday, won the Presidents Athletic Conference Championship in the 200-yard breaststroke and the 100-yard breaststroke, qualifying for the NCAA Championship meet in both. In the 200, he took first with a time 2:04.31.
In the 100, he had a 56.50 which was a PAC meet record, school record and pool record.
Baurele was also on the first-place 200-medley relay team with teammates Steven Brooks, Alan Nedley and Dan Gutmann. The quartet also qualified for the NCAA meet in that event.
The NCAA tournament will be held March 20-23 in Shenandoah, Texas.
Brian Knavish is a freelance writer.