Stretch run provides promise for Seton Hill women's hoops team

| Sunday, March 3, 2013, 10:18 p.m.

For a women's basketball team searching for an identity at midseason, Seton Hill sure ended up making its mark.

The Griffins unexpectedly surged to the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament championship game in Charleston, W.Va., narrowly missing a 20-win season and an automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament on Saturday with a 65-54 loss to Fairmont State.

After starting the year 0-4, Seton Hill concluded its final season in the WVIAC with an overall record of 19-13.

“The team really became a team in February,” Seton Hill coach Fern Labati said. “We were good, but we got so much better in February. That's when our schedule became a bit lighter, and we had more of an opportunity to get in the gym and work on some things.

“In January, we had too many games with a young team like this, too many injuries, too much sickness. But the kids hung in there. That's a tribute to them.”

Hang they did. The Griffins, led by former Seton-La Salle High School star Katie Gattuso's MVP-like season, earned a No. 5 seed in the WVIAC tournament after winning four of their final five regular-season games.

Gattuso, one of three juniors in the starting lineup, averaged a double double of 17.6 points and 11.3 rebounds. She leads Division II with 21 double -doubles.

“I get my drive from my dad,” Gattuso said. “He and I have always had a special bond with sports.”

Greg Gattuso, her father, is the former Duquesne football coach who later served as a Pitt assistant and currently is the defensive line and assistant head coach at Maryland. In 1982, he was the starting nose guard for Penn State's national championship team.

“He is a tenacious competitor,” Katie Gattuso said, which explains perhaps where Greg Gattuso's daughter obtained her traits.

“Obviously, we wanted to win the WVIAC championship game,” she said, “but the experience was a big help for our young players.”

She capped her season with an impressive tournament showing, nearly posting a double-double in all four games, topped by a 31-point, 21-rebound effort in a first-round victory over Concord.

“She is a fierce competitor,” Labati said. “She became a force for us in all aspects of the game. You've got to have a big heart to do that.”

Following the tournament, the WVIAC honored Gattuso with its sportsmanship award just days after she was recognized as a CoSIDA academic all-district player for attaining at least a 3.5 grade-point average as a political science major.

“She's a great student, and I'm so glad she got that sportsmanship award, too,” Labati said. “She gets hammered in the paint all the time, but she's taught herself how to persevere. She loves basketball. She's a student of the game. She's a force.”

With just one senior departing, it truly is a case of “wait till next year” for Labati and Seton Hill. Gattuso was joined Saturday on the all-WVIAC tournament team by juniors Paige Alviani, a Hopewell product, and Tiara Stossel from Indiana.

Dave Mackall is a staff writer f or Trib Total Media. Reach him at

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