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Butler grad Cygan aiming for conference title, scoring record at La Roche

| Saturday, July 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
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Casie Cygan was the leading scorer in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference last season.

Through two years as a college basketball player, Casie Cygan had established herself as a valuable contributor to the La Roche Redhawks.

For her third season, the Butler High School alumnus became one of the most valuable players in her entire conference.

What can she do for an encore as a senior?

Cygan, a 5-foot-5 guard, was honored as a first-team Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference selection after leading the AMCC in scoring and helping to pace La Roche to a 24-3 record, conference title and NCAA Division III Tournament appearance.

“Casie was definitely that go-to scorer for us this year,” La Roche coach Kam Gissendanner said. “I thought she always found a way to get her nose around the ball. She really runs the floor well, and she finished when she was open. She did a great job for us this year.”

In addition to leading the AMCC in scoring at 18.2 points per game, Cygan finished among the top 15 of the conference in field-goal percentage (46.5 percent), assists (68), free-throw percentage (76.7 percent), steals (58), 3-point percentage (36.4), 3-pointers made (55) and minutes played (977).

Cygan, who surpassed 1,000 career points this past season, was named to the D3Hoops' Great Lakes Regional third team.

The performance followed a freshman campaign in which she averaged 10.3 points per game and a sophomore season in which Cygan was a third-team all-conference honoree after scoring 11.3.

But Cygan wanted to take her game to another level. She knew she had to if the Redhawks were going to defend their AMCC title. Partially because of a coaching change, La Roche experienced significant roster turnover. Cygan wanted to do her part in picking up the slack.

“I knew I had to get to the foul line more and drive more because I knew I would be touching the ball a little more,” Cygan said. “We had fewer players, and I had to do some things other players did last year to make up for losing people.”

“She's always been known as a shooter,” Gissendanner said, “but this past year she got a lot of easy transition buckets. ... Obviously, she's also kind of good at getting to the basket and scoring after getting offensive rebounds. She does a little bit of everything.”

This summer, Cygan is out to continue to refine her game. She's playing in a summer league on Pittsburgh's South Side with several Redhawks teammates. Cygan said Gissendanner told her to focus on developing her pull-up shot more.

If she does that — adding even more offense to her game — Cygan's assault up the charts on the La Roche all-time scoring list figures to continue. Cygan ranks fourth with 1,092 points. That's 543 points behind school record-holder Chantelle Jennings (1,535) — although current teammate Jessica Pitts has 1,102 points. (Stephanie Pencak is second with 1,136 points).

Just as important, Cygan has a chance to graduate as a four-time conference champion.

“We're just out to make sure we win it again — and hopefully win an NCAA game this time — that's the main goal,” Cygan said.

Chris Adamski is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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