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Ward making her mark at WCCC

| Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Mariah Ward, shown last year playing for Monessen, is the leading scorer this season for Westmoreland County Community College.

When Mariah Ward was scoring more than 1,000 points at Monessen the last four years, Scott Hillen had an advantage over other small college coaches.

Hillen, who guides Westmoreland County Community College's successful women's program, is also a teacher at Monessen.

He saw plenty of Ward — on the court and in the classroom.

So when Ward opted to attend WCCC, the two-year Division III junior college, Hillen knew exactly what he was getting.

A star.

Through eight games, Ward is leading the team in scoring with an average of 18 points. That includes a 21-point performance Monday night in a 86-75 win over host Penn State Greater Allegheny.

The 5-8 freshman is the starting point guard for the Wolfpack (4-4) and averages 7.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game.

“She's doing really well for us, pretty much what I expected,” Hillen said. “She scores, rebounds and gets assists. She still has a ways to go, but she's learning. She's working.”

WCCC is a two-time regular season champion in the Western Pennsylvania Collegiate Conference and won the conference's post-season title last season.

Hillen is faced with a young team this season and said creating a cohesive unit has taken some time.

“We started 0-2, but of our four losses, one was by one point, one came on a half-court shot at the buzzer and the other was in overtime,” he said. “So, I think we are doing pretty good. I was worried about how quickly we would jell and that includes Mariah. But it is coming along.”

Ward has scored at least 13 points in every game. She eclipsed 20 points in each of the last three games for WCCC with her high of 23 points coming in a 66-62 win over Penn State-DuBois.

Ward has been somewhat of a sharpshooter early in her career, having never taken less than 11 shots and averaging close to 45 percent from the field. She shot 50 percent or better in four of her team's games.

“She can play,” Hillen said. “And she will get better as long as she keeps working.”

WCCC visits Niagara County Community College Friday night in the Jamestown Tournament.

Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or joliver@tribweb.com.

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