Former Mt. Lebanon stars find success at college level
By Jeff Vella
Published: Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014, 10:03 p.m.
Winning programs seem to follow Madison Cable.
After winning back-to-back-to-back PIAA girls basketball titles at Mt. Lebanon from 2009-11, she now is part of a Notre Dame team that's 13-0 and ranked No. 2 in the country.
“I think that is a huge advantage coming into the college game,” Fighting Irish coach Muffet McGraw said of Cable's background. “You know how to compete. It's just a different attitude. You expect to win. You know what it takes to win.”
Talented teammates and Cable go together, too. Eight former high school teammates are playing collegiately this season, including three at Division I.
“It's crazy,” said Cable, a redshirt sophomore guard. “We were so successful in high school, and a lot of people decided to take their talents to college. It's really impressive.”
Cable, a two-time Tribune-Review Player of the Year, comes off the bench and averages 6.2 points in 15 minutes. She has hit 13 of 23 (56.5 percent) 3-pointers this season and converted 30 of 48 shots (62.5 percent) overall. Both percentages would rank among the nation's leaders if she attempted enough shots to qualify.
“I'd like her to shoot more,” McGraw said of Cable, who scored a career-high 21 in a win over UCLA on Dec. 7. “She doesn't like to miss, so she's very selective.”
McGraw said Cable's minutes have been limited partly because of stress fractures in both feet that caused her to miss her freshman season.
Cable was forced to take almost an entire year off, when she originally suffered the injury, and it could cause pain for the rest of her time at Notre Dame.
Cable's mindset, however, remains unchanged.
“In Mt. Lebanon, we didn't take losing,” she said. “That carried over to here. Losing is not acceptable.”
Jessica Babe, a senior at D-I Central Connecticut State, said she has gained perspective on Mt. Lebanon's success since going to college. Her CCSU teams have hovered around .500 and never advanced past the NEC semifinals.
“Now I see how difficult it is to win,” she said.
One thing Babe hasn't had to worry about is seeing a familiar face. Her teammate, housemate and classmate is Mt. Lebanon graduate Lauren Arbogast, and Babe's older sister, Jaclyn, played for CCSU the previous two seasons after transferring from Duquesne.
Jessica Babe has seized control of the team this season following the graduation of Jaclyn, leading the team in scoring (13.2), rebounding (6.2) and assists (5.0). Jessica, a 5-foot-5 point guard, also recorded the first triple-double in school history Dec. 21, totaling 15 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
“I miss her (Jaclyn) because she was easy points and easy assists for me, but it's probably good for me to be more independent,” Jessica said. “It helps with my creativity.”
Senior Chelsea Apke began her career at D-I Presbyterian in South Carolina, but she transferred to D-III Washington & Jefferson after one year to be closer to home.
Apke certainly has found a home at W&J, emerging as one of the top players in the Presidents' Athletic Conference. She was first-team all-league as a junior and has elevated her game even more as a senior, ranking second in the PAC in scoring (16.5) and first in rebounding (11.2).
At Mt. Lebanon, Apke was a complementary offensive player who focused more on shutting down an opponent's top player, so it took her a while to adapt to being a go-to player.
“I never really thought I could score like this,” Apke said.
While the college careers of Babe and Apke are winding down, things are just starting for Kelly Johnson, a redshirt freshman at D-II Clarion.
She has fought through a myriad of injuries, including a torn hip labrum that required four procedures to repair and caused her to miss seven months last season.
Johnson, a 5-8 guard, said she's not at full strength but still is putting up big numbers, ranking second on the team with 13.4 points per game and first with 2.7 steals per game.
“I know there's more in me,” Johnson said. “My parents tell me after every game, ‘I'm still waiting to see the old you.' ”
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