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Kiski Area hires new girls basketball coach

| Monday, Aug. 20, 2012, 10:54 p.m.

Nick Ionadi set a goal for the Kiski Area girls basketball program: build a stronger foundation for a varsity team that qualified for the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs in each of the past four seasons.

Kiski Area School Board hired Ionadi, 30, of Hempfield Township, as coach of the Cavaliers by an 8-0 vote Monday night.

He received a one-year contract for $7,169.

The district lacks organized basketball for girls below seventh grade, he said, and the first-time head coach looks forward to the challenge of improving playing opportunities for younger girls in the district.

“If you look at Quad-A schools, most programs already have something in place,” Ionadi said. “This is a chance to build something, and it's a Quad-A job. It's not often they pop open, especially for your first job.”

Ionadi served as a volunteer assistant at Kiski Area last year.

“I liked his vision for the youth program at the elementary level, his ideas and how he planned on installing them,” Kiski Area athletic director Ryan Berberich said.

Ionadi applied for the job after Aaron Epps resigned after one season and was named coach of the Hempfield girls — Kiski Area's Section 1-AAAA rival — in late June. Ionadi will get a chance to coach against Epps at least twice this winter.

“We've talked about it,” Ionadi said. “He kind of got me started coaching girls. It will be fun matching up. We're friends, and we're competitive. I think we're both looking forward to it.”

Ionadi was a starting guard at Penn Hills and helped the Indians capture a WPIAL Class AAAA title in 2000. He hoped to play at Division II Slippery Rock, but a broken ankle ended his career.

He volunteered as an assistant for the Penn Hills boys and Woodland Hills boys for three years apiece. Last year, he joined Epps at Kiski Area as a volunteer.

In addition to coaching, Ionadi teaches science in Penn Hills School District.

Ionadi was hired relatively late during the offseason. But he believes he built a good rapport with Kiski Area's players last year and won't have to worry about a major transition.

“We lost practically the whole summer with everything going on with the coach search,” Ionadi said. “It will be nice to go in and get started. There's usually that awkward period when the players have to get used to a new coach. The girls don't have to worry about that.”

Last season, Kiski Area finished 8-4 in section and 16-7 overall. Returning players include senior 5-foot-11 forward Maddie Antone, who averaged 16.7 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, three steals and 1.6 blocks. However, there isn't much varsity experience beyond her.

“We'll be solid with the presence of Maddie,” Ionadi said. “We'll be a defense-first group and emphasize rebounding.”

Paul Kogut is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at pkogut@tribweb.com or 724-224-2696.

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