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Cheswick Christian girls learn chemistry lesson

Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch - Senior center Natalie Merola pulls down a rebound during a recent practice at Cheswick Christian Academy.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Bill Shirley  |  For The Valley News Dispatch</em></div>Senior center Natalie Merola pulls down a rebound during a recent practice at Cheswick Christian Academy.
Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch - Senior Andrew Maust, Coach Todd Rosio and freshman Antione Malloy go over plays during practice at Cheswick Christian Academy in Cheswick on Monday November 19, 2012.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Bill Shirley  |  For The Valley News Dispatch</em></div>Senior Andrew Maust, Coach Todd Rosio and freshman Antione Malloy go over plays during practice at Cheswick Christian Academy in Cheswick on Monday November 19, 2012.

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By D.j. Vasil
Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, 12:11 a.m.
 

Cheswick Christian Academy's girls basketball team is young, but coach Deric Johnson feels it has the best chemistry in recent years.

“The coaches feel good about how the team is coming together,” Johnson said. “Sometimes with a young team, you learn to work hard and compete, and we are reaching the point where the girls are understanding that.”

Cheswick finished 5-16 last season and 5-10 in the Southwest Christian Athletic Conference, losing in the first round of the playoffs.

Johnson feels this year could be much better.

“I just sense chemistry and an understanding that the girls are learning what they have to do to get better,” Johnson said. “I don't know where it's going to take us, but I know we are going to be more competitive than last year.”

Cheswick returns three starters, including top scorer and rebounder Natalie Merola, a senior center. Merola, who averaged 7 points per game, will be counted on to lead a team that has only two seniors.

“She's been our leader the last couple of years,” Johnson said. “We are counting on her to increase her scoring and work with the other girls in teaching.”

Joining Merola will be sophomore point guard Jacque Willis and junior guard Ariel Festa. Willis will be looked upon to direct the offense. Festa, the best defensive player on the team, according to Johnson, is becoming a more well-rounded offensive player.

The other two starting spots, power forward and wing, are up for grabs.

Battling at the No. 4 spot will be junior Sarah Evans and freshman Cydney Francis. Competing at the wing will be sophomore Alyssa Slancauskas and eighth-grader Alexia Voelker.

SWCAC rules allow eighth-grade players to compete at the varsity level.

Similar to some of the starting lineup, there remains some uncertainty with the bench players.

“There will be an eight- to nine-girl rotation,” Johnson said. “They will get the majority of the minutes and they will keep fighting to finish it.”

D.J. Vasil is a freelance writer.

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