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Defending WPIAL champion Hopewell chasing elusive state title banner

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who 2 watch

preseason player of the year

SHATORI WALKER-KIMBROUGH

Hopewell

5-11, Sr., guard

25.6 ppg

players to watch

SHELBY LINDSAY

South Park

5-11, Sr., G, 16.4 ppg

JAYNE OBERDORF

Greensburg Salem

5-5, Sr., G, 15.6 ppg

CHASSIDY OMOGROSSO

Blackhawk

5-5, So., G, 19.2 ppg

MADI ROWAN

Central Valley

5-8, Sr., G, 14.7 ppg

JESSICA SLAGUS

Belle Vernon

6-0, Sr., F, 17.3 ppg

preseason top 10

1. Hopewell (25-3)

Reigning Player of the Year Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and four other starters return.

2. Blackhawk (24-5)

The Cougars knocked off Hopewell in the PIAA playoffs and will challenge again.

3. South Park (24-4)

The AAA runner-up returns a talented duo in Shelby Lindsay and junior Halie Torris.

4. Elizabeth Forward (18-6)

With South Park in a new section, senior Dana Buck should put EF atop Section 5.

5. Central Valley (15-8)

The top two scorers return, and Beaver Falls transfer Kiana Law adds to the talent.

6. Mt. Pleasant (17-6)

Second-place finisher in Section 3 a season ago looks to take the crown this year.

7. Uniontown (18-5)

Strong senior class should make for interesting section battles with Mt. Pleasant.

8. South Fayette (17-9)

Leading scorer Erika Ford is gone, but Caitlin McLuckie is back for PIAA qualifier.

9. Hampton (12-10)

Section 1 champion will look to make up for first-round exit.

10. Gbg. Salem (13-11)

Claire and Jayne Oberdorf lead Section 3 contender.

section favorites

section 1

HAMPTON

It looks to be a battle between Mars and Hampton for the section title again as the teams split the title — and their two meetings — last season. Senior Sara Pilarski (12.6 ppg) returns for Hampton, but Mars counters with sophomore Ali Goetz (13.3 ppg).

section 2

HOPEWELL

The toughest section again should come down to Hopewell and Blackhawk. Hopewell's Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, the 2011-12 Tribune-Review Player of the Year, will look to lead the Vikings to another WPIAL title. Blackhawk's Chassidy Omogrosso and Halle Denman helped the Cougars knock off Hopewell in the PIAA playoffs last season. Central Valley's Madi Rowan and Seairra Barrett could make some noise.

section 3

Mt. PLEASANT

The Vikings finished second a year ago but could finish higher thanks to the combination of sophomore Alexa Szelong and senior Casey Zelenak. Uniontown will challenge with a strong senior class led by Jessie Madison (11.2 ppg), Danasha Harris (10.7 ppg) and Lydya Dennis (10 ppg). Keep an eye on Greensburg Salem as the Oberdorf sisters provide plenty of firepower.

section 4

Elizabeth Forward

This section will have a new champion after last season's victor, South Park, moved to Section 5. Elizabeth Forward shared second place last season and returns senior Dana Buck (13.1 ppg). Senior Jessica Slagus will pace Belle Vernon, a playoff team a season ago, and West Mifflin will attempt to make up for the loss of Ciara Patterson (21.1 ppg).

section 5

SOUTH PARK

The WPIAL runner-up should make another run at the title, led by senior Shelby Lindsay and junior Halie Torris. But the seven-team section includes six playoff qualifiers, has Quaker Valley and Keystone Oaks from Class AA. South Fayette, led by senior Caitlin McLuckie, and Montour, led by junior Sophia Esposito, will also battle for playoff seeding.

Top high school sports
Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
 

Shatori Walker-Kimbrough gets motivation just by looking up during practice.

Banners on the walls of Hopewell's gymnasium do more than just commemorate the Vikings' back-to-back state championships in 2006 and 2007 — they also remind Walker-Kimbrough of the one accomplishment that has eluded her.

“Hopewell has a legacy with back-to-back states,” said Walker-Kimbrough, the 2011-12 Tribune-Review Player of the Year. “I just want to look up and say I was a part of that my senior year.”

The Vikings added another chapter to their lore in 2011-12 by winning the WPIAL Class AAA championship, but their state title hopes came to a quick end when section rival Blackhawk beat them in the second round of the PIAA playoffs.

“It's definitely a motivation just like the loss in 2010 in the WPIAL championship,” Hopewell coach Jeff Homziak said. “Those things are what drive me to be more creative offensively or (find) things we can get better at as a team. We did things defensively to win, (but) we weren't good enough on the offensive side.”

Hopewell and Blackhawk again figure to be among the top teams in the WPIAL after splitting the Section 2-AAA crown a year ago. Though the Vikings might not be counting down the days until their first meeting with Blackhawk (Dec. 20), they certainly know when it is.

“We're really looking forward to getting back at them for that one,” senior forward Raquel Farris said.

Walker-Kimbrough, who committed to play basketball at Maryland over the summer, will again provide the biggest scoring punch for Hopewell. The senior guard averaged 25.6 points and more than 10 rebounds last season.

But she'll be joined by an experienced crew. The Vikings will return three other full-time and one part-time starter from last season. Senior Shaniya Rivers, a starting shooting guard last season, will take over for the graduated Jharrin Gill at point guard.

“Shatori has her role — she's a player,” senior forward Cassidy Rizzo said. “But we need to help her. She can't do it all on her own.”

For her part, Walker-Kimbrough said her biggest improvement this season might come in mental toughness on the court.

While the Vikings and Walker-Kimbrough will have a target on their back, the Hopewell star has a simple message: “Last year is done.”

“People are going to want to beat us, but we're going to have to walk on the floor ready to compete,” she said. “We're not backing down to anyone.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at dgulasy@tribweb.com.

 

 

 
 


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