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Warriors are 5-0 for first time in eight years

| Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012, 8:50 p.m.
(c) 2012 Aaron Loughner
Maddie Mossellem, at left, steals the ball from a Plum player while teammate Casey Aunkst looks on. The Warriors have kept up the defense so far this season, as they have held four of their first five opponents to 37 points or fewer this season. Aaron Loughner | For The Penn-Trafford Star

As Christmas day approaches, Penn-Trafford's girls basketball players are playing the role of Scrooge when defending their basket.

The Warriors are 5-0 for the first time since 2004-05, and a big reason why has been a defense that has allowed no more than 44 points in a single game.

Penn-Trafford's most recent win, a 65-17 blowout at struggling Connellsville, improved the team to 2-0 in the section, but that game isn't the ideal indicator of the level the team is at, according to its coach.

“We're like any other team right now. There's a lot of things we can still work on to get where we want to get at the end of the year,” Penn-Trafford coach John Giannikas said. “These kids are smart, and they know there's room for improvement.”

Maria Palarino led P-T with 17 points, and Maddie Mossellem scored 14 against Connellsville, but the game was another rout like last week's 85-21 section win over Laurel Highlands.

Instead of those games, it's wins such as Penn-Trafford's 49-37 win over Gateway on Dec. 11 that are the real measuring stick for a team with its sights set on a berth in the state tournament.

“Playing those teams, like Shaler (on Dec. 8) and Gateway, those are the types of games we talk about needed to win,” Giannikas said. “Both of those teams slowed the game down more, but we still played good defense. It was a grind-it-out-and-execute kind of game.”

Casey Aunkst had a game-high 13 points, and Taylor Cortazzo added 12 in the win against the Gators, who trailed P-T at half, 21-12.

That sort of defensive performance is what Giannikas and his players seek, and they will try to do it against some more top nonsection opponents, such as when they head to North Allegheny's Christmas Tournament on Dec. 27 and 28. There, P-T will open against North Catholic at 1:30 p.m. on the first day and face either North Allegheny or Plum on the second day.

“We tried to beef the schedule up this year,” Giannikas said. “Opening (the tournament) with North Catholic, we'll be going against a girl that's a Division I guard, so hopefully we have some success there.”

Before getting ahead to that point, the Warriors have a section test Thursday at home against Kiski Area at 7:30 p.m. The Cavaliers have struggled so far this year, but with star forward Maddie Antone on the court, Kiski Area is a team capable of scoring.

“Kiski is always a tough game when we play them, and I expect it to be the same this Thursday,” Giannikas said. “Being 5-0 is nice, but we still have work to do. That's what's great about these girls; they know it. They're humble but very confident.”

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or mgrubba@tribweb.com.

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