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Jeannette's Gregory opens court for rest of Jayhawks

| Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012, 6:28 p.m.
Jeannette's Ciara Gregory puts up a shot over Monessen's Chelsea Szakal during a game in Monessen on December 19, 2012. Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
Jeannette's Ciara Gregory puts up a shot over Monessen's Mariha Johnson during a game in Monessen on December 19, 2012. Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review

So far this season, Jeannette's Ciara Gregory has seen about every possible defense thrown at her.

She's even seen some that wouldn't qualify for any sportsmanship awards.

To this point, however, none have worked.

The 5-foot-7 senior guard, a Charlotte recruit, has been terrorizing opponents for more than 30 points per game in leading Jeannette to a 5-1 start, including a 3-0 conference mark.

Two of Gregory's biggest games came against larger schools — a 40-point performance in a win over Class AAAA Franklin Regional and 39 points in a loss to Class AAA power Mt. Pleasant.

“It's really just her determination,” coach Luann Mills said. “This is a player who just never quits and never stops playing hard. She is constantly practicing, and it's paying off. She deserves everything she's getting.”

While it's early, the Jayhawks appear to be a front-runner to capture the Section 3-AA crown — it would be Jeannette's third straight.

So far, Jeannette's offense has averaged 67 points.

Despite Gergory's numbers, the Jayhawks have other options. Mills has had to adapt to teams continuing to run made-to-order defenses against her star player.

Mills has seen several players step up to keep things balanced.

“We've seen lots of double teams and different strategies,” Mills said.

“Unfortunately, we've also seen some elbows and un-sportsmanlike plays. But we expected teams would try and take (Ciara) away. It's forced us to work around them and get more players involved. The advantage is it's getting more players confidence and will help us in the long run.”

Mills pointed to the play of junior forwards Sydney Peccoraro and Monique Redman as under-the-radar players who are filling key roles.

“(Peccoraro and Redman) are really strong players defensively,” Mills said. “They are very fast players and are getting us about 20 points a game. They are well-rounded and give us some balance on both ends of the floor.”

Redman has been a force under the basket. She is not only rebounding but also averaging 15 points. Mills attributes the players' familiarity with her system as having a large role in the team's success.

“It's started to flow better with each year,” she said.

“This is the third year running this offense now, and it's starting to really click.”

While scoring has not been an issue, Mills feels the team must continue to improve defensively if it's going to make a lengthy playoff run.

“We're doing some good things and slowly improving on defense,” she said. “I think our all-around execution still needs some work. You can run plays, but you have to be able to execute them. Overall, we are starting to come together. This is a quicker team than the last two, which helps us do some different things.”

The Jayhawks return to action against Class AAA Uniontown on Thursday in the Laurel Highlands Tournament. Jeannette faces Class AAAA Albert Gallatin on Friday.

Brian Hunger is a freelance writer.

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