Hempfield's success comes as no surprise to coach
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Hempfield's fast start might be a surprise to some after the Spartans lost three seniors who went on to play in college from the 2011-12 team that advanced to the WPIAL Class AAAA girls basketball quarterfinals.
Don't include first-year coach Aaron Epps among those caught off-guard.
“We're not as talented overall as last year's team, but we have great chemistry,” said Epps, who coached for one year at Kiski Area before taking over the vacant spot at Hempfield.
The position was made available when former coach Scott Breagle's contract was not renewed despite the Spartans' 20-4 record.
“I'm very satisfied with where we're at now, but we have a lot to work on.” Epps said. “I'm happy with how hard the kids have been working. We want to be disciplined, and my kids have given me that.”
Discipline, some players had privately complained, was an element missing from last season's team.
Hempfield (8-2, 3-0) plays Penn-Trafford (7-1, 3-0) on Friday with the early Section 1 lead at stake.
Epps said it's Hempfield's biggest game so far this season. The teams are tied for first place.
“It will go a long way in shaping our section outcome,” Epps said. “We've had to grind out wins a little more, but I couldn't have asked for a better start in my first year.”
With 5-foot-10 Taylor Lubinsky (Wheeling Jesuit), 6-2 Christina Santone (Muhlenberg) and 5-7 Emily Nelson (Pitt-Greensburg) gone from last year's team, Epps has observed a new group of girls mesh.
The team's leader, guard Monica Burns, is among the WPIAL's top scorers, averaging 23 points.
“I call her a scoring machine,” Epps said. “She's definitely one of the best guards around. I've never coached a girl with her shooting range. What's scary is she's just a junior, and I can imagine that she'll only get better.”
Hempfield's rotation includes seven players, but Epps is hoping to expand his bench and find more depth. Beyond Burns, the other regulars form a balanced scoring group.
Sophomore forward Leah Knizner; Burns' sister, senior point guard Mary Burns; senior forward Casey Hamilton; and reserve senior forward Jasmine Jones have combined to average about 31 points per game, helping Hempfield's offense to an average of just fewer than 60 points.
Senior forward Lea Scozio rounds out the starting five. Sophomore forward Lexi Irwin and freshman guard Aubree Halusic join Jones among the top players off the bench.
“The girls have accepted their roles,” Epps said. “They get along great. One through 10, we're not as deep and as talented as last year's team, but we're confident we can develop some of the more inexperienced players to where they're contributing on a regular basis.”
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-380-5617.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.