West Mifflin girls bounce Belle Vernon
After losing all three games it played in the Hempfield tournament, the West Mifflin girls basketball team was left looking for an emotional lift.
“The girls were down and out, and we needed to bounce back and get something we could feed off of and get some momentum,” West Mifflin coach Rob Yeschenko said.
A win Thursday over Belle Vernon did exactly that.
Junior forward Taylor Thomas scored a game-high 26 points, and Paige Flore chipped in 15 to lead West Mifflin to a 75-66 victory in a key Section 4-AAA showdown.
It was a signature win for the Titans (3-5, 2-0) against a favored opponent.
“We hope we can keep this momentum and go with it,” Yeschenko said. “When they experience success, they're starting to come together and find our identity. We're starting to play together a little bit more. And we're mixing it up a bit better, and it's getting better as we go along.”
Thomas was a key contributor as junior center Deilona DeVaughn was limited throughout because of foul trouble. She was especially clutch down the stretch, scoring 10 points in the fourth quarter, including 6 of 7 from the free-throw line and 4 of 4 in the final minute.
“She was tough,” Yeschenko said. “We talked about it in practice of how good of a player she can be, and we're looking for more consistency and to stay with that drive. The drive and poise she had was excellent.”
DeVaughn, who finished with 10, was given the unenviable task of shutting down Belle Vernon's top inside threats, sisters Jessica and Kaitlyn Slagus. She was helped as Kaitlyn Slagus was in foul trouble early, and Jessica, who led the team with 19 points and 15 rebounds, joined her sister on the bench with four fouls in the third quarter.
“Kaitlyn and Jess are such leaders on the court, and it was a huge factor not having (Kaitlyn) in there because, when they're in there together, good things happen,” Belle Vernon coach Lisa Fairman said. “That was a huge loss, but players came on and stepped in and did a good job.”
Belle Vernon (6-3, 2-1) committed 32 turnovers.
“That was what I told them in the locker room was, if you can't control the ball, you're going to struggle,” Fairman said. “When you have that many turnovers, quite frankly, you don't deserve to win, and that's honestly the most turnovers we've had all year.”
Belle Vernon still mounted a comeback. The Leopards, who led by as many as eight in the first half, made it a one-possession game, 66-64, on a putback by Tiernie Singleton with 1:31 left. But West Mifflin finished on a 9-2 run with all of its points coming from the free-throw line.
“We think that, with the competition we've faced so far, that we can step up in these situations, and we talk about it in practice all the time,” Yeschenko said. “These girls stepped up, and we were real proud of them because they picked up the ball pressure, and we were able to force a lot of turnovers.”