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Latrobe girls heading in right direction

| Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013, 10:52 a.m.
Latrobe's Carly Yelenic (14) keeps the ball away from Kiski Area's Maddie Antone (33) during a Section 1-AAAA game at Kiski Area High School on Monday, Dec. 17, 2012. Latrobe won, 52-50. Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch

After a slow start, the Latrobe girls basketball team has been able to right the ship and get off to one of its best starts in recent years.

The Wildcats opened the season with three straight losses, including a 66-43 defeat to Norwin in Section 1-AAA action Dec. 13. After that, the Wildcats won six of the next eight games.

“Well, the girls are finally playing well and working together as a team,” coach Greg Fenton said. “We got off to a slow start, and the team seemed to be on a different page. Now that the system is in place, it's starting to pay dividends for us.”

The main reason for Latrobe's (6-5, 4-2) success could be the play of junior forward Emma Kate Womack, who averaged 11.4 points and 7.8 rebounds through nine games.

“She is a steady scorer and rebounder. We count on her,” Fenton said.

“The younger girls on the team look up to her. Her play is contagious with the other girls on the team.”

Womack, who missed 10 games last year due to a concussion, had 18 points and 14 rebounds in a 62-59 win against Johnstown in the Ligonier Valley Tournament in late December.

Womack's first double-double, 17 points and 12 rebounds, was in a 55-48 loss against Keystone Oaks in the Indiana Tournament on Dec. 8.

“I think we are a more experienced team this year,” Womack said. “Last year, we were really young, and no one really had varsity experience.

“This year, we knew what to expect, and that made us prepare better.”

The Wildcats also rely on the complementary play of junior guard Taley Dunaway, who averages 10.3 points. Dunaway had 20 points in a 56-49 win against Connellsville on Jan. 7.

“We really don't have a high-powered offense,” Fenton said. “Luckily, we have held on during close games. Last year, we would lose the close games. The girls are starting to learn now what to do down the stretch during close games and what shots to take.”

The Wildcats don't always have to depend on Womack and Dunaway to produce offense. Freshman forward Maddy Kollar, who averages 9.8 points and 6.6 rebounds, has been a helpful third scoring option for the Wildcats. Kollar recorded a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds in the early-season loss to Keystone Oaks.

“It's obviously necessary for a lot of players to step up in order for a team to win,” Womack said. “It's good to know when one of us is off that we have someone else on the floor to help out.”

With the team confidence high, the Wildcats face one of the toughest stretches of their season with games against Penn-Trafford, Hempfield and Norwin. Latrobe will see exactly where it is and how it matches up with the tougher teams in its section.

“We are still hoping to secure the fourth playoff spot,” Fenton said. “We are looking forward to facing Norwin again. But we are looking to improve as a team each and every day.”

Latrobe started the tough portion of its schedule with a disappointing loss to Penn-Trafford, 72-29, on Jan. 10.

Andrew John is a freelance writer.

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