Surging West Shamokin embraces winner's mentality
Perhaps no moment proved stranger yet sweeter for West Shamokin junior forward Tristan Cribbs this season than when she reviewed the three other teams in the Lady Wolves' holiday basketball tournament — Knoch, Highlands and Shady Side Academy — and regarded her own squad as the favorite.
That the Lady Wolves, who ultimately won their holiday event, considered themselves frontrunners marked a promising step forward for the program, which finished with one win a season ago (1-21) and just three in 2010-11.
This winter is one in which West Shamokin (6-6, 2-2) can match and possibly surpass the accomplishments of the 2009-10 team, the first and only in school history to finish with a winning record (12-9, 7-4). But, for now, the Lady Wolves are pleased they've parted ways with self doubt.
“I think the reality has sunk in that this is our redemption year,” Cribbs said. “I really want people to notice that we're starting to win, and we're a different team than we were last year, by far.”
A four-game losing streak to open the season sowed seeds of concern. But a 67-29 win over Section 1-AA foe Leechburg snapped the skid. And one game later, sophomore starting guard Lizzy Cornish returned from a preseason ankle injury to help edge Apollo-Ridge, 43-38.
West Shamokin toppled Highlands and then Shady Side Academy in its holiday tournament. Non-section wins over Freeport and Springdale followed.
The winning streak created an unprecedented sense of assurance among the Lady Wolves, who also overcame the challenge of absorbing Elderton players.
“I think it's still a process, but we've come a long way,” coach Judd McCullough said.
The halfway point of section play arrives Thursday, when the Lady Wolves host Burrell (7-1, 3-0). Even with a loss, West Shamokin will sit in no worse than fourth place — a playoff-qualifying position.
Senior forward Jill Glover continues to serve as West Shamokin's keystone, particularly on offense, where she scores almost half of the team's points. But Glover, the only player who started on the 2009-10 team, hopes she can help her younger teammates grow bold enough to embrace key roles in clutch moments.
“I just want to get everybody pumped,” Glover said. “But I don't want to push it over and be the person that everybody gets mad at for pushing us harder. I only do it because I know we can do better at some points.”
Glover, Cribbs, Cornish, junior guard Kelly Clowser, junior forward Kelsey Altman and the numerous contributors are determined to prove themselves the second time through the section.
“I think we have more motivation to show everyone we can do it this year,” Cribbs said. “It's an amazing feeling. I've never had this opportunity.”