Transfers bolster Central Valley girls in loaded section
The Central Valley School District formed 3 1⁄2 years ago out of a merger between Center and Monaca.
The Warriors' girls basketball team that is experiencing unprecedented success is the product of a merging of more than just those schools.
Central Valley charged out to a 10-0 start this season, buoyed by transfers the past two offseasons by a girl each from Hopewell and Beaver Falls, respectively.
Center and Monaca went a combined 9-31 during their final seasons in 2009-10, and the inaugural Central Valley team was 4-18 the following year. But after guard Madi Rowan arrived from Hopewell prior to last season, a playoff berth ensued. Center Kiana Law transferred from Beaver Falls before this school year, and further success has followed.
“We've made some pretty good strides the past couple years to the point we're pretty competitive game in and game out now,” coach Chris Wagner said. “A couple transfers have been a big part of assisting in that.
“We're not satisfied by any means, but we're happy.”
The Warriors were among the final three undefeated teams in the WPIAL at 10-0 until last week, when they lost to what was then the only other unbeaten Class AAA team left, Blackhawk, 62-46. No. 5 Central Valley then rebounded by knocking off No. 2 Hopewell, 56-52, on Monday in a Section 2-AAA battle.
“We got off to a great start, and this is the best team we've had,” Rowan said. “We have a lot of talent on this team, and we have a chance to go really far — if we keep working hard.”
Rowan, a 5-9 senior, was among the top 5 in Class AAA in scoring at 19.2 points per game heading into Wednesday's nonsection game at Sto-Rox despite serving primarily as the Warriors' point guard.
It's not a coincidence that last season's Central Valley team enjoyed an 11-win improvement from the previous campaign to finish 15-8 after Rowan transferred into the school.
“She's a basketball junkie, for lack of a batter term,” Wagner said. “And she's playing out of her comfort zone and out of position for her right now, but she's doing the best she can for us and is doing what she can for the good of the team.”
Junior Seairra Barrett was Central Valley's other top returnee from last season. Barrett, a 5-11 forward, is averaging 18.5 points.
“She's one of the more athletic girls I've seen in some time,” Wagner said of Barrett, adding that she has Division I colleges interested in her.
Law also is attracting that kind of attention. A 6-1 junior, she is averaging a double-double for the Warriors.
“Kiana was exactly what we needed,” Rowan said. “She fits in well with the girls. ... She rebounds, she defends and she can make plays.”
Senior guard Kayla Schwartz and senior forward Karisa Pancottini also start, and they share in the team captaincy with Rowan. Freshman guard/forward Bele'n Brown has emerged as a reliable option off the bench.
Be it Center and Monaca prior to 2010 or Central Valley more recently, the Warriors continually feel the need to fight for respect in what is a top-heavy section.
“The team goal this year is to prove to everyone doubting us that we're very good,” Barrett said. “We can beat teams like Blackhawk and Hopewell. If we come together as one as a team, we have the opportunity to show we are a team who can win the WPIAL.”
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.