1st-year players again key for South Park girls
Three years ago, Shelby Lindsay was a promising freshman for South Park. Today, she's one of the top all-around players in all of WPIAL girls basketball.
Two winters back, Halie Torris was a solid contributor to the Eagles as a freshman. Now a junior, she's evolving into a dynamic scorer.
This season, starting forward Allison McGrath headlines a group of no fewer than three freshmen who are valuable contributors to a No. 5-ranked South Park team that is 14-2 overall and 8-0 in Section 5-AAA heading into the home stretch.
“They came in (this preseason), and they actually won those spots (in the rotation),” Eagles coach Reggie Wells said of the ninth-grader trio of McGrath and guards Natalie Clydesdale and Jesse Jones.
“When they came up, a lot of the coaches from the youth programs on down had done a real good job with a lot of kids, making sure they're ready to take advantage of an opportunity with an open spot in the lineup. They've taken advantage of it.”
Just like Lindsay and Torris before them.
At 5-foot-11, Lindsay is versatile and talented enough that she can play as many as four positions. She leads South Park in points, rebounds, assists and steals.
Torris is a 5-10 junior who also is drawing heavy interest from college coaches and is second on the team in scoring.
Lindsay and Torris have grown as players since their freshman seasons, an on-the-job-training that is benefiting the Eagles now. The hope is the same is true of the current freshmen, of which the 5-9 McGrath has the look of a future star.
“She just stepped right in as a freshman, and nothing bothered her,” Wells said. “She really came right in confident, comfortable and ready to contribute. She's legitimately a big-time scorer already.”
Clydesdale has proven capable at shooting guard, and James has made a relatively seamless transition to the varsity game.
“All of (the freshmen), really, can be however good they want to be,” Lindsay said. “There are times in practice one will come out and do something we didn't think was possible.
“All the underclassmen have been huge. We go deeper down the bench this year than we ever have.”
Sophomore center Samantha Miller and junior guards Lindsey Noss and Amanda Quinn also are part of the rotation, with Miller and Noss typically as starters.
Make no mistake, though, at more than 18 points per game, Lindsay makes the Eagles go. Holding a 4.2 GPA, Ivy League colleges and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point are among the Division I colleges recruiting her.
“She's averaging close to a triple-double,” Wells said. “She's up there, really, for every statistic. She does it all — and she does it without selfishness. That's just what she does. Even if she's not shooting or scoring, she impacts the game everywhere. She has a positive effect on everyone else on the court.”
A WPIAL finalist last year, South Park has averaged almost 19 wins over the past five seasons, winning the 2008 WPIAL title.
Wells isn't the type to set tangible long-range goals for a season. But many of his players are. And they don't want to settle for anything less than striving for WPIAL and PIAA championships.
“They told me. It's not my goal — they want to win everything,” Wells said. “I just said, ‘Well, it will take a lot of work. But if you're willing to work,' I said, ‘Why not go for it?' ”
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.