Share This Page

Young Belle Vernon girls maturing for postseason run

| Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, 11:18 p.m.
Belle Vernon Area guard Phaedra DeWitt cuts back to pull up for a jump shot over Ringgold guard Destiny Weisener during their January 17, 2013 contest in Monongahela. DeWitt put in 12 for the Leopards as they cruised to a 48-29 victory. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Belle Vernon Area forward Tiernie Singleton looks for an outlet pass around Ringgold guard Destiny Weisener during their January 17, 2013 contest in Monongahela. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review

Had a few balls bounced differently earlier in the season, the Belle Vernon girls basketball team could have one of the best records in the WPIAL.

They didn't, however, resulting in four close losses.

A group that started as a relatively young team has matured as the season has progressed, and over the past three weeks, everything has been bouncing right for the Leopards (5-2, 11-4), who are suddenly one of the hottest teams in Class AAA.

Fresh off a 56-53 win over Class A power Serra Catholic on Tuesday night, Belle Vernon has won five of its past six games, with its lone loss of the stretch a 55-49 setback to Section 4-AAA front-runner Elizabeth Forward (15-1, 7-0). Serra had won 12 straight prior to its game in Belle Vernon.

“I'm pretty happy with where we're at right now,” Belle Vernon coach Lisa Fairman said. “We've had an exciting season so far and really had some games that could have gone either way. Serra is a really good team and overall a very strong program. I really like playing big nonsection games. It only makes you better.”

Fairman says one key to the hot streak is its balanced attack. While it has a go-to scorer in 6-foot-1 senior forward Jessica Slagus, Belle Vernon has spread the ball around on offense while playing suffocating defense.

Slagus, who is approaching 1,000 points for her career and is averaging 19.7 points, is on the radar of some smaller Division I schools and numerous Division II programs.

“She's just been doing things right all season,” Fairman said. “She's had a double-double in every game this season. That is pretty tremendous to think about. She is just a pure leader for us on the court and a go-to player. Every game she brings it, and she keeps improving.”

Slagus' younger sister, Kaitlyn, a 6-2 sophomore forward, gives the Leopards an intimidating post presence. She is averaging nearly 10 points and has been a “rebounding machine,” according to Fairman.

“Kaitlyn really has come into her own this season,” Fairman said. “She's still very young class-wise but hasn't backed down at all. A few games ago she had 19 rebounds and is becoming a very clutch player for us.”

The Leopards also have solid guard play.

Two underclassmen — junior guard Phaedra Dewitt (5-6) and sophomore Tiernie Singleton (5-9) — have routinely directed the outside attack. Singleton plays both guard and floats in the paint.

“Phaedra has been performing in all aspects,” Fairman said of her point guard, “and Tiernie really has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. They both add so much to the team and do things that don't always necessarily get noticed.”

On its remaining schedule, second-place Belle Vernon will get one more crack to appease its two section losses. The Leopards host West Mifflin (6-9, 5-2) on Monday and travel to Elizabeth Forward on Feb. 7. Belle Vernon dropped the two contests by a combined 15 points.

“I felt pretty comfortable coming into this year,” Fairman said. “We had a pretty good core back from last year. We're going to keep working and playing hard. I really believe in the players, and our younger kids have stepped up. We have a good foundation here. It's going to be real interesting to see what happens in the next couple weeks.”

Brian Hunger is a freelance writer.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.