Thayer jump-starts Brentwood girls' basketball in second season at helm
There is a little-known secret that's starting to circulate around the WPIAL.
Dan Thayer has done an outstanding job in his second year as head coach of the Brentwood girls' basketball program.
Thayer took over the undermanned Lady Spartans shortly before the start of the 2011-12 season.
Brentwood won its first game last year, then dropped 20 in a row. And that came of the heels of back-to-back 16-loss campaigns in 2010-11 and 2009-10.
The Lady Spartans cruised past visiting Wilkinsburg at home last week, 48-20, to improve to 8-10 overall.
Since Dec. 19, Brentwood has posted a winning 7-6 overall record — highlighted by a four-game winning streak against the likes of Burgettstown, Wilkinsburg, California and Charleroi.
And all four wins came on the road.
“I think this season has been a great success,” said Thayer, the former floor boss at nearby Baldwin. “Coming off a one-win season, we had no idea what to expect. The players have been able to respond to the many challenges this season has presented.
“We have lost some close games this season. With a young team and losing some heartbreaking games, you worry the team will fall apart. Instead, this team has come back even more determined.”
The Brentwood girls were led against Wilkinsburg by 5-foot-10 junior forward Laura McGowan, the team's leading overall scorer and rebounder this season.
McGowan, who opened this week with a 15.4 ppg scoring average and averaging 11.5 rebounds per outing, scored as many points — 20 — as the entire Wilkinsburg team did in the Section 4-AA contest.
“Laura has emerged as a fine player,” Thayer said. “She has worked hard since the end of last season.”
McGowan and 5-5 senior guard Meghan Gildea accounted for 18 of Brentwood's 20 points in the first quarter against the winless Lady Tigers.
Gildea tossed in a pair of 3-pointers in the opening eight minutes, and ended up with three triples in the game.
Gildea and 5-5 guard/forward Amanda Kramer are the only seniors on the Brentwood team, which has just nine players at the varsity level.
Two freshmen, 5-3 guard Alecia Folino and 5-6 guard/forward Delaney Daly, have been in the starting lineup this season, along with Sydney Bauer, a 5-7 junior guard/forward.
The Brentwood backcourt has displayed improvement in several areas this season, in particular in the turnover department.
“Our team has really improved in taking care of the ball,” Thayer said. “We are averaging 10 less turnovers per game this season. Although this area could still be improved, this has led to a lot of our success.
“Although there has been some great improvements, we still feel we have some work to do. We must become a better defensive team. We also feel that with a year of experience, our guard play will become even better. We also would like to build some depth. We only have nine players, and this makes things difficult.”
The Brentwood girls' varsity roster consists of two seniors, two juniors and five freshmen.
Kramer and the freshmen trio of 5-6 forward Nicole Zdrojewski, 5-3 guard Dominique Young and 5-6 guard Mia Jandric are Brentwood's top reserves.
Which begs the question, how are the Lady Spartans able to conduct their practices with a shortage of team members?
Thayer, who is assisted by Gerry Hall and Rachel Thomas, supplied the answer.
“For practice, all three coaches have been involved in scrimmaging at some time,” he said. “Gerry Hall scrimmages every day, and has done a great job of defending the players different ways so that they have to be prepared on the floor at all times.
“Although not an ideal situation, we have done what we can to make practice productive. The players have handled this well. Their great attitude, and ability to work together, has really allowed us to overachieve this season.”
Against Wilkinsburg, McGowan was complemented offensively by Daly, who finished with 10 points; Gildea, with 9 points; Folino (8 points); and Kramer.
Wilkinsburg had only five players in uniform against the Lady Spartans.
Ray Fisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5820 or firstname.lastname@example.org.