Warriors riding second streak of seven wins
For the second time this season, seven is the lucky number for Penn-Trafford's girls basketball team.
The Warriors began the year on a seven-game winning streak, and entering this week, Penn-Trafford again has seven straight wins to its credit, the most recent of which was a 52-32 road win over Kiski Area in Section 1-AAAA play.
That win set up a decisive section contest for Penn-Trafford (14-2, 9-1) against No. 5-ranked Hempfield (15-2, 10-0) that was scheduled for Tuesday, after this edition's deadline. A P-T win would tie the teams atop the section, while a Hempfield win essentially would end the section race.
Entering this week, Penn-Trafford coach John Giannikas was encouraged by the way his team has played since its last loss, which came at the hands of Hempfield on Jan. 4.
“Defensively, we're playing pretty well right now,” Giannikas said. “Offensively, we're trying to get better every day, and we're making progress. We're shooting the ball better and moving the ball better. The kids are playing at a high level.”
The scoring punch has been led by Maria Palarino and Taylor Cortazzo, who had 13 and 11 points, respectively, against Kiski Area (4-13, 3-7). While that duo is the top two scorers for the Warriors on the season, the Warriors have been at their best when all five players on the court are creating turnovers and scoring points in transition.
“We're still led in scoring by Taylor and Maria, but everyone has stepped up their play in the last few weeks,” Giannikas said. “We're going to need everyone playing well if we're going to accomplish what we want to this season.”
What P-T hopes to accomplish is another deep WPIAL and state playoff run like the one it had in 2011, not a first-round exit like it had last year. To put themselves in the best position to reach that goal, the Warriors want to maintain their recent level of play and continue their winning streak.
“We still have a chance to win a third straight section title, or at least share it,” Giannikas said. “Since we lost to Hempfield, every game for us has been like a playoff game, and it won't be easy.
“But these kids love the challenge, and they have six good games left to go before the playoffs.”
In addition to the rest of the section slate, which includes a finale on the road at third-place Norwin, Penn-Trafford also came into the week with two tough nonsection games remaining.
P-T was scheduled to host Franklin Regional in a potential playoff preview on Wednesday, after this edition's deadline. The Warriors also will close the regular season by hosting Class AAA No. 1 and undefeated Blackhawk, which is led by Pitt recruit Chassidy Omogrosso.
With a tune-up contest of that sort lined up and games against the likes of Gateway and North Allegheny behind them, the Warriors certainly will be big-game tested before the big games in the playoffs actually arrive.
“We wanted to beef up the schedule last year, and we did, but we wanted to do that even more this year,” Giannikas said.
“One thing I know about our girls is that they're going to play hard every night, and they're not going to be surprised by anything when we get to the playoffs.”
Penn-Trafford's next game completes a stretch of three games in three days, as P-T will go on the road to face Albert Gallatin in a section game Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.