At 6-foot-3, Fox Chapel's Erin Mathias often has to look down at other basketball players.
This season, when the junior forward/center returned from minor knee surgery that erased her sophomore season, everything in the program started looking up.
Mathias led a torrid turnaround, as the Foxes went from 3-19 without her to 18-6 with her — and two rounds in the WPIAL playoffs.
Mathias, who has been nominated for the Gatorade National Player of the Year, added another accolade Tuesday when she made the Pennsylvania Sportswriters' Class AAAA all-state first team.
“Last year was so difficult,” Mathias said. “It would have been worse if the team had gone far. It wasn't a successful season and that made us want to work harder.”
A Duke recruit, Mathias helped the Foxes reach the quarterfinals, averaging 17.3 points, 13.6 rebounds and 4.4 blocks per game.
Expectations are suddenly high for a team that stands to return to most of its key players.
“We want to go after a WPIAL championship; I think we have a chance next year for sure,” Mathias said. “Once we get there, we'll go after states.”
Mathias will play AAU for the Western Pennsylvania Bruins. One of her teammates will be Burrell sophomore Sydney Bordonaro.
Mathias, who has 662 points in two seasons, said she hopes to improve on her perimeter shooting in the offseason. She will work with Chartiers Valley boys coach Tim McConnell on that part of her game.
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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