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Class AAAA girls basketball preview: Mt. Lebanon seniors hope to end careers the way they started, as champions

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who 2 watch

preseason player of the year

ERIN MATHIAS

Fox Chapel

6-3 sr. Forward

17.3 ppg

players to watch

MONICA BURNS

Hempfield

5-8, Sr., G, 18.3 ppg

ABBY GONZALES

North Allegheny

5-8, So., G, 10.4 ppg

CARLY HARRIS

Shaler

5-7, Sr., G, 7 ppg

MARIA PALARINO

Penn-Trafford

5-11, Jr., F, 12.6 ppg

KRISTA PIETROPOLA

Plum

6-0, Sr., G, 16.8 ppg

preseason top 10

1. North Allegheny (20-4)

Notre Dame volleyball recruit Meg Morningstar is playing. Breakout year for Gonzales?

2. Gateway (21-6)

Four starters are back from Gators squad that reached WPIAL semifinals.

3. Fox Chapel (18-6)

Duke recruit Mathias is perhaps WPIAL's best. Finally enough weapons around her, too.

4. Mt. Lebanon (24-4)

Ehland and McCaffrey back. Defense and tradition never leave Dori Oldaker's program.

5. Plum (17-6)

Four starters 6-foot and taller, including Youngstown State recruit Pietropola.

6. Hempfield (19-4)

Ton of talent back, three seniors gone. Burns (IUP) one of WPIAL's best pure scorers.

7. Shaler (11-12)

Titans could be back to 2011 form. PG Harris (5 apg) is a UMBC recruit.

8. Chartiers Valley (22-8)

WPIAL runners-up hit hard, including Alexa Golden, out for year with torn ACL.

9. Baldwin (11-12)

Everybody is back. Watch senior guards Mandi Johnston and Nikki Corcoran.

10. Bethel Park (23-4)

Three torn ACLs hurt, but the Black Hawks could surprise. F Sam Simpson returns.

section favorites

section 1

HEMPFIELD

Spartans went 14-0 to win the title in 2012-13 but were upset by Upper St. Clair in the first round of the Class AAAA playoffs. Monica Burns (IUP) returns. Penn-Trafford was hit hard by graduation. Still, junior combo guard Maria Palarino was an all-section performer. Norwin is young, but has sophomore Alayna Gribble (13.7 ppg). LuAnn Mills, who built Jeannette into a Class AA power, takes over at Latrobe.

section 2

GATEWAY

Probably Class AAAA's deepest section. Katey Wilson, Morgan Hainsey, Jada Epps and London Wade return for the 2012-13 semifinalist Gators, who split the title with Fox Chapel a season ago. Fox Chapel has Erin Mathias, but what's around her will be crucial. Plum is huge but somewhat untested. That will come Dec. 6-7, as the Mustangs join Penn-Trafford and Norwin at the Penn-Trafford Tip-Off Tournament. Penn Hills has a skilled freshman in Desiree Oliver, who already has D-I offers.

section 3

NORTH ALLEGHENY

The Tigers lost one player from last year's 20-4 team that went 11-1 in section play. Shaler returns 6-foot-1 all-section junior Andi Lydon (9.0 ppg), though she's recovering from a concussion. The Titans won the North Allegheny Summer League, which also included Mt. Lebanon and Blackhawk. Butler, which finished second last year, lost a pair of all-section players in MacKenzie O'Donnell and Caitlin Baxter.

section 4

MT. LEBANON

The Blue Devils have been the class of the section. Chartiers Valley reached the WPIAL final but will be without four impact players. Its new coach, Ashley Battle, was a Big East Defensive Player of the Year while at Connecticut. Rachel Mazzie and Madison and Mandi Serio return for USC. Danielle Parker will surprise for Canon-McMillan, which has picked up a few softball players. Baldwin's deep and experienced.

Top high school sports
Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013, 6:55 p.m.
 

Margie McCaffrey doesn't want to sound cocky or conceited.

The Mt. Lebanon girls basketball team's senior point guard also doesn't want to get complacent.

Despite finishing 24-4 last season, the Blue Devils did not win a WPIAL or PIAA title, the first time since 2007-08 that's happened.

No surprise, it doesn't sit well with McCaffrey or the other five members of this year's senior class.

“I know we're very fortunate, and maybe it sounds bad,” McCaffrey said. “But we want to get back there. I feel like we haven't been there in a while.

“I know I want to get back to Palumbo or back to states and take home a medal.”

Mt. Lebanon has as good of a shot as anybody this year in wide-open Class AAAA.

Bethel Park won its first WPIAL title last season, but two seniors graduated and three key returners are out for the season with torn ACLs. One of them — Drexel recruit Megan Marecic — was an all-state player in 2012-13.

Senior guard/forward Laura Page and sophomore forward Alexis Taylor are the others.

Hempfield, Plum, Shaler, North Allegheny and Baldwin all return a ton, though none of those programs can match Mt. Lebanon's recent track record.

The Blue Devils are 162-20 since the start of the 2007-08 season, with three WPIAL and three PIAA Class AAAA titles.

Christine Ehland, a 6-foot-1 forward, averaged 11.3 points per game last season to lead a group of returners that also includes 6-1 senior guard/forward Madeleine Collins and McCaffrey, who contributed 4.8 assists per game.

Top rebounder Jordan Holmes (11.2 rpg) graduated. Same for Alex Ventrone, Jess Frosztega and Hannah Sharpe.

Guards Anna Miller and Silvie Rudick and forward Kylie Cook are Mt. Lebanon's other three seniors. Miller is a great defender but will have to contribute more offensively. Cook is coming off an ACL tear.

“We're looking for the seniors to guide us,” Mt. Lebanon coach Dori Oldaker said. “They have the most experience.”

Like in 2010-11, when Mt. Lebanon won a third straight state title.

Ehland and McCaffrey were reserves on that team — subbing Madison Cable and Anna Kestler — and speak often to their younger teammates about the experience.

“As seniors, we realize this is our last chance,” Ehland said. “We want to give the underclassmen a chance to experience some of the things we've experienced in the past.”

Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jmackey@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mackey_Trib.

 

 

 
 


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