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Clairton girls aiming to continue upswing

| Friday, Nov. 22, 2013, 1:26 a.m.

Clairton's first girls basketball season under coach Charles Shealey began as a journey to the unknown.

The Bears, who have not produced a winning record since 2008-09, sputtered to a 7-14 mark in 2012, but still won enough games in Section 4-A to qualify for the WPIAL playoffs.

It was a preseason goal that the team met, giving some meaning to a learning year.

“It wasn't as frustrating as you might think,” Shealey said. “When you inherit a team, you do what you can to instill your ideas in the young ladies. We had seven seniors, and seniors are hard to teach different things to. They had their own agenda when we started.

“But it was an exciting season for me and for them. The last six games of the regular season, we started to play a little better together, and we won enough games to get to the playoffs.”

The lineup is young this year, and Shealey expects to open the season with a starting five consisting of one senior, one junior and three sophomores.

“It's going to be very interesting,” he said. “We're going to find out very quickly what we have. The fact that the team made the playoffs last season is a motivational factor, for sure.”

After Clairton squeaked into the postseason field, it quickly exited the playoffs following a 50-26 first-round loss to West Greene.

Clairton again will compete in Section 4-A with Frazier, Geibel Catholic, Monessen, Serra Catholic and Winchester Thurston. The Bears were 4-6 in section play in 2012.

Maya Pettiford, a 5-foot-8 forward, is expected to be the lone senior starter when Clairton opens Dec. 6-7 at the Charleroi Tip-Off Tournament.

“I'm going to be depending on her a lot,” Shealey said.

The remaining probable starters are 5-6 junior guard Serenity Simmons, who has been slowed by a knee injury, and three sophomores, 5-2 guard Jacquela Gaylor, 5-3 guard Carina Roberts and 5-6 forward Malaysha Pettiford.

“We're going to have to depend on our hustle and agressiveness,” Shealey said. “We have a small team, but we're going do some big things. Let's hope we can do some damage.”

Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dmackall@tribweb.com.

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