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McKeesport girls hoping to turn it around

| Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013, 1:03 a.m.

Walk into the McKeesport gymnasium and you can't miss a large, framed photo of Swin Cash.

Too bad for the Tigers that the former high school All-American and veteran WNBA player isn't around to play for the team anymore.

“She was the face of girls basketball around here,” McKeesport coach Eric Smith said. “We've had our ups and downs since she left.”

McKeesport has been going through one of those “down” stretches, missing the WPIAL playoffs the past three years.

Smith was hoping the trend would slow, optimistic this current group of mainly underclass players might find some success.

“We're very excited because of the youth, and the youth are excited,” Smith said. “We're energized by them.”

But with youth comes inexperience, and Smith was exuding patience with the start of the season approaching. McKeesport's season-opening home tournament will feature first-round games between the Tigers and Class AAA West Mifflin, and Obama Academy and Baldwin.

Already for McKeesport, two players likely were lost for the season with knee injuries, including sophomore guard Maniah Robinson, the team's second-leading scorer in 2012. Also, sophomore Alexis Young has transferred to Gateway.

McKeesport, which was winless in 12 Section 2-AAAA games and finished 6-15 overall, also graduated guard Kasey Dansak, who led the team in scoring (9 ppg).

Just two seniors return.

“The worst part of it all is that everyone else in our section seems to have everyone back from last year,” Smith said. “We lost our leading scorer and we've already got some injuries.”

But Smith was encouraged by the turnout, citing the unusually large number of 20 on the varsity and JV rosters.

“I'm not sure how deep we'll go, particularly as we get started,” he said, “but we're going to give a lot of players a good look.”

He said he's simply looking for improvement.

“We want to get better from the first scrimmage to the second, from the second scrimmage to the first game and from the first game to the end of the season,” he said.

Senior Jamie Reddix could be teamed in the backcourt with junior point guard Nassiah Bray, while junior forward Carly Tanney also was expected to challenge for a starting spot, Smith said.

“We've got a lot of young talent,” he said. “We certainly hope it can translate into an improved season.”

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

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