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South Allegheny girls basketball inexperienced but athletic

| Friday, Nov. 29, 2013, 1:06 a.m.
Ronald Vezzani Jr.
South Allegheny's Abby Dranko works on layup skills during practice Nov. 22, 2013.

South Allegheny, despite an inexperienced team and a short bench, enters the girls basketball season believing it is making progress.

“We were competitive last year. We're getting there,” fourth-year South Allegheny coach said Ashleigh Hays.

It has been eight years since South Allegheny reached the WPIAL playoffs.

“We're inexperienced, but we'll see what we can do with the talent that we have,” said Hays, a Thomas Jefferson product who played college basketball at Point Park. “We'll try to use our quickness and athleticism to our advantage.”

Half of South Allegheny's eight victories last season were by nine points or less. There also were two similar losses.

The Gladiators settled for an 8-14 record in 2012-13, including a 3-9 mark in their first season in Section 3-AA. But Hays said the team benefitted from playing against strong WPIAL playoff qualifiers such as Greensburg Central Catholic and Jeannette.

“The girls are working hard,” Hays said. “You can't knock their effort at all.”

Five freshmen are on a roster of 11 players, but only three starters return. Among them, 5-foot-11 junior forward Abby Dranko averaged 10.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per game as a sophomore.

“Abby is such a great leader. She plays year-round,” Hays said. “She's great at taking girls under her wings.

“We've had some soccer players come out for the team — we have great soccer programs — and they are learning the game of basketball. Some of them have said, ‘Why didn't we do this earlier?' We're going slow to put the fundamentals in place.”

Joining Dranko as returning starters are 5-8 senior forward Mikayla Stearns and 5-7 senior guard Carly Galley.

The most significant loss from last season was Jaylee Patterson, a career 1,000-point scorer who led South Allegheny at 15.0 points per game.

“That's tough to overcome, but we have a lot of young, athletic players coming in,” Hays said.

South Allegheny opens its schedule at the two-day Cornell Tournament against the host team Friday.

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

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