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Yough girls seeking elusive return to playoffs

| Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, 10:18 p.m.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For the Daily News
Yough's Natalie Peebles works out during shooting practice November 28, 2013.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For the Daily News
Yough's Samantha Miller works out during practice on November 28, 2013.

The Yough girls basketball season was better in 2012-13 — it couldn't have gotten much worse than the Cougars' winless section record in the previous year — but the results remained far from satisfying.

Three seniors return to the team this year with the hope of moving Yough closer to a return to the WPIAL playoffs.

“We've just gotten our youth program started again,” coach Greg Melvin said, “and I can see down in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades that we're starting to get more of a turnout and involvement from those kids.

“We're hoping the interest eventually will translate into more success.”

Yough, which lost three players to graduation, hasn't qualified for the playoffs since making it in back-to-back seasons from 2008-10 under former coach Lou Zadecky, now the women's coach at Penn State-Greater Allegheny.

Natalie Peebles, a 5-foot-11 forward, enters her third year as a starter for Yough, which posted a 7-15 record last season, but was just 2-10 in Section 3-AAA after going 0-12 in the previous season.

She is joined on the current team by two other seniors — 5-4 guard Jojo Sterner and 5-7 forward Sam Miller, whom Melvin said appeared much improved as the Cougars prepared for their opener Friday night at the Southmoreland Tournament against the host Scotties.

“She's probably been the most dedicated person in the program for the last 5-6 years,” Melvin said. “Basketball is her primary sport. She puts a lot more time into it than others do.”

Peebles led Yough in scoring and rebounding a year ago, though, averaging about nine in both categories.

Melvin said that one potential starter this year, junior guard Leigh Appalonia, likely is lost for the season with a broken foot, sustained in the WPIAL soccer playoffs in November.

“She had shown some good potential, but she's probably done for the year,” he said.

That leaves Melvin, a former boys and girls coach at Charleroi and a past boys coach at California and at defunct Mon Valley Catholic, with other choices.

He said he's likely to fill the remaining two openings in the lineup with 5-7 sophomore forward Jada Roth, a part-time starter as a freshman, and 5-6 sophomore guard Sam Peebles, the younger sister of Natalie Peebles.

Sam Peebles is expected to get the first chance to play point guard for the Cougars.

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