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Leechburg girls basketball team seeks respectability

| Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013, 10:33 p.m.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
Leechburg's Missy Jones passes the ball during practice at the high school Friday, Nov. 29, 2013.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
Leechburg girls basketball coach Joel Ceraso looks on during a practice at the high school on Friday, November 29, 2013.

Success for the Leechburg girls basketball team won't be based on wins and losses this season.

“I think the big thing for us is attitude, if I can change the culture and the attitude,” first-year coach Joel Ceraso said. “I want them to stand over there with me. It's a work in progress.”

For the past few seasons, success has been limited. Leechburg has just seven wins total in the past five seasons.

Ceraso's coaching background should assist him in forming a plan to get the program turned in the right direction.

A little more than a decade ago, Ceraso worked as the assistant to then-boys coach Larry Ondako.

He took time away from the bench to raise his children. The itch to coach came back when the Leechburg job became available.

One of the changes in the program Ceraso identified has nothing to do with what happens on the court but can have a major impact on performance.

“This program has been treated like a recreational program. It hasn't been taken seriously,” Ceraso said. “We're playing in a double-A section. We're playing schools that take this very seriously. You're throwing these girls to the wolves. (Success is) not going to happen overnight.”

Compound that alleged attitude with a lack of interest and you have a climate that is not conducive to forming a winning program.

“I don't know what the future holds for just this year,” Ceraso said. “We have a lot of kids who have never picked up a basketball before.”

With no seniors on the team, junior Missy Jones will look to provide offensive spark this season.

“We will depend on her to kind of run the show a little bit,” Ceraso said. “She might be our best offensive playmaker, and she might be our best offensive weapon.”

Freshman Lexie Young brings raw, athletic talent to the team. She is the type of player Ceraso is looking for.

Though Ceraso admitted a proposed move to District 6's Heritage Conference would have been beneficial to the program, he chooses not to dwell on it. The team remains in the WPIAL, and that is going to be his focus this season.

The move, which was approved by most necessary parties, was canceled this past summer.

“The program didn't get much respect from anybody. I just want these girls to draw a line and take ownership in it. I told them I don't expect too much success,” Ceraso said. “We'll measure our success other ways. I told the kids if they can have people come and say they hate to play this team, I'll take it.”

Dave Yohe is a freelance writer.

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