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Stability should aid West Shamokin girls basketball team

| Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013, 10:18 p.m.
West Shamokin's Kelly Clowser (right) and teammate Tristan Cribbs will be counted on for leadership this season.

The team's leading scorer is gone, but nearly everything else remains the same for the West Shamokin girls basketball team.

The Wolves return four starters and seven letter-winners for Judd McCullough, who enters his second season as West Shamokin's coach with the hope of building on a winning season and playoff appearance last year.

The team will have to replace the inside presence and scoring (19 points per game) of 2013 graduate Jill Glover, but returning players will have an opportunity to take on bigger roles for the Wolves in a more guard-oriented setup.

“We have a pretty strong, six-girl core, and a lot of people competing for the seventh through 10th spots in the varsity rotation,” McCullough said.

“It's fair to say we're going to work the ball a little more outside-in than inside-out, but we do have faith in our inside presence.”

Leading the guard attack is senior Kelly Clowser, who averaged 6 points, three assists and three steals last year and will take on even more of a leadership role along with Tristan Cribbs, another senior three-year letter-winner and the team's top returning rebounder.

Senior forward Kelsey Altman, who shares the title of tallest player at 5-foot-10, and junior guard Lizzy Cornish also return to the starting lineup with some playoff experience for West Shamokin.

The Wolves' top six also includes senior Ellie Gandolfi and sophomore Stephanie Schrecengost, both of whom played roles off the bench last season.

“I would like to think that we can take a step forward,” McCullough said.

“When I took the head coaching job, I kind of earmarked the second year as the year in which we really see if we're moving in the right direction. The girls have really done a lot of work this summer, and we hit the ground running when practice started this year.”

McCullough said that even his guards would have to help out with the jobs of post defense and rebounding.

Even then, the Wolves will need to find some additional help inside, possibly from the younger sister of the forward who graduated.

Freshman Katie Glover, a 5-9 forward, is likely to earn playing time under the hoop, along with 5-10 senior Danielle Blatt.

The team returns sophomore Hannah Coulter, who lettered last year; sophomore guard Tori Smith; and sophomore forward Hannah Olinger, another 5-10 player who could see time with the varsity group.

“We have some guards that can play in the post, and we're going to need them to use that ability,” McCullough said. “We're not going to be afraid to work the ball inside.”

West Shamokin's top goal is earning another playoff berth from Section 1-AA, which is expected to be led again by Burrell, the No. 2 team in Class AA. The Bucs will be the measuring stick for teams in the section, and the Wolves' coach is eager to see how they will stack up.

“Burrell would easily be the No. 1 team (in Class AA) if not for that juggernaut at Seton-La Salle, but I'm sure each team is going to be excited to play against them and see how they stack up,” McCullough said.

“Ford City is a perennial power, and Apollo-Ridge should be improved. Top to bottom, it should be some good competition, and we embrace that challenge. We had a pretty strong finish to last season, and I think that has built a lot of confidence in the girls coming back.”

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