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Penn-Trafford girls relying on balanced scoring

| Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | For the Penn-Trafford Star
Penn-Trafford junior Maria Palarino shoots during a game against Shaler during the Penn-Trafford Tip-Off Tournament on Dec. 7, 2013, at Penn-Trafford High School.

The Penn-Trafford girls basketball team faced a Connellsville squad with a lot of depth Monday night, as Falcons coach Kenny Johnson used 11 players throughout the course of the game.

The Warriors took the opportunity to show off their own depth.

Four Penn-Trafford players scored in double figures, led by Maria Palarino with 22 points, as the Warriors (3-2, 2-0) won, 69-56, to stay unbeaten in section play. Casey Aunkst added 19 points, Katy Abreu scored 13 and Athena Biondi had 10.

“I think in our game tonight, something that was really obvious was our chemistry was definitely improved over the past few games,” Palarino said. “It was obvious. We really played as a team tonight, and that's how we won.”

The balanced scoring is something coach John Giannikas hopes to see continue to develop throughout the season. Palarino made the all-section team as a sophomore last season, and Aunkst is also a returning starter, but the rest of the Penn-Trafford lineup is made up mostly of younger or less experienced players.

“(Palarino and Aunkst) are two special, special players,” Giannikas said. “They play all out, and they're making their teammates better. Katy Abreu's been fantastic on both ends of the floor all year long. Athena Biondi's really starting to step up as a freshman, really playing well, and our other role players are getting better and hitting their stride little by little. We need their help to win games.”

Other Penn-Trafford players contributing early this season include Michele Bosco, Taylor Karan, Emma Mull and Kaila Simcoviak.

While Penn-Trafford dropped two games in nonsection play, against Shaler and Gateway, the losses came by four and five points, respectively. A season-opening win over Plum was also tight, as Penn-Trafford prevailed by five points in overtime, and the Warriors took advantage of free throws to pull away late in a close game against Connellsville.

“All we ask is we compete in every game, and every game we've played in has been a close, tight game,” Giannikas said. “We could easily be 2-3 (or) 1-4. We could also be 5-0 right now. That's how close our games have been. That's all you can ask as a coach. These kids are battling out there, playing their tails off. We fight, we scrap. It's not always pretty, but we're getting better and I love the way they're working out there.”

With a 2-0 section record through Monday, Penn-Trafford was tied for the Section 1-AAAA lead with Norwin.

“A good start just motivates us for the rest of the season,” Palarino said. “We know this year we can't take any games lightly, and we come out ready to go each game. Starting out this way is really motivating us to do well throughout the season.”

Penn-Trafford will continue section play with a game at Kiski at 7:45 p.m. Friday.

Giannikas said he's hoping for overall improvement as the Warriors continue throughout the rest of the season.

“Other teams are going to get better, so we can't be status quo,” he said. “I think the confidence in some of these kids is building up, but at the same time all the players are starting to show some accountability. They know what they're doing well (and) what they're not doing well.

“As long as they know their strengths and weaknesses and play within themselves, we'll be all right. But it's job as coaches to keep trying to get them to improve, and I love their attitude. They're like sponges. They listen, and their effort's been there.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5830, via email at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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