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South Park tandem eases loss of top player

| Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, 10:09 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
South Park's Melissa Smith scores past Central Valley's Kiana Law during their game Monday, Dec. 9, 2013, in Monaca.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
South Park's Halie Torris scores next to Central Valley's Seairra Barrett during their game Monday, Dec. 9, 2013, in Monaca.

Reggie Wells expected the South Park girls basketball team to come back a little sluggish after winning WPIAL and PIAA Class AAA titles last season.

Senior Halie Torris and sophomore Allison McGrath had other ideas.

After a summer spent challenging each other and their younger teammates, Torris and McGrath are confident they can make up for the loss of Shelby Lindsay, a Tribune-Review Terrific 10 pick last season who averaged 18 points and did it all for the Eagles.

“We have to step into leadership roles and lead the team this year because Shelby was that last year,” Torris said. “We need to pick up our team and carry them.”

South Park topped Elizabeth Forward, 50-33, in the 2013 WPIAL championship game to claim its third league title.

Wins over Hickory, Hopewell, Franklin, Blackhawk and Bethlehem Catholic secured the PIAA trophy, the Eagles' first.

But when Wells first watched this year's team work out, the sluggishness he expected never appeared; his players were anything but content with what they had accomplished.

“My son Reggie said to me, ‘Wow, look at them. They're playing like it's the end of the season,' ” the elder Wells recalled. “And nobody said anything to them as far as how to go about playing or practicing or running.

“It was impressive to see that there was nothing lingering. They were ready to get back at it.”

That work ethic starts with Torris and McGrath, who knew each other from softball but got much closer this summer.

Nearly every day they would practice together — sometimes only the two of them — and scrimmage, turning one-on-one or two-on-two pickup games into their own WPIAL or PIAA finals.

“We scrimmaged a lot and shot a lot,” McGrath said. “I think scrimmaging helped me and Halie to get on the same page.”

Torris is South Park's top returner after averaging 15.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.9 steals last season. McGrath averaged 14.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.0 steals.

Also assuming larger roles are senior guards Amanda Quinn and Lindsey Noss. Quinn is a physical player who excels on defense. The left-handed Noss emerged as a scorer during the 2012-13 playoffs, Wells said.

Junior center Samantha Miller will be counted upon to help with the loss of Breanna Raymond.

So far No. 3 South Park (4-1, 2-0 Section 5-AAA) has rolled to wins over Thomas Jefferson, Central Valley, South Fayette and Keystone Oaks, with Torris and McGrath averaging close to 20 points.

Wells loves Torris' shooting range, rebounding ability and ball-handling. He called McGrath a “bull in a china shop” for her tenacity and raw ability.

South Park has been trying to press a little more, but the biggest key for the Eagles will be how Torris and McGrath are able to make up for the loss of Lindsay.

“Nobody is going to replace Shelby,” McGrath said. “It's going to be different. It's going to be more of a team effort.”

Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jmackey@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mackey_Trib.

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