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Derry girls basketball team still has shot at postseason

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By Kevin Ritchart
Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

For the Derry girls basketball team, wins have been hard to come by this season.

The Trojans entered the week 3-9 overall with a 1-6 mark in Section 3-AAA, but with a handful of section games remaining, the team still hopes to make a run at the WPIAL playoffs.

To do that, Derry would have to climb from sixth place to fourth in the standings over the season's final two weeks.

Though the Trojans had just a single section victory to their credit heading into a home clash with Southmoreland on Monday night, the team has been in position to win a few other section games this season, according to coach Rich Zemba.

The most recent contest that got away from the Trojans was a 38-31 loss at Uniontown.

“We committed 27 turnovers in the game — 20 in the second and third quarters alone — and only lost by seven,” Zemba said.

At one point in the game, Zemba pulled his starting five and put a lineup comprised entirely of freshmen on the floor to give his starters a chance to refocus.

Derry has lost to Uniontown — the team that holds the fourth and final playoff spot in the section — twice by a total of 11 points.

A 45-41 loss to Southmoreland on Dec. 16 and a 52-46 defeat at the hands of Greensburg Salem on Jan. 13 were two more close games that could have gone the Trojans' way.

“We blew a nine-point lead against Southmoreland,” Zemba said. “Sure, you'd like to win those games, but I'm proud of the way the girls have been responding.”

Derry's lone section victory this season came against Yough on Jan. 9 at home.

Despite their lack of wins, the Trojans have been able to maintain a positive attitude throughout the season, a quality Zemba admires.

“These girls have never had a winning season,” Zemba said. “We won five games last season, and we'll probably end up winning five or six this season.

“But the girls don't get bummed out about it. They were still smiling after the (Uniontown) game, and we had a good bus ride home.”

Senior guard Morgan Roble is the Trojans' leading scorer this season. She came into the week averaging 10.5 points.

“She's been doing a fantastic job,” Zemba said.

In addition to Roble's solid play, Zemba has been encouraged by the development of sophomore guard Rachel Garris.

“She's really learning the game,” Zemba said. “She's doing a heck of a job.

“She's got great stamina. She hardly comes out of the game.”

Garris is second on the team in scoring. She's averaging 9.1 points.

Along with the development of Garris, the success of the Derry junior varsity squad bodes well for the future of the program. The JV team came into this week with a 6-2 record.

“The future looks promising,” Zemba said. “Hopefully, we'll be able to turn the corner.

“The horizon is looking good for Derry basketball.”

The Trojans travel to Section 3-AAA leader Mt. Pleasant on Thursday. Game time is 7:30 p.m.

Kevin Ritchart is a freelance writer.

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