McGuffey girls again show their strength

| Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

When McGuffey coach Amanda Burchett made the Highlanders' schedule this season it was done so with the intent of building confidence and experience for a deep WPIAL playoff run.

The Highlanders traveled to Florida to compete in the KSA Classic in Orlando, where they played three formidable out-of-state opponents so her girls could have the opportunity to face unfamiliar foes.

McGuffey represented itself well, winning 2 of 3 games and gaining valuable experience along the way. The Highlanders entered the week atop Section 5-AA with an unblemished 6-0 record (12-3 overall) and are poised for another shot at playoff glory.

“I feel that it helps us prepare better for the playoffs,” she said. “You get to see teams that you don't see through the summer and in section play since they're not from the same state.

“It gives the girls a chance to see a different type of competition.”

What could bare more importance than its nonsection schedule is the fact that McGuffey returns all five starters from a team that won 20 games last year.

Leader of that group is senior Sammie Weiss, who's well-known for her ability to drain several 3-pointers a night. Her sister Cassie is another talented shooter who has expanded her role by showing an ability to score when called upon.

The combination of seniors Sam Chadwick and Abby Pattison has given opponents fits. Chadwick is the team's gritty defender who shuts down the opposition's best scorer while Pattison has been a force in the paint. Junior Rachel Czulewicz is described as “the fastest player” Burchett has ever coached.

“We've learned to play together and we know what each other's roles are,” Sammie Weiss said. “It makes playing much easier for us because we know what we have to do and who to get the ball to and that makes us go faster on the court, too.”

Junior Lauren Crimm and sophomores Katie Demi and C.C. Wagner contribute off the bench. Burchett said she's confident in putting any of the three in at a given point in the game and not worry about disrupting chemistry.

For Burchett, she said this particular group — especially its starters — has a chip on its shoulder given its early playoff exit last season. She believes that experience will help carry this year's team.

“I feel like the girls feel like we have a little bit of unfinished business after last year,” she said. “Last year, I think we initially were a bit shocked to be where we were.

“We've gone to more competitive games, some shootouts to prepare them for that type of atmosphere.”

Burchett's philosophy and game plan for the remainder of the season is simple. She said they won't look too far ahead and instead focus on the task presented to them.

“We just take it one game at a time and try to work on what needs to be worked on and prepare as best as we can,” she said. “I've never had a problem with the girls not coming in and doing what they need to do.

“They are dedicated so it's nice for me that when we do need to work on something they are all in to accomplish what we set forth for them.”

Brian Graham is a freelance writer.

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