McGowan, Bauer lead Brentwood girls into playoffs
The Brentwood girls' basketball team is WPIAL playoff-bound.
That has a nice ring to it, as the Lady Spartans advanced to the playoffs for the first time in 11 years.
“The team has had an interesting season. With five freshmen and two inexperienced juniors, the weight of court experience was on our two seniors and a sophomore,” said Rachel Thomas, Brentwood's first-year head coach.
“We've learned a great deal this season about our style, our limitations, our strengths, and about each other personally. And not to get ahead of ourselves nor minimize the efforts of our seniors, I see this season as a keystone season for the future of Brentwood girls' basketball.”
The Lady Spartans (14-6 overall) opened the year with 10 consecutive victories before finishing fourth in Section 4-AA behind Seton-La Salle, Bishop Canevin and Fort Cherry.
Senior leadership this year has been provided Laura McGowan and Sydney Bauer, both four-year varsity players.
McGowan is a 6-foot center/forward; Bauer is a 5-7 guard/forward.
“Laura has an amazing offensive skill set,” Thomas said. “She understands how to use her feet and body to gain better positioning and put herself in scoring position. It's apparent Laura has worked on her techniques from a very young age. Many players on our roster turn to Laura for leadership and guidance.
“Sydney has a huge defensive presence. Her quick feet and hands put her in an elite category. She is an excellent role model for our younger players.”
McGowan and Bauer both believe winning the season-opening tipoff tournament on their home floor provided an invaluable boost to the Lady Spartans.
Brentwood defeated Carrick and perennial tournament champion Avonworth by wide margins in the two-day event.
“Winning the tipoff tournament set us off, and we kept getting better game by game,” Bauer said. “We knew we had a solid team. We're really worked hard, and it's good to see the hard work pay off.”
“Early on, winning the tipoff tournament — that was the first time in awhile that we won that tournament,” McGowan said. “And our first section win against Fort Cherry was a huge win for us. It was definitely a confidence booster.”
The two senior hoopsters have been on a roller-coaster ride throughout their varsity basketball careers.
During their freshman and sophomore seasons, Brentwood was 0-12 in section play, and finished 3-16 and 1-20 overall. The Lady Spartans won two section contests last year, and improved to 9-13 overall.
“Both have endured a tough basketball career at Brentwood,” said Thomas, the Lady Spartans' third floor boss in the past four seasons. “The team recognizes that our seniors have have stuck with this program during very difficult years. They are the foundation of Brentwood girls' basketball. We wouldn't be where we are today without Laura and Sydney.”
McGowan has ranked among the leading scorers in the WPIAL throughout the season, and will take a 14.9 ppg average into the WPIAL playoffs.
McGowan, who plans to compete on the girls' track and field team in the spring, has displayed a deft shooting touch, hitting on 54.9 percent of her attempts from the floor and 86 percent from the foul line.
“Laura provides a solid effort every game,” Thomas said. “She instills passion among her teammates, and can motivate. She is an invaluable asset on offense.”
Bauer's focus has been on the defensive end, as she ranks among the team leaders in steals with 35.
Bauer, the starting catcher on Brentwood's softball team, has connected on 47.7 percent of her field-goal attempts.
“Sydney has proven to be a leader on our team,” Thomas said. “She proves herself by providing 100 percent at every practice and every game. She has an incredible sense of the court and rarely is out of position.
“Sydney leads by example and does not complain. Her performance this year has greatly improved over last year.”
Brentwood was a perennial playoff contender prior to the program's recent dry spell. But the Lady Spartans entered the 2013-14 season undaunted.
“The playoffs were more of an expectation this year,” said McGowan, who plans to become a physician's assistant in the future. “We all throught this was the year we'd be going to the playoffs.
“Now we just have to compete. This is my first playoff run and my last playoff run, since I'm a senior.”
“We had more wins this year than in the past three years (combined). That's crazy,” said Bauer, who plans to major in graphic design in college. “We'll go hard in practice, and take it one game at a time in the playoffs.”
Brentwood is back in the WPIAL playoff picture, and will face Freedom (10-12) in the Class AA preliminary round Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Keystone Oaks.
“Playoff basketball is no different than the regular season. We take one game at a time and plan accordingly,” Thomas said.
“The expectation is to push each game to the limit to be successful.”
Ray Fisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5820 or firstname.lastname@example.org