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Brentwood girls aim to build on breakthrough season

| Wednesday, March 12, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
jeff healy | for the south hills record
Brentwood junior center Troy Elphinstone
jeff healy | for the south hills record
Brentwood sophomore Nicole Zdrojewski

The Brentwood girls' basketball team, under the leadership of first-year head coach Rachel Thomas, had a taste of success in 2013-14.

The Lady Spartans advanced to the WPIAL playoffs for the first time in 11 years, and finished with a 15-7 overall record.

The Brentwood girls' team opened the season most impressively, winning its first 10 games which included a pair of tournament championships.

“As I have mentioned in the past, the 2013-2014 season was the keystone season for the Brentwood girls' basketball program,” said Thomas, a Brentwood graduate and former standout hoopster for the Lady Spartans. “It was a breakthrough season which got the attention of students, parents, administration, faculty and the entire community.

“With a lot of hard work, discipline and dedication, I fully expect to make the playoffs next year.”

Two girls who will be missed sorely next season are Laura McGowan and Sydney Bauer, the only two seniors on the 2013-14 squad.

McGowan, a 6-foot center, and Bauer, a 5-7 guard/forward, have been involved in the Brentwood girls' varsity program for four years.

McGowan, who led the team in scoring the past two seasons, has been selected to participate for the Class AA team in the WPIAL Roundball Classic.

After suffering through 3-16 and 1-20 records in 2010-11 and 2011-12, the Lady Spartans improved to 9-13 last year before this year's breakthrough season when they won more games than in the three previous years combined.

This season, Brentwood defeated seven opponents that were playoff qualifiers, including a 49-45 win against Freedom in the first round of the WPIAL Class AA playoffs.

Two other impressive victories for the Lady Spartans came against California in a holiday tournament, and Chartiers-Houston in section action.

After falling to Brentwood, the California girls' team did not drop another game until a 60-40 loss to Serra Catholic in the WPIAL semifinal round. California won the Section 3-A title with a 10-0 record, and took a 19-4 overall record into the PIAA playoffs.

Brentwood edged Chartiers-Houston, 55-53, late in the season that essentially knocked the Lady Buccaneers out of the playoff picture.

The Lady Spartans secured fourth place in Section 4-AA, one game ahead of C-H.

The Brentwood girls went 1-1 in the WPIAL playoffs. After rallying past Freedom, they lost to McGuffey, which qualified for the PIAA tournament.

“In preparation for the 2014-15 season, we will focus on filing the void of (losing) our two seniors,” Thomas said. “Both contributed immensely this season and will be difficult to replace.”

There were two juniors on the 2013-14 squad at Brentwood — Sarah Pope, a 5-8 forward; and Makala Hannan, a 5-4 guard.

Five-foot-5 sophomore Alecia Folino is a two-year starter at the guard position for the Lady Spartans, and is joined by classmates Nicole Zdrojewski, a 5-7 forward, and Dominque Young, a 5-5 guard who missed the entire 2013-14 season with an ACL injury.

And the five freshman girls who made a big impact on the varsity program are expected back to further bolster next year's outlook.

Brentwood's “Fab Five” consists of guards Hannah Livingston, Molly Huffman, Emily Kraeuter and Emma Betz, along with 5-10 forward Stephanie Thomas, the coach's daughter.

“Some of our goals include, but are not limited to, conditioning, strengthening skills and mental preparation,” said Thomas, Brentwood's energetic floor boss. “Now that our team has experienced the postseason, it is our expectation to return next year.”

Spartans to offer tall lineup in 2014-15

The Brentwood boys' basketball team will be big next season.

Among the players expected back in 2014-15 are juniors Troy Elphinstone and Marc Wells, a pair of 6-foot-6 boardmen.

They will be united with junior forwards Bill Madeja, Brendan Mulholland and Justin Pitcher; along with junior guard/forward Connor McWilliams.

Elphinstone and McWilliams were two of the leading scorers for Brentwood this season, while Elphinstone and Madeja were the team's leading rebounders.

The Spartans won their final four regular-season games — against Bishop Canevin, Burgettstown, Chartiers-Houston and South Side Beaver — to earn a WPIAL Class AA playoff berth in 2013-14.

Brentwood has advanced to the WPIAL playoffs three years in a row and in four of the past five seasons.

The Spartans dropped a tough 42-40 decision to Brownsville in a Class AA preliminary-round game to finish with a 12-9 overall record.

The sophomore class on this year's team was represented by guards Pat Carr, Nick George, Brandon Mayfield and Season McGlaughlin; and forward Dan Stiefvater.

Dorian Bowie is a top freshman prospect in the Spartans' backcourt.

Ray Fisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5820 or

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