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Trib Cup: Focused roster leads Vincentian girls to 3rd straight WPIAL title

| Thursday, March 6, 2014, 10:36 p.m.

The Vincentian girls basketball team won its third consecutive WPIAL Class A title Saturday at Duquesne's A.J. Palumbo Center, but the celebration is now a distant memory.

The Royals beat Serra Catholic, 66-46, behind a 25-point, 13-rebound night from junior forward Brenna Wise. Torrieonna Cash and Maia Joiner also got in on the scoring, adding 11 points apiece.

As satisfying as it will be for Vincentian to raise another WPIAL banner in the gym, the focus is on cleansing the sour taste they have from losing in the PIAA finals last season.

Coach Ron Moncrief was tasked with keeping his group focused this season, despite having a bulls-eye on their back all year. No. 1 rankings aside, this group knew from Day 1 the goal would be redemption in the form of another trip to Hershey.

The Royals are highlighted as this week's Trib Total Media/WPXI High School Sports Award feature team, and they are a primary reason why Vincentian is in ??? place in the Class A standings.

“We're just thankful to God that he allowed us to win another title,” Moncrief said. “Winning three in a row is an accomplishment. I'm very happy for the players and coaches who got us there with the hard work to help us get there.”

The moment he walked out of the Duquesne University gym, his sight was set on capturing PIAA championship gold. The sting of working so hard to accomplish a goal was never closer than last year. The Royals were ousted last season by Tri-Valley, 59-42.

The goal was set in offseason practice this summer to wash that night from their memory and regroup to attain the ultimate team dream.

“Going into that game we thought we had a chance to win,” he said. “It was a learning experience and motivated us to go out and win the WPIAL this year.

“Now that's behind us and our focus is on a state title. We have that bitter taste in our mouth still, so we want to get back to Hershey and win it this time.”

Added Wise: “Last year we knew what it felt like to finish second. That nasty taste is what enabled us to strive to be the best.

“Really and truly, Ron has pushed us from Day 1 to realize the blessing we have and the potential we have.”

Moncrief certainly has the cast of players to return to the Holy Grail of high school basketball.

Leading the way again this season was Wise. Cash, a sophomore point guard, senior Kayla Key, Joiner and Ally Bartoszewicz, give the Royals a starting rotation that's a tough matchup in Class A.

Kiersten Elliot, Julia Galbraith, Sarah Marusic, Amanda Bigi and Marissa Muth see action off the bench.

For Moncrief, having a bench that can go five players deep allows for his starters to rest and relax nagging bumps and bruises, all the while continuing to play his brand of basketball he preaches daily.

“We can still play our style of basketball and play up tempo and get up and down and still let our girls rest,” Moncrief said. “That's where the bench comes in handy.

“When the girls come in the game, I know they can get the job done.”

The Royals' game plan in the coming weeks is simple. Moncrief said he won't steer far from the normal philosophies, but will tell his group the importance of each time they touch the ball.

“We just have to value each possession,” he said. “Everybody in the state playoffs is a great team so we have to take advantage of all our offensive possessions and on defense limit them to one and done.”

The Royals quest for the state crown starts at 5 p.m. Saturday, when they'll meet Port Allegany, the No. 3 team from District 9, in the first round at Chartiers Valley.

Brian Graham is a freelance writer.

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