Penn-Trafford looks back on championship season
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Penn-Trafford girls basketball coach John Giannikas knows many people will consider winning the first WPIAL basketball championship in school history as the Warriors' crowning achievement during the 2013-14 season.
He, however, will take his greatest satisfaction not from that title, or from the team's third section championship in four seasons, but instead from his players' growth over the five-month season.
“The championships are great, no doubt, and it hasn't really sunk in, to be honest,” Giannikas said. “But seeing them grow as a team and as people and seeing what they did to this community (and) the support we got, that's something I'll never forget.”
The Warriors' championship season ended last week with a 64-39 loss to North Allegheny in the first round of the PIAA Class AAAA playoffs at Baldwin High School. Devvin LaBarge scored 22 points for the Tigers, connecting on six 3-pointers, as North Allegheny pulled away after halftime. Maria Palarino scored 11 points, and Casey Aunkst added 10 for Penn-Trafford (20-7).
“I thought we did the best we could to defend them,” Giannikas said. “They're a very balanced team. I thought we did a good job on the inside game, but they beat us a little bit on the perimeter and we lost a couple of their (shooters), especially LaBarge in transition with some 3s. I give them credit (because) they knocked down some shots, and defensively I thought they did a good job of making us earn everything we got.”
While Penn-Trafford's season ended with a loss, the Warriors won a lot during the season.
Despite beginning the year with just two returning players from the 2012-13 team, Penn-Trafford finished with its third state playoff appearance in four seasons. The Warriors overcame a 4-4 start by winning their next 12 games to earn a share of the section championship, and they beat Plum, Mt. Lebanon, Fox Chapel and Hempfield in succession to win the Class AAAA WPIAL title.
“I'm proud of those guys and what they've done for the community and the atmosphere and the positive vibe they brought to the school,” Giannikas said. “You saw that (against North Allegheny) with the students — 250 students coming out here on a Friday night (to watch the game). Those kids did that. I wouldn't trade any one of them for anybody.
“We'll take some time off and get ready for next year. It's hard right now, but when you take a couple days off and look back at the season, we'll take a section championship and WPIAL championship and be proud of that.”
Penn-Trafford played several memorable games during the 2013-14 season, including a three-game sweep of section rival Hempfield, including a buzzer-beater in the first game and a 15-point comeback in the WPIAL championship game; a 13-point comeback against Plum in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs; and a one-point overtime victory over Fox Chapel in the WPIAL semifinals.
“Every game that we've played has been a fourth quarter, nip-and-tuck kind of game,” Giannikas said. “So there's so many games throughout the season you can think of. ... The common theme is just how they never quit and the way they were so resilient.”
The Warriors will lose one senior from the 2013-14 team: guard Kaila Simcoviak, who averaged 5.6 points per game and led the squad in 3-pointers made.
“She came back from an injury last year and really made some humongous (plays),” Giannikas said. “She was our shooter. She was one of our main shooters, and she made big 3s for us all year long. Without her shooting, we probably aren't where we are today. We're going to miss that shooting; someone's going to have to step up and take that responsibility.”
Four starters and some key reserves will return next season, but Giannikas knows that doesn't necessarily mean anything.
“I love what I'm bringing back next year, but you can't go by that,” he said. “I think we proved that you can't go by who's going to be (good) by who they bring back. It all starts over. They've all got things they need to improve on, and I know they'll work at it.”
Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5830, via email at email@example.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Plum’s Zezza realizes Division I dream
- Facing criminal charges, Gateway boys basketball coach resigns