Diop's athleticism, energy provided Seton-La Salle girls a season-long spark
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Before Seton-La Salle even took the court this season, there were expectations.
With three Division I prospects, the Lady Rebels were the favorites to win the WPIAL and PIAA crowns.
No player may have made more difference than Yacine Diop, a 5-foot-10 senior guard/forward.
After sitting out her junior year after transfering from Virginia's Oak Hill Academy, Diop managed to provide that extra spark the Seton girls' team needed.
“She plays so darn hard that it demands that you also play hard,” said Spencer Stefko, the Lady Rebels' first-year head coach.
“It's just infectious because she puts in such energy.”
The Lady Rebels (27-4) finished off a remarkable season on Friday with a stirring 58-50 victory over Neumann-Goretti in the PIAA Class AA championship game at Hershey's Giant Center.
“I was just happy,” Diop said of the moment the clock struck zero. “That was unbelievable actually. I kept saying, ‘Man, we really won the championship game.' That was unbelievable.”
Stefko has seen Diop grow tremendously since the beginning of the season when she fouled out in the first two games, and Seton started out 2-3.
“She played 12 minutes in one game and 14 minutes in the other, and fouled out of both of them,” Stefko said. “Barely scored in either of those games, and was completely out of sync with us defensively, but you would expect that from a kid that never played with these kids before.
“She slowly got to the point where her abilities were able to fit in with the other four kids on the floor. When that took hold, it was just really fun to watch.”
A Senegal native, Diop has played internationally with much success, and didn't expect anything less for her senior season. Diop made it no secret that the team wanted to win every championship possible, but she knew it would take much more than just stating it.
“Those goals were just like a dream, but we worked hard for it, and that's how the dream comes true,” she said.
En route to the WPIAL Class AA championship, Diop continued to elevate her game, averaging a double-double throughout the postseason.
“I was kind of like in a zone,” Diop said. “The more I played, the more comfortable I was.”
A zone that was the catalyst to the Lady Rebels' championship run.
“Every coach that I talk to after the game talks about (Diop's) energy and how that sets the tone for us,” Stefko said.
Diop and fellow senior Naje Gibson both are heading to Pitt next year to play for Seton-La Salle legend Suzie McConnell-Serio, which will be another challenge in its own right.
“That's motivation,” Diop said of McConnell-Serio's highly successful and highly documented basketball career. “I want to win everything she won.”
Justin Criado is a freelance writer.
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.
- Pirates inquire about Red Sox LHP Lester
- Steelers offensive linemen looking to build on strong 2013 finish
- Starkey: Would one big move kill Pirates’ future?
- Big Ten Conference foes are setting sights on powerful Ohio State
- Power brace for new-look Predators in playoff opener
- Cutrell falters late, but maintains lead at Pa. Amateur
- Rivers Casino sued by family of patron who died in car crash
- Disney Junior brings princess, Never Land to Oakland’s Pete
- Former walk-ons may lose scholarships under Penn State’s Franklin
- UCLA inundated by burst pipe
- Satisfy your sweet tooth in Pittsburgh with treats from ethnic bakeries