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Penn-Trafford girls basketball squad not resting after first title

| Tuesday, June 17, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Doug Gulasy | Penn-Trafford Star
Penn-Trafford's Casey Aunkst dribbles the ball during a summer league basketball game against Penn Hills on Wednesday, June 11, 2014, at McKeesport High School.

Three months after winning the first WPIAL championship in program history, the Penn-Trafford girls basketball team is working on its title defense.

Even with the start of the season six months away, the Warriors are putting in work through open gyms and participation in a summer league at McKeesport High School. And so far, coach John Giannikas said, things are going well. The team held an undefeated record in summer-league action through last week.

“What I like is they're not really resting on last year's success,” Giannikas said. “They're determined to try to be better. They're working hard in open gyms. It's really impressive for high school kids to be humble and realize they can still get better at their game.”

Giannikas said the team took about a month and a half off after its season ended in March before returning to the gym for a couple weeks of practice in advance of the summer league.

“They've earned the right to enjoy it,” Giannikas said. “But at the same time, they're such a competitive bunch. It doesn't matter if it's a summer-league game or a scrimmage within our own practice. They want to win the game. They play the right way.”

Giannikas said while Penn-Trafford runs small portions of its system during summer league games, the goal for right now is to get the players used to competing together.

While many of the Warriors' key returners are participating in the summer league, several underclassmen who may take on roles with the team next season are also playing. Although the younger players don't know the entirety of the team's scheme yet, Giannikas said they're learning more and more with each open gym and summer game.

“They're not going to learn everything over the summer,” he said. “But I think what's more important is the comfort level they get around the kids and the team and playing with them on the court. That's more valuable than even learning everything in your system: them getting comfortable around the team and playing with them and maybe learning some things. That's huge.

“It's natural to be a little timid and shy around older kids because you're the new kid on the block, but as the summer goes on, you can see they're so much more comfortable.”

With the summer league schedule winding down, Penn-Trafford held its undefeated record. But Giannikas said he was more concerned with the team's improvement.

Penn-Trafford will compete in the McKeesport league's playoffs this month and will also participate in a team camp at the University of Pittsburgh. The team will begin its weight and speed training program in July, and Giannikas said all the players had signed up for it.

“They're busy, but it's not overwhelming,” he said. “It's a couple days a week. But it's good team bonding. They get better, stronger, faster.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5830, via email at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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