McKeesport caps girls summer league season
A regular-season schedule of nine games each for 26 high school teams was just enough to keep the contenders sharp in the McKeesport Girls Basketball Summer League.
The intensity picked up in the playoffs. Norwin defeated WPIAL Class AAAA champion Penn-Trafford, 53-41, in the title game Tuesday at McKeesport High School. It capped a seventh season under McKeesport coach Eric Smith, the league director.
“Eric does a great job with the summer league program,” Norwin coach Brian Brozeski said. “We've always attended there. He runs a great league, and he accommodates everyone's needs. If there's a school picnic or a prom, he calls to make sure we can avoid any conflicts. He maximizes everyone's opportunities. The league is well run, and we are very fortunate to have it in our backyard.”
Teams from Butler, Pine-Richland, Latrobe and Burrell were among the large field that made up three varsity divisions. A schedule for junior varsity teams began this week.
“It's probably the biggest girls basketball league in Western Pennsylvania,” Smith said. “They're coming from all over the place. Teams were traveling over an hour to play in our league because there's great teams there. We had hardly any teams that forfeited because they know the seriousness of it. They know if they get there, they're going to get some good looks from other teams.”
Norwin finished first in Division A with a regular-season record of 9-0. Penn-Trafford and Bethel Park were 8-1 atop Division B, and Serra Catholic won Division C with a 7-2 mark.
“We were really fortunate to have everybody there,” Brozeski said. “There's always so much going on at this time of year. It's difficult to assemble a full team a lot of times. But we went to the summer league with a focus of getting the team better. We were able to get some playing time for everybody. We rotated a lot of people into the lineup.”
Norwin will return a total of 10 seniors and juniors, including forward Alayna Gribble, the McKeesport Daily News Player of the Year.
Smith's McKeesport club, 5-4 during the summer league regular season, bowed out of the playoffs with a 40-25 first-round loss to Belle Vernon.
“For us, we want to focus on improving in certain areas,” Smith said. “This gives us a chance to do that. We put in a couple of different presses. Then, when the season rolls around, we have the foundation in and we can add a few wrinkles. The nice thing about this league is you can put some new twists in against the really good competition and see how your girls handle it.”
McKeesport loses just one senior from last season, giving Smith hope for improving an 8-14 record.
Expected to be among the returning Tigers players is junior Maniah Robinson, who was a starter as a freshman in 2012-13 but sat out her sophomore year with a torn ACL.
“The summer is a great time for girls like her to get back at it and reacquaint herself with our style and her teammates,” Smith said.
Other teams from the Daily News region joining Norwin, McKeesport and Serra Catholic in the league were Thomas Jefferson, Woodland Hills, East Allegheny, South Allegheny and Elizabeth Forward, which advanced to the PIAA Class AAA quarterfinals in 2014.
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.