Despite 7-0 start in section play, South Park girls not satisfied

| Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016, 6:42 p.m.

For some teams, a great regular season record can provide a boost to their confidence and help elevate expectations.

The South Park girls basketball team is not one of those teams.

Coach Juliet Highberger says her Eagles (12-2, 7-0) entered this season confident and experienced, already setting their sights on winning titles. Her team cannot afford to be satisfied with their sharp play and undefeated section record. Not yet, at least.

“I wouldn't necessarily say that I'm happy yet. We still have a lot of work to do. We still need to get a lot better to find success later on in order for us to make it a good season,” Highberger said.

“Being 12-2 and 7-0 in section, those are great things, and the girls have really worked hard to get there, but there are still things that we need to work on.”

One aspect of South Park's play that Highberger has been satisfied with so far has been the team's offense. Spearheaded by senior Allison McGrath, a second-team all-state selection and UMBC recruit, the Eagles are scoring an average of 60.4 points per game, good for the third best in Class AAA.

“She's been able to not only score, but she's also been able to find her teammates in transition and in the half-court offense. I think that her maturity and her game experience from the last three and a half years has really pushed her to a different level this season,” Highberger said.

“Her desire to win another WPIAL championship is what keeps driving her.”

McGrath averages 18.6 points. Along with Natalie Clydesdale, who averages more than 17 points, the two seniors have provided South Park with one of the more potent 1-2 scoring punches in all of WPIAL.

According to Highberger, though, the most crucial quality McGrath and Clydesdale both possess has more to do with attitude then skill set.

“If a team goes to a triangle-and-2 defense, Ally and Natalie are not concerned about scoring. They're concerned about winning,” she said.

“They have a bigger goal than ‘How many points am I going to score tonight?' They are willing to do whatever they have to do to get the W.”

Another senior, Jessica Jones, has earned a reputation as a do-it-all player. In her team's most recent victory over Belle Vernon, Jones recorded 10 steals and 10 rebounds.

Junior Alyssa Greer has emerged as another offensive threat for South Park, and is scoring almost 12 points per contest.

For the most part, the regular season has been a smooth ride for the Eagles. But, as Highberger said, nobody is going to hang a banner in the gym for a good regular season.

“I interview all of the players before the season, and all 13 girls said that their goal is to win a WPIAL championship. Some of them have one under their belt, and they want another one,” the South Park coach said.

“They know what it takes, and that it just doesn't happen every year. You have to earn it. I'm not necessarily satisfied with where we are now. We want to do more, and we want to make a good run at the WPIAL championship.”

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.

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