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Hampton's Pilarski signs with Seton Hill

| Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Hampton's Sara Pilarski had a stellar senior season.
Sara Pilarski made it official last week by signing her National Letter of Intent with Seton Hill University. She received a full scholarship.
Sara Pilarski and Hines Ward after Pilarski accepted her award.

Last week was a whirlwind to say the least for Hampton's Sara Pilarski.

The senior forward for the girls basketball team signed her letter of intent to accept a full scholarship at Seton Hill, gave an inspirational speech at the Roundball Classic banquet, received an award from former Steelers great Hines Ward (the Positive High school Athlete Award for girls basketball) and played in the Roundball Classic.

“I signed Wednesday, gave my speech Thursday, practiced for the Roundball game, went to the Positive Athlete ceremony, then walked into the Roundball game just as they were announcing my name,” Pilarski said. “It was so exciting.”

The Hampton senior was tying her shoes as the game was set to begin, and through it all, there was only one thing she could think of: “I would not have been able to do all this without my brother Mark or my mom and dad.”

Pilarski has accomplished a lot in her young life, and much of her vast body of work came after she found out she has a brain tumor, something she learned a couple of years ago.

Determined not to be limited, Pilarski kept a positive outlook. All she has done since is improve her basketball game, serve as an inspiration to those around her and show that no matter what she is going to reach or exceed her goals.

Pilarski's brother is the one who nominated her for the Positive Athlete Award.

“He did that without me knowing,” Pilarski said. “I was so honored that he felt I deserved to be nominated. For the staff to feel I was worthy of being a positive female athlete made me feel amazing.”

Pilarski and 28 other student athletes were chosen, and she said getting to sit down and talk with the other nominees was inspiring, especially when they got the chance to meet Ward.

“He is all smiles and has such a positive demeanor,” she said. “He treated us like we were the celebrities and told us we inspired him.”

Pilarski was in front of a crowd of around 400 the evening before when she gave a speech at the Roundball dinner. Her brother was the speaker last year at the event.

Pilarski shared her story about how she overcame the things she did.

“I wanted to show that you can come out on top no matter what,” Pilarski said. “I wanted to make sure it wasn't about pity for me … life is about positive attitude. Things can be hard, they can be scary, but we can all get through it. With support, things can be OK.”

She received a standing ovation and said it was cool for people she had never met before to stop and share a kind word.

“My hope is that I can inspire people,” she said.

Pilarski also got to play her last game as a high school basketball player.

Much of her career, she made her impact in the paint as a tough forward, grabbing rebounds and scoring the gritty points. This season, she made a conscious effort to improve her ball-handling and outside shooting. So it was only fitting her final shot as a high school athlete was a 3-pointer.

“That's when it sunk in,” Pilarski said. ”I was able to show my passion and skills, and I enjoyed every moment. Now it is time for the next step.”

Pilarski loves basketball, and although she fielded all offers, she felt Seton Hill was the right fit.

“The staff was phenomenal, so sweet and welcoming,” she said. “The campus was rustic and small, and it just felt like home, comfortable and safe.”

The fact the school is close enough to home her parents can come see her play also weighed in on her decision. Pilarski plans to study pre-law and minor in English and journalism.

With graduation rapidly approaching and a promising college career on the horizon, there is no doubt Pilarski is ready to meet the new challenge, and if history tells us anything, she probably will exceed expectations.

Jerry Clark is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-779-6979 or jeclark@tribweb.com.

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