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Returning senior leaders guide Monessen girls into season

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who 2 watch

preseason player of the year


North Catholic

5-9, Sr., Guard

13.3 ppg.

players to watch



5-6, Sr., G, 16.2 ppg.



5-4, Sr., G, 17.1 ppg.



5-9, Sr., F, 12.1 ppg.



5-9, Sr., G, 20.9 ppg.



6-0, So., F, 18.1 ppg.

preseason top 10

1. Vincentian (28-2)

Brenna Wise averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds for WPIAL champions. Transfer Kayla Key should help.

2. Monessen (20-4)

Seniors Mariah Ward (20.9 ppg) and Chelsea Szakal hope to lead Greyhounds.

3. N. Catholic (24-7)

Lauren Wolosik, a Central Connecticut State recruit, returns for PIAA runners-up.

4. Serra Catholic (14-8)

The experienced Eagles should challenge in Section 4.

5. St. Joseph (14-9)

Junior forward Mallory Heinle (13 ppg) helps in Section 2 race.

6. Cornell (12-12)

Hopes lie with senior guards Mason DePetro (17.1 ppg) and Marcen Shepherd (13.0 ppg.).

7. Quigley (18-5)

The return of junior Kristen Jackson (15 ppg) might not be enough for section title.

8. Carmichaels (17-6)

Guards Morgan Berardi (16.2 ppg) and Anna Cree (15 ppg) give team edge in Section 3.

9. Clairton (8-11)

After a subpar year, Clairton looks to contend with guard Taleesa Ogletree (10 ppg).

10. Win. Thurston (13-11)

Just two seniors graduated for veteran team.

section favorites

Section 1


Cornell, with a strong backcourt led by senior Mason DePetro, and defending champion Quigley Academy, behind junior guard Kristen Jackson, should battle for the section title. Don't count out Union, which returns four regulars from a 13-9 team.



An intriguing rivalry continues between Vincentian Academy and North Catholic. Both teams waged fierce battles during the 2012 postseason. Vincentian Academy, which is led by sophomore forward Brenna Wise (18 ppg, 10 rpg) gets the nod after falling to North Catholic in the PIAA semifinals a year ago. The Trojans are led by swing guard Lauren Wolosik.



Another tough battle is brewing in Section 3, where Carmichaels and California offer veteran teams. Carmichaels will look to three returning starters, led senior guard Morgan Berardi, while California boasts a balanced scoring attack that includes four returning starters.



The Greyhounds are hoping senior forward Chelsea Szakal is fully recovered from a severe knee injury sustained near the end of last season. High-scoring senior guard Mariah Ward (20.9 ppg) leads Monessen's quest for another title. Serra Catholic returns four starters from a team that finished runner-up to Monessen in 2011-12. Clairton and Winchester Thurston also should contend.

Top high school sports
Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, 10:40 p.m.

No longer is she Gina Naccarato, a player. Pennsylvania's second-leading all-time scorer in high school girls basketball has been transformed into a mentor.

Monessen has been the site of both scenarios.

As she enters her fourth season as coach of the Greyhounds, Naccarato sees a lot of things she saw as a player but views them differently as a coach.

“Being a teacher and a coach, I realize that some kids mature faster than others,” she said. “Sometimes, it takes until their senior year to put it together.”

She is hoping the team again can excel under senior leadership, just as it did last year.

“Our goal is to win the section and qualify for the WPIAL and PIAA playoffs,” Naccarato said.

High school players arrive and depart each year — yes, Naccarato once was one of them — yet the game remains the same. Success comes from practicing hard and playing hard.

It is, after all, the stuff of which Naccarato is made.

“We have a lot of girls who've gotten a little bit of playing time, but they've got to step it up and realize that it is their turn now,” said Naccarato, whose 3,364 points at Monessen from 1992-96 rank second in the state and first in the WPIAL.

Just two starters return from Monessen's 20-4 team that reached the WPIAL Class A quarterfinals in 2011-12, but seniors Mariah Ward (20.9 ppg) and Chelsea Szakal (13.1 ppg) are impact players.

They must help the rest of the roster mesh.

“We lost four seniors,” Naccarato said. “These new kids appear to have gotten the message, though. Practices have been going well, but it's going to take time.”

If Monessen is to make its 24th consecutive trip to the WPIAL playoffs, a supporting cast that includes 2012 part-time starter Monet Wade must step up.

The 5-foot-9 junior is expected to be joined by 5-6 junior Eden Holland and 5-4 senior Asyaa Davis in the Greyhounds' lineup alongside the 5-7 Ward and the 5-8 Szakal, who is hoping to be ready for the season after injuring her knee last year.

Naccarato said the latter two are unquestioned leaders.

“They have to be the leaders on the floor, especially when you don't have a lot of experience at that level,” she said.

Naccarato's fierce competitive nature could ignite her players' passion for winning. And it better, she said, because perennial powers Vincentian Academy and North Catholic are looming once again.

“They're hard to beat,” Naccarato said. “They've been in the WPIAL championship game for about as long as I've been a coach.”

Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 412-380-5617.



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