Trib Cup: West Mifflin hopes to build on impressive section record
Success is measured differently among those in the West Mifflin girls basketball team fraternity, and expectations are derived from the program's long-standing tradition of success.
A perennial basketball power, the Titans once again are contending for the Section 4-AAA title, but you'd never guess as much when second-year coach Rob Yeschenko breaks down the team's performance to date.
The Titans girls basketball team is highlighted in this week's Trib Total Media/WPXI High School Sports Award feature for accumulating a 5-7 overall record and 4-1 mark in Section 4, helping West Mifflin to 11th place in this week's Class AAA standings.
“We feel that we're not yet to our potential, however we have had some success in section play,” Yeschenko said. “We are held to a higher standard here, and we do have talented athletes here. That is part of the reason why we're not happy yet.”
After a disappointing 50-43 loss to Thomas Jefferson on Monday, the Titans entered Thursday night's game at Brownsville in second place behind Elizabeth Forward (13-1, 5-0) with two games remaining against the Warriors.
Last season, West Mifflin split with Elizabeth Forward, winning on the road and losing at home.
The teams play at 7:30 p.m. Monday at West Mifflin.
The Titans' youthful starting roster features senior Marla Small; juniors Paige Flore, Taylor Thomas and Deilona DeVaughn; and sophomore Alyssa Cairns. Sophomore Jiahna Flood-Francis sees significant playing time coming off the bench.
Flore, the offensive leader, is the floor general, and Cairns and Small are two of the team's top shooters. Thomas, Yeschenko said, has the ability to post 30 points a game and DeVaughn is a force in the paint on both the offensive and defensive ends.
“Offensively, we have a lot of scorers that can score at any point on a given night,” Yeschenko said. “Each week, if you look at the box scores, any of our five starters are among the top scorers. … It makes us well-rounded.”
Yeschenko's talented group has shown a knack for finding the hoop and fighting for loose balls, but it's the play in transition that has him worried about putting together a postseason run.
“In my two years coaching girls basketball, I've noticed that most of the points scored are in transition,” he said. “If you don't get back on defense, you're not going to have success.
“When we play Blackhawk or teams that run the ball down the court, you won't have success on defense. … But like I said, it's a work in progress.”
As is the goal each year, Yeschenko has his group set on a section crown and a playoff run. To attain that objective, he'll continue to emphasize a mental aspect of the game that has escaped the players a few times this year.
“We're emphasizing team chemistry, picking each other up if they're having a bad game and getting together as a team in practice to build off each other's talents,” Yeschenko said. “It's easy to play hard and feed off each other when you're playing well, but when the chips are down we still have to have each other's back to fight and accomplish our goals.”
The Titans' section foes should take note that one of its top teams is pressing to become even better.
Brian Graham is a freelance writer.