Greensburg Tribune-Review athletes of the week: Belle Vernon's Jessica Slagus, Kiski Area's Mike Simmons
School: Kiski Area
Claim to fame: Simmons scored 27 points to lead Kiski Area (13-4, 7-2) to a 63-23 win over Albert Gallatin in Section 1-AAAA action Saturday. Simmons scored 12 points in a 52-49 win over Norwin on Jan. 22 and finished with 16 points in a 61-51 win over Latrobe on Jan. 18.
“I feel like I have done pretty well,” Simmons said. “The upperclassmen and the coaches have been helping me out. They have been able to find me when I'm open to score.”
The team got off to a slow start in section play, but now you have won seven straight. What has been the main reason for the turnaround?
I think we have pulled together as a team. We have been living up to the saying on our warmups: “Teamwork makes dreamwork.” We have gotten a lot of leadership from our seniors.
What does the team need to do to make a deep run in the playoffs?
We just need to keep doing what we are doing. I hope we make a run at the WPIAL title.
What does the team need to do to win against Hempfield down the road?
They are tough team. If we play tough defense and we stick together as a team, we have a good chance to win.
Who is your role model, and why?
My dad. He pushes me to be a better player. He helps me with my form and technique. He gives me the confidence to go out and play my best.
What is one thing people might not know about you?
I like to sing, but I'm not really good. Whatever comes on, I'll start singing.
School: Belle Vernon
Claim to fame: Slagus, who is averaging 20.3 points and 14 rebounds, scored 26 points and had 12 rebounds and went over 1,000 points for her career as Belle Vernon (12-4, 6-2) captured a 64-17 Section 4-AAA victory Jan. 24. Slagus, who has recorded 16 straight double-doubles, also recently grabbed her 750th rebound for her career.
“I think we have had a really dynamic season,” Slagus said. “We have really improved as a team from the beginning of the season. We have had a lot of camaraderie this season.”
What are your college plans for next year?
The schools I was interested in, I have been accepted into. I will see which place would be best financially. I hope to play basketball in college. I'm looking into nursing and biology. I'm not sure which one yet, though. I have been fascinated by the medical field, and helping people is a bonus.
You have a younger sister, Kaitlyn, on the team. Are you guys very competitive with each other?
I wouldn't say we are competitive. We just push each other to do better. We have someone we can go to when we don't want to talk to our parents after a game.
What does the team need to do to defeat Elizabeth Forward later in the season?
I think we need to go out there and execute our game plan. We need to help each other out and not play individually. I think we will come out with the victory if we do that.
Last year, the team finished 12-12. What has been the main reason for the success this year?
I think we are more focused this year. I think we are on the same page in wanting a successful season, and it pushes us and makes us work harder. Our coach has a big part in it. Last year, it was her first year with the team. She didn't know the team as well as she does now. We are a lot closer with her this year.
What do you like to do during your free time?
I like to go skiing and snowboarding. It's just something fun to do. It allows my mind to get off basketball and school.
— Andrew John