Trib Cup: Vincentian girls hope to live up to No. 1 seed in Class A
The Vincentian girls basketball team has a bull's-eye on its back heading into the playoffs, which is something coach Ron Moncrief relishes and welcomes.
The defending WPIAL champion gained the top seed in the Class A bracket and until its 70-48 nonsection loss to Gateway on Monday, the Royals were unbeaten this year.
“(Being the top seed) just shows the girls' hard work paid off in the offseason and through the regular season,” Moncrief said. “It's nice for the girls to get rewarded with that. It's a great feeling for our team.”
For their performance so far this season, the Vincentian girls basketball team is the focus of this week's Trib Total Media/WPXI High School Sports Award feature. The Royals are a major reason why Vincentian is in fifth place in the Class A standings.
Moncrief said the top seed has given Vincentian an opportunity to reflect on its hard work and realize that a No. 1 seed does not guarantee a championship.
Moncrief will emphasize that mindset throughout the playoffs.
“We're a confident team, but we're a humble team. But if we don't come take care of business and play like we can play, we can be beat on any night,” he said. “Our girls are aware of that.
“As coaches, we try to do a good job of keeping humble and not get too big headed. We just want to have a great mindset going into each game.”
The Royals (21-1) use a nine-player rotation that has given opponents fits this season. The starting five features sophomore Brenna Wise (23.2 points per game), senior Abbey Bartoszewicz, juniors Kayla Key and Ally Bartoszewicz, and freshman Torrionna Cash. Freshmen Kriersten Elliot, Maia Joiner and Julia Galbraith, and sophomore Sarah Marusic key reserves.
Vincentian's up-tempo style on offense and pressure defense have forced opponents to commit turnovers. Moncrief said using nine players is a luxury that will keep players fresh in the playoffs.
“We like to get out and push the ball in transition and push on defense,” Moncrief said. “We like that fast-paced game, and with a deep bench and some nice athletes, we can use that to our advantage.”
As far as on-the-court strategy, Moncrief wants his players to work hard on defense and positioning to dominate on the glass.
“If we can play defense and get rebounds and find a way to score and play one game at a time, we'll be fine,” Moncrief said. “I want us to keep doing the things we did well and take this time to improve on the things we have to work on.”
Having won the WPIAL title with several returning players last year, Moncrief said he is confident the experience gained will be advantageous. Still, staying focused on the goal at hand will be one of his top points in the coming weeks.
“I think being here before and winning the WPIAL title before, from a coaching standpoint, I can prepare the team better,” he said. “Since we have young players, we know to take it a game at a time and focus on who we are playing tonight and not tomorrow.”
Vincentian will play the winner of Saturday's preliminary game between West Greene and Clairton Feb. 20 in the first round.
Brian Graham is a freelance writer.