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Pittsburgh Tribune-Review athletes of the week: Upper St. Clair's Jordan Grabowski, West Mifflin's Taylor Thomas

- West Mifflin basketball player Taylor Thomas Submitted
West Mifflin basketball player Taylor Thomas Submitted
- Upper St. Clair basketball player Jordan Grabowski Submitted
Upper St. Clair basketball player Jordan Grabowski Submitted

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'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Brian Graham
Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Jordan Grabowski

School: Upper St. Clair

Year: Senior

Sport: Basketball

Claim to fame: Grabowski hit a 3-pointer with 2.4 seconds left to lift the Panthers past Norwin, 57-56, in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs at Gateway on Saturday. The 6-foot guard scored a game-high 29 points in a 77-68 win over Chartiers Valley on Feb. 11. Grabowski finished the regular season averaging 17.1 points per game, seventh in Class AAAA.

“He's been a tremendous leader not just scoring points, but also he leads our team in assists,” coach Danny Holzer said. “He's been finding the open man, letting our guys make big shots.”

Can you describe the game-winner against Norwin?

First, when I got the rebound, I knew I was going to shoot it. Once I shot it, nothing was really going through my head. I was speechless after the game. I really don't remember the shot. … I just draw a blank.

How do you prevent falling behind against Seneca Valley on Saturday?

Norwin outmuscled us. We expected them to try to go down in the post on us because they were a lot bigger than us. Saturday, we're going to go the way we've gone the whole season. We'll play intense on defense and just play smart on offense.

Can you make a legitimate run at a WPIAL title?

Our team this year is different than any other team I've been on. Everyone gets along with each other. … We just play very well together on the court, and it's obviously shown. We'll see what happens come Saturday.

Have you decided where you'll attend college?

No. I have a couple options with a few Division II and Division III schools. I still have a lot of time.

Taylor Thomas

School: West Mifflin

Year: Junior

Sport: Basketball

Claim to fame: Thomas scored 23 points to lead the Titans to a 61-41 victory over Kittanning in a Class AAA preliminary-round game at Highlands on Saturday.

She showed signs of dominance earlier this season when she scored 35 in a 63-19 win over Brownsville on Dec. 13 and had 27 in a 65-19 win over Monessen on Dec. 7.

“When she plays poised like that, she's pretty hard to stop,” coach Rob Yeschenko said. “She played an excellent game Saturday. When she goes, we go.”

How important was it to come out and play strong to open the playoffs?

I just wanted to have a big game, especially after we ended the season on a losing streak.

What were the team's goals heading into the playoffs?

We talked at practice and coach said we may only win one time, but it's that one time we win that it matters. We just have to work as a team, get back on defense and pick each other up.

What are you going to work on this offseason to come back better next year?

Mostly, in the beginning of the year we need to get everyone to build a good foundation. We lost a few players and had some freshmen come up this year. We have to trust each other and have each other's backs.

What is the best part of your game?

I would say my inside game and sometimes my jumper. I got the ball dished to me late in the first half of the Kittanning game, and I shot and made a 3-(pointer).

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