High school notebook: Fox Chapel senior works on dunking
Erin Mathias has reached new heights this summer, and the incoming Fox Chapel senior basketball star has the cuts on her hand to prove it.
While many girls players are trying to touch the net, the multi-talented forward/center has been dunking with relative ease on playground courts.
She has thrown down one- and two-handed slams — on a regulation hoop.
Mathias has yet to jam in a game, but the possibility that she can is enough to make opponents' knees knock.
“I'm getting better at it,” said the 6-foot-4 Mathias, who committed to play at Duke when she was a freshman. “It's been a goal of mine for a while. I always wanted to do it. It'd be pretty cool to get one in a game.”
The scene has been repeated time and again at the park: Mathias takes a few long strides, and after a couple of dribbles hit the pavement, it's boom, fingers curled over the metal rim, ball through the net.
She has posted photos of herself dunking on Twitter and Instagram.
Mathias has shown the ability to score from the low block and perimeter. She's also been working vigorously on her 3-point shot.
Mathias was a Pennsylvania Sportswriters' Class AAAA all-state first team selection last season and was nominated for the Gatorade National Player of the Year.
She averaged 17.3 points, 13.6 rebounds and 4.4 blocks as Fox Chapel went 18-6 and reached the WPIAL quarterfinals, a year after going 3-19 with Mathias sidelined. She had minor knee surgery after her freshman season.
One would think Mathias draws inspiration from Brittney Griner, the 6-foot-8 former Baylor star who changed the college game on both ends of the floor, blocking shots and dunking comfortably.
“You have to respect her game and what she's done,” Mathias said. “My favorite women's player, though, is (WNBA player) Elena Delle Donne.”
Mathias played this summer for the AAU Western Pennsylvania Bruins. She said she had a few breakaways but couldn't commit to a slam.
“It's hard to find the right time to try it,” she said. “It's a split-second decision.
“It's fun in practice. Some of my teammates throw me lobs.”
Such as standout point guard Sydney Bordonaro, who will be a junior at Burrell.
“She's a great player, and her being able to dunk is just another weapon to her game,” said Bordonaro, who played on Mathias' AAU team this summer. “Duke is very lucky to have her.”
The Bruins reached the national quarterfinals in Mathias' last AAU season.
Coaches coming back
With the return of Troy Hill at Valley, two former head coaches from the A-K will return as assistants this football season.
Hill was approved as a volunteer assistant last week and will bring a wealth of experience to second-year coach Chad Walsh's staff. Hill led the Vikings to the playoffs four times in his seven seasons from 2004-10.
Veteran coach Chuck Wagner, meantime, is ready to be a volunteer assistant/consultant at Riverview after serving as head coach at Springdale for 19 years.
Wagner, who will enter his 51st year in coaching, will lend guidance to a program that is trying to improve.
Two local football teams, Burrell and Valley, are hitting the road for the first week of training camp beginning Aug. 12.
In a move that has become traditional, Burrell will head to the Antiochian Village in Ligonier. Valley will be at Slippery Rock.
And you thought Anthony Malky only won games pitching for his high school team.
The recent Riverview graduate, who will continue his playing career at Akron, has been somewhat of a good-luck charm for the surging Pirates.
Malky has been to 16 games at PNC Park this season, and the Pirates are 15-1 with him in attendance.
“I've been wearing the same hat the whole time, and I try to make a conscious effort to come to all of the important games,” Malky said. “I feel like it brings in the wins.
“I just love the Buccos; there's nothing better to do on a weekday night than sit in the bleachers.”
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at email@example.com.