Daily News spotlight athletes: West Mifflin's Ryan Maha, McKeesport's Johnasia Cash

| Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, 1:46 a.m.

Ryan Maha

School: West Mifflin

Class: Senior

Sport: Basketball

Claim to fame: Maha — a 6-foot-1 guard who will attend Carnegie Mellon next year — scored a game-high 24 points to lead the Titans to a 90-55, Section 4-AAA win over Belle Vernon on Jan. 3. An all-section selection last year, he scored 16 points in a 54-48 win over Southern Regional, N.J., and 17 in a 36-32 win over St. Francis, Ontario at the KSA Classic Tournament at Orlando, Fla. Maha is averaging 19 points through six games and Tuesday was nominated to play in the 2014 McDonald's All-American Game.

It sounds like you got off to a little bit of a rough start. How are you feeling your game has improved lately?

We've been playing a lot out of town and had a nine-day break after Florida, so we got a lot of practices in. We came out pretty strong the other night. We've changed our tempo up and played faster, and that's good for me to get out and get open.

How good can this team be?

I honestly think the ceiling is the limit. I don't think there's any reason we can't win the section, make a WPIAL run and get into states. Sometimes being an underdog is nice so we can push from below. We're going to get better and better.

How difficult is it starting on a successful team that your dad has coached for quite some time?

I enjoy it. I relish the role. I've done it for four years now. Sometimes I get it more than the other players. It's a situation that I wouldn't want it any other way. I get the coaching at practice and at home before bed.

What are you most looking forward to about attending Carnegie Mellon?

The challenges that go with Carnegie Mellon academically. I'm looking forward to that and also the level of basketball they play there. There are a couple guys who may be an inch or two short, but otherwise they'd be in the Ivy League. It'll be a challenge, but I wouldn't have chose it if I wasn't ready for that.

— Brian Graham

Johnasia Cash

School: McKeesport

Class: Freshman

Sport: Basketball

Claim to fame: Cash scored a game-high 16 points and pulled in 12 rebounds to help the Tigers (4-5, 1-2) to a 61-14 victory over Section 2-AAAA rival Woodland Hills last week. The freshman added 21 points and another 10 rebounds in a 68-55 win over St. Joseph on Saturday to seal a second consecutive double-double.

“Johnasia is still very raw, but she has definitely shown a lot of progress,” coach Eric Smith said. “She has really done a great job just growing into the role and learning the things we expect her to be able to do. She sees the floor very well and goes from rim to rim very well. It's difficult for other bigs to keep up and match up with her. She's relentless around the rim and finds the ball better than a lot of her opponents.”

How did you get into playing basketball?

I always wanted to play because of my cousin, Swin Cash. My mom also always pushes me to work hard.

Do you get to talk to or work with your cousin often?

I don't get to talk to her often, but I do attend the Cash for Kids league every year and I see her then. She always has advice for me when I see her. She tells me to keep my head up and always have a good attitude.

What do you enjoy most about playing?

I just love all of the fans being there in the gym and cheering for our team. I also love when my family and friends come to the games to support me and the team.

Do you have any pregame rituals?

I start by listening to music and then when we get into the locker room, we do a chant as a team and it gets us all really pumped for the game.

Who do you think will be the toughest team you face this year?

Fox Chapel will definitely be tough. Erin Mathias is really good.

— Robert Stinner

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