West Shamokin's girls basketball team is a 'wild card'
A whirlwind offseason presented West Shamokin's girls basketball team an opportunity to worry about the outlook of the 2012-13 campaign.
But there's no sense of doom and gloom among the Wolves and their first-year coach, Judd McCullough.
Eager to invigorate a program that has struggled mightily since a breakthrough 2009-10 season, McCullough and his girls approach this winter with youthful energy. West Shamokin, responsible for just four wins in the last two seasons combined, has all but two starters back, and it absorbed enough talent from Elderton to field a lineup that'll give the Wolves a fighting chance in most games.
“I think the best way to put it is that we're a wild card,” said McCullough, who was hired in the spring. “I think the pieces are in place that we could make a run for playoffs and who knows what in section. But I don't even have a real good gauge on expectations right now.”
A former Bobcat is the team's top scoring threat. Senior forward Jill Glover averaged 15.2 points per game a season ago at Elderton. While she alternated between guard and forward as a junior, the 6-foot-1 Glover will primarily operate in the paint for West Shamokin.
“I like to play guard, but whatever is best for the team works, so it doesn't really bother me as long as I'm helping everyone,” Glover said.
McCullough explained the position decision: “It's just the rebounding. When the shot goes up from anyone, she's such a factor on the offensive rebounding that you hate to have her shooting outside. But she's been making some 3-pointers early on in these scrimmages, so I'm not going to limit her to, ‘Just stay inside.'”
Another former Elderton player, junior Kelsey Altman, provides the Wolves another reliable interior presence. McCullough described the forward as a “blue-collar rebounder.”
The perimeter players comprised West Shamokin's starting backcourt a season ago. Junior Kelly Clowser and sophomore Lizzy Cornish create the scoring opportunities as the Wolves' top guards, while junior Tristan Cribbs shoots exceptionally well from beyond the 3-point line.
“We're getting better,” Clowser said of the West Shamokin-Elderton chemistry. “Toward the beginning, we were sort of iffy, like we'd pass the ball too early or something. But now, we're getting the chemistry there.”
Senior forward Alisha Johnston is expected to split time with Altman at forward, and junior guard Ellie Gandolfi will spell the team's primary play initiators.
McCullough continues to deliberate on exactly how deep he'll go with his rotation. He intends to use high-pressure man-to-man defense but realizes such a strategy test the limits of his lineup.
The uncertainty is part of the fun for the coach, who stepped down after a successful run as the boys golf coach and also gave up his assistant role with the boys basketball program in order to dedicate his time and energy to West Shamokin's girls, including the junior high team. McCullough made no promises about a first-year Cinderella story, but he aims to at least move the Wolves closer to what they achieved in 2009-10, when they went 12-9 and made the playoffs.
“I'm too green at this time to really know where we're going to be,” he said. “But there are pieces there; I'm not so green that I don't see there are opportunities to be something special if we can put things together.”
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 724-543-1303.