Norwin graduate Cole helping La Roche contend for title in AMCC
Jenna Cole leads the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference in scoring at 19.1 points per game, more than two points better than every other player in the league.
The 6-foot junior forward at La Roche ranks third in the conference in free-throw percentage, hitting 50 of 57 attempts (87.7 percent).
She’s seventh in the AMCC in offensive rebounds, averaging 3.0 per game, and she had double-doubles in two of her past three games for the Redhawks. Against D’Youville, Cole finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Against Pitt-Greensburg, where the Norwin grad played as a freshman, Cole had 16 points and 10 rebounds.
The former post player on Norwin’s WPIAL Class AAAA championship-winning teams in 2015 and ’16 has become a force in her second year at La Roche, yet she and Redhawks coach Kamela Gissendanner agree Cole could be more dominant.
“I’ve played pretty well, but the last couple of games, I could not buy a basket,” Cole said Wednesday after the criminal justice major took her last final exam of the semester. “But my coaches and teammates have been super supportive, and I’ve been getting in the gym and taking extra shots.”
The more shots Cole takes, the better for La Roche (5-5, 4-1), which is tied atop the AMCC standings with Hilbert and Pitt-Bradford in the first season of Gissendanner’s second stint as coach.
“The shots aren’t falling for her right now, but she has to take 20 shots a game for us to win,” said Gissendanner, who compiled a 116-23 record in five seasons with five AMCC titles and NCAA Division III Tournament appearances before a one-year stint as an assistant at La Salle last season. “To be honest, she could probably average 25 a game.”
Cole has made 41.5 percent (66 of 159) from the floor, and she has reached the 20-point mark on multiple occasions, including a season-high 28 points against York and 20 points of her team’s 39 points in a loss to Division III power Thomas More.
She can score in a variety of ways, and her height creates matchup problems.
“Jenna can play multiple positions. She’s multifaceted,” Gissendanner said. “She’s not a one-dimensional player. She can stretch out the defense with her 3-point shooting. She can post up. Whatever we ask. … One of the great things about her is I can yell at her, talk to her, coach her any type of way, and she’s going to respond. She knows what she’s doing. Sometimes, she’ll even offer suggestions to me.”
There’s no doubt Cole, already selected twice to the All-AMCC third team, has become one of the top players in the conference, but that wasn’t something she expected when she arrived at Pitt-Greensburg for her freshman year.
UPG offered Cole an opportunity for immediate playing time, and she flourished. Cole averaged 17.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and made 49.5 percent of her field-goal attempts before a coaching change caused Cole to consider a transfer.
Her first visit was to La Roche. She was hooked.
“I thought this was where I needed to be. I’m a big believer in everything happening for a reason, and I believe I was only supposed to be at Pitt-Greensburg for a year,” Cole said. “It was farther away from home, which made me more independent, and it helped me academically.”
Cole said playing at Pitt-Greensburg these days is “a little weird,” but she regrets nothing about her decision. Gissendanner certainly is happy Cole, who has 943 career points, picked La Roche, which is eying a return to the top of the AMCC.
“To be honest, I did not expect to have this much success. In high school, I knew I was a decent player, but I didn’t think I’d be doing what I’m doing in college,” Cole said. “I think we can win a conference championship, and I’d like to make all-conference again.”
Mike Kovak is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mike at email@example.com or via Twitter @MKovak_Trib..