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Hempfield's Harrell, Burns named Greensburg Tribune-Review basketball players of the year

| Saturday, April 5, 2014, 8:04 p.m.

Hempfield's Kason Harrell and Monica Burns are the 2014 Tribune-Review Basketball Players of the Year.

Boys player of the year

Kason Harrell


6-3, Junior, guard

Kason Harrell has shown glimpses of dominance on the basketball floor.

The Hempfield junior, a three-time Tribune-Review Terrific 10 player, has the ability to take over games and has numerous Division I offers.

Friday, he was named third-team all-state by a group of Pennsylvania sports writers. The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 23.2 points and has scored 1,274 career points.

He helped Hempfield to a Section 1-AAAA title and an impressive victory against Mt. Lebanon in the first round WPIAL playoffs.

For his efforts, he is the Tribune-Review Boys Basketball Player of the Year.

What is your favorite thing to do away from basketball?

I like to watch basketball. It really doesn't matter, college or the NBA. North Carolina is my favorite college team because of the fast pace, and I like the Indiana Pacers because of Paul George.

How do you relax yourself before a game?

I listen to music. I like gospel rap because it keeps my mind off the game. I just want to lay back.

Who is the biggest influence in your life?

Jesus Christ. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be as good as I am. I love serving him as a son and playing every game for him.

Who is the best player you've played against?

Plum's Nolan Cressler my freshman year. He was tall, and he shot the ball well and drove well. He was a tough matchup.

What changed at Hempfield this season and led to your successful season?

Our work in the offseason. We worked extremely hard, and it carried over into the season. I was amazed what the girls did. They accomplished a lot, especially in the playoffs. They did a great job.

How do you take that next step?

We need to get more intensity in the games and play stronger and smarter.

What was your most memorable game?

Even though we got beat, playing against Lincoln Park this year was a lot of fun. I felt we played really well and it was a fun game hanging against them.

Terrific 10 all-stars

Julian Batts


5-11, Jr., Guard

Batts, a two-time Terrific 10 pick, put up 22.8 points, 6 assists, 7 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game. He has 1,129 career points and interest from Duquesne, Charlotte, Cleveland State, Youngstown State and Navy.

matt cullen


6-2, Jr., Guard

A busy summer spent refining his game resulted in dominance at both ends of the floor. The team's lone returning starter led Latrobe to the Class AAAA playoffs by averaging a team-high 15.5 points.

Clintell Gillaspie


6-1, Sr., Guard

He averaged 18.5 points for a team that went 21-7 and reached the WPIAL Class A final, the 33rd straight year Greyhounds have made the playoffs. Also a Tribune-Review Terrific 25 pick for football.

Brian Graytok

Greensburg C.C.

6-1, Sr., Guard

The two-time Terrific 10 pick contributed 16.6 points and 3 steals per game for Section 3-AA champs. He led GCC to the Class AA final and PIAA semifinals. He finished his career with 1,408 career points.

Billy Hipp

greensburg c.c.

6-4, Sr., Guard

The transfer from Bishop McCort became an instant hit, averaging 12.3 points and 5 assists. He upped that to 19 points per game in playoffs and finished with 1,329 career points.

curtis perz


6-1, Jr., Guard

Solid from 3-point range or driving, Perz hit 45 percent of his shots and averaged 16 points and 4 rebounds. The two-time Terrific 10 selection helped the Knights win four of six late to reach the playoffs.

tony pilato


6-7, Jr., Center

One of Class AAAA's best post players, this repeat Terrific 10 pick nearly averaged a double-double for a second straight year, including 10.8 points per game. He also is an NCAA Division I football recruit.

jordan pratt


6-2, Sr., Guard

A 1,000-point scorer, he averaged 20 a game this season to lead Uniontown to a third straight Section 3-AAA crown, WPIAL semifinals and second round of states. He was 54-14 in his career.

matt renzi

franklin regional

5-10, Sr., Guard

He made 42 percent (70 of 167) of his shots from 3-point range, 93 percent (61 of 66) from the foul line and averaged 15 points. He also contributed 2.7 steals for WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinalist.

Girls player of the year

Monica Burns


5-7, senior, guard

It's hard for Hempfield senior Monica Burns to stand still. She's the same way on the basketball court — constantly in motion.

Her coach, Aaron Epps, called her the best guard in the WPIAL. What she did in the WPIAL and PIAA playoffs was drive opposing coaches crazy ... and lead the Spartans to their best season in history.

Hempfield reached the WPIAL finals for the first time by upsetting Upper St. Clair, Bethel Park and No. 1 North Allegheny but fell to Penn-Trafford in the finals.

Burns, an IUP recruit, was a big reason for her success. She averaged 20.2 points and finished as the school's all-time leading scorer with 1,292 points.

For her performance, Burns is the Tribune-Review Girls Basketball Player of the Year.

What is your favorite thing to do away from basketball?

I like hanging out with my sisters, Mary and Michelle. We get along so well, and we're so close. We'll go see a movie, go out to eat or go shopping.

Why did you decide on IUP?

A lot of people asked me that. It was the place I felt the most wanted. The coaching staff was welcoming, I like the campus and they have the major I wanted, criminology. I want to be in the FBI. I'd like to work where things change every day. I like watching “Criminals Minds.”

What other schools were interested?

Charleston, Iona, St. Francis (Pa.) and Niagara.

Who was the biggest influence in your life?

Coach Epps. No matter what, he's always had my back. He never gave up on me. I'm a lot like him. His attitude, he's serious, but he knows how to have fun. He's my best friend.

What's the most memorable game of your career?

I don't want to say the game when I reached the 1,000-point mark, but defeating North Allegheny in the WPIAL Class AAAA semifinals. We had a great team. We were the 12th seed, and we beat the No. 1 seed. The fact it wasn't a close game made it even better.

Terrific 10 all-stars

carolyn appleby

greensburg c.c.

5-5, Jr., Guard

The two-time Terrific 10 pick averaged 20.7 points for the Section 3-AA champs, who made WPIAL semis and second round of states. She added 4.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.5 steals per game.

casey aunkst


5-7, Jr., Guard

Aunkst contributed 10 points and 5 assists per game while committing fewer than two turnovers a night. She has dished out 216 career assists, third-most all time for WPIAL Class AAAA champions.

alayna gribble


6-0, So., Guard

Gribble averaged 17 points and eight rebounds for the Section 1-AAAA co-champs. In two years, she already has scored 698 points. St. Bonaventure and St. Francis (Pa.) have offered scholarships.

leah knizner


5-10, Jr., Guard/Forward

Knizner made a huge jump from her sophomore to junior year, improving dramatically on the defensive end. She also scored quite a bit as an offensive complement to Burns, averaging 12 points.

chelsey koren


5-11, jr., forward

Koren led Blairsville (23-3) to the District 6-AA semifinals by doing a little bit of everything, averaging 20.8 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 4.5 steals and 3.5 blocks. She has 1,354 career points.

karly mellinger

greensburg salem

5-10, Sr., Forward

She finished with 1,285 career points, including 18 per game this season. She shot 37 percent from the field, 35 percent from 3-point range and also contributed 2.3 assists, 2.7 rebounds and 1.9 steals.

maria palarino


5-11, Jr., Guard/Forward

A two-time Terrific 10 pick, she averaged 18 points and 9 rebounds for the WPIAL Class AAAA champions. Palarino has 853 career points, fifth all time at Penn-Trafford.

kaitlyn slagus

belle vernon

6-2, Jr., Forward

Slagus was dominant at both ends of the court, averaging 22.7 points and 16.5 rebounds. She has amassed 859 points and 720 rebounds for her career, giving her a shot at 1,000/1,000.

alexa szelong

mt. pleasant

5-9, Jr., Guard

She averaged 18.5 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.4 steals and 1.8 assists for a team that went 16-10 and reached the WPIAL quarterfinals and second round of the PIAA tourney. She has 944 career points.

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