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Hard work pays off for Heritage girls members

| Friday, April 14, 2006

BLAIRSVILLE -- Excellent individual seasons were rewarded as members of the Heritage All-Conference Girls Basketball teams recently were announced.

Members are chosen based upon their performance on the court, with at least one player selected from each participating school, two from the league champion roster.

Representing Blairsville on this year's all-conference squad is senior Ada Henigin, who averaged a double-double per game with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

"She worked hard and she's dominating underneath," said John Santoro, Blairsville's girls basketball coach. "You can't play your best every night. But with Ada, and some help, we felt that we should never get out rebounded."

The 5-foot-10 Henigin led Blairsville with 351 points, and 242 rebounds this season. Santoro noted she came to every game to compete.

"Ada is going to be missed," he said. "She worked hard and sometimes showed her emotion during the game. Nobody likes to do the dirty work, but you have to have heart to be a rebounder."

Laurel Valley junior Brittany Hall also made the all-conference team.

"I think she deserved it," said Christy Hajjar, Laurel Valley's girls basketball coach. "She was a strong player for us, and we could go inside or outside with her. She works hard year round at everything she does."

Hall may have only finished second in scoring and third in rebounding on the team. But it's the junior's vision that stands out.

"She can really see a lot of possibilities on the floor," Hajjar said. "You try and train girls to see the floor the way Brittany does."

Hajjar expects Hall to step into a leadership role for her senior season at Laurel Valley.

"We need somebody to dictate the floor for us, and I think she's confident enough in her play and her ability that she'll be able to do that for us next year," Hajjar said. "She's all-around, and that's hard to find anymore. She wants to win the game, and she'll take whatever role the team needs to win."

Homer-Center junior Emily Mechling isn't a stranger to competition. This three-sport competitor, who comes from a family of athletes, led the Wildcats in rebounding and scoring, averaging a double-double per game.

"There's a lot of pedigree there, and she's about as competitive as you can get on the court, but off the court she's one of the nicest people you would ever want to meet," said Paul Demas, Homer-Center's girls basketball coach.

"Whenever we needed a basket or a key rebound, it just seemed like she always got it for us," Demas said. "The other thing about her is that she really doesn't know what the score is. She just plays hard for 32 minutes, and she's going to give you everything she has."

Despite not having any seniors on last year's team Demas could count on production from Mechling, who averaged 17 points and 13 rebounds per game.

Most basketball players would likely suffer a setback after undergoing knee surgery, but not United's Alissa Oliver. This junior bounced back from the operation to lead her team in scoring.

"She worked hard to recover from that injury, and it showed on the floor," Ken McGinnis, United's head girls basketball coach, said. "That just shows that she loves the game, and she'll do anything to help her team win."

After the team lost three seniors, Oliver stepped up to fill the void.

"I think she's a determined ball player, and when she's out there she always gives 100 percent," McGinnis said. "I expect much of the same, and hopefully more, from her next season."

Another up-and-coming star in the Heritage Conference is Saltsburg sophomore Tamara Blankenship.

Losing two seniors was a challenge for the Saltsburg girls team to overcome, but Blankenship's production helped lead the Trojans to their third consecutive 20-win season.

"Down the stretch, Tamara seemed to step it up, and assumed a leadership role," said Don Stitt, Saltsburg's girls basketball coach. "That's a big step for a kid her age. Hopefully, she'll carry that on into next season."

While Blankenship led the Trojans in scoring, Stitt believes she improved in other areas as well.

"From last year to this year, the challenge was for her and the sophomores to step up, and they certainly did," Stitt said. "If I had to pick one thing she improved on it was definitely rebounding."

Other girls who made the Heritage All-Conference basketball team were Kassie Enos, Ligonier Valley; Jess Valeria, and Christie Rocco, Northern Cambria; Alicia Glasser, Marion Center; Nicole Houser, Penns Manor; Rachel Struble, Purchase Line.

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