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Sports

Mt. Pleasant looks for balanced attack in playoffs

| Saturday, Feb. 14, 2009

Strong defense and a balanced offense have been the hallmarks of success for the Mt. Pleasant girls basketball team this season. Today, the Lady Vikings hope to display both when they take on West Allegheny in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs at North Hills High School.

Tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m.

"West Allegheny is a strong basketball team," Mt. Pleasant coach Scott Giacobbi said. "They are coming out of arguably the best section (4-AAA) in Class AAA."

The Lady Indians (16-6) and Lady Vikings (17-5) didn't play each other during the regular season, but the teams have shared some common opponents. Each team closed its regular season against Chartiers Valley and lost by 10 points.

"We looked at them in their last two games and we have some similar traits," Giacobbi said. "We have some favorable match-ups in certain situations, and if West Allegheny takes advantage of some things, there could be weaknesses for us."

Mt. Pleasant, which finished second in Section 3-AAA, must rely on a steady stream of production from a number of different players. And the Lady Vikings have received that type of consistent offensive output for most of the season.

"We have balanced scoring," Giacobbi said. "We can average four players scoring in double figures."

A large portion of the Lady Vikings' offense comes from junior guard Shelby Way, sophomore forward Nicole Malara, junior forward Carly Zelenak and senior guard Julia Park. Way leads the team with a 14 points per-game average. Malara and Zelenak each average close to 12 points per game and Park usually is right around the 10-point mark per contest.

Much of Mt. Pleasant's attack is generated off the mistakes and missed shots of its opponents.

"We've had a strong transition game all season and we hope to take advantage of that," Giacobbi said.

Of course, a strong transition game starts with tenacious defense and senior guard/forward Renee Jones has been a defensive standout for the Lady Vikings.

"She is a real force for us on defense," Giacobbi said. "Part of it is because of her versatility. We like to play a man-to-man defense and she gives us the edge in that department."

Mt. Pleasant's defense will be tested by West Allegheny, the third-place team in Section 4-AAA.

The Lady Indians feature several offensive threats, led by senior forward/center Michelle Walker, junior guard Brianna Bayly and senior guard Olesia Stasko.

"Walker is the nucleus of their offense," Giacobbi said. "Stasko is a very good point guard and Bayly is a nice shooting guard."

Last season, the Lady Vikings won a pigtail playoff game against Mars before losing to Chartiers Valley in the first round. Giacobbi is hoping that the previous playoff experience pays dividends.

"Last year, we got some playoff experience," Giacobbi said. "We're hoping to capitalize on that."

For Mt. Pleasant, advancing to the second round will come down to one thing.

"We have to execute our game plan," Giacobbi said. "We have no big adjustments, we just have to execute."

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