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East Allegheny girls basketball team embraces new outlook

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Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For Trib Total Media
East Allegheny's Katie Jenkins practices free throws Friday, Nov. 21, 2014.

After enduring two consecutive seasons without a section win, East Allegheny girls basketball coach Mike Osiecki believes his team might be ready to turn things around.

With an influx of talent from the middle school program and increased roster numbers, Osiecki is optimistic about his players.

“It’s definitely encouraging, and it’s rejuvenating,” said Osiecki of the higher turnout for this year’s team. “People are starting to talk about us now.

“This is the year I was waiting for.”

The luxury of having a larger roster most likely will allow the Wildcats to field a junior varsity team this season, while also providing the type of in-game relief for the varsity squad that players on other teams might take for granted.

“It’s definitely going to be a little bit different because we have more girls this year. … There were games I had to play the whole game because we didn’t have any subs,” junior guard Katie Jenkins said. “Not that I can’t handle it, but it’s always good to sit down and get hydrated again.”

Jenkins will captain a team that moves from WPIAL Section 3-AA to Section 2 after going 3-16 and 0-12 in league play last season.

According to Osiecki, statistics don’t quite show the impact Jenkins has on games.

“She does all the dirty work. She’s the person that jumps on the ground for the loose ball. … It’s the little things she does,” Osiecki said.

Jenkins will be joined by fellow captain Ashley Harner, junior forward Noreen Dodds and sophomore forward Cache Street, who returns after a promising freshman campaign.

The Wildcats also welcome freshman point guard Amani Johnson, a player who could have a big upside.

“She’s going to be a big one and have a major impact this year,” Osiecki said.

With a strong group of upperclassmen combined with a core of young talent, Osiecki said his team could make the playoffs.

“I would love to go .500,” he said. “It’s there, I think we can grasp it. … I really think we can do it this year.

“If we can sneak into fourth place to get in the playoffs, this would be a great step,” he added.

Although opponents previously might have looked forward to games against East Allegheny in past seasons, Osiecki and the Wildcats are hoping a culture change for the program will alter that trend.

“We have a nice core. … It’s not going to be as fun to come play us,” he said. “We’re going to be a scrappy team.”

Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.

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