Hempfield girls start over again with new coach Brush
The girls basketball coaching carousel at Hempfield hasn’t seemed to slow the Spartans’ success, which continued with a march to the WPIAL Class 6A quarterfinals a year ago in former coach Lindsy Muchnock’s only season.
Former East Allegheny coach Tom Brush takes over at Hempfield this season, the second coaching change in three years.
Muchnock followed Aaron Epps, whose Hempfield teams were a fixture in the postseason.
A veteran of the Western Pennsylvania AAU coaching circuit, Brush at the high school level was an assistant at Franklin Regional for the past two years. He’d been hoping for another chance to coach his own program.
Other than trying to overcome a late start, he likes the situation he’s stepping into at Hempfield.
“It seemed like a great fit for me,” said Brush, who is coach of Murrysville-based AAU team Pittsburgh Pride Hoops. He also served as coach at East Allegheny from 2006-08 and again in 2010, compiling a four-year record of 46-45, and briefly was a boys volunteer assistant at Trinity Christian.
Muchnock originally resigned as Hempfield girls coach to take a teaching position in Ohio before ultimately returning to the WPIAL as coach at Ringgold.
Two starters, senior guard Jessica Persin and junior guard Sara Liberatore, return from a 12-12 team that lost to Peters Township in the WPIAL Class 6A quarterfinals last season.
Senior forward Maddy Gray, junior guards Olivia Persin and Riley Sullebarger and sophomore guard/forward Emma Hoffner also are in Brush’s early-season rotation.
“We’ve got a good group,” Brush said. “The seniors, the veterans are helping the younger players, and we’re all getting acclimated. Kelsi Terzolino and Lindsay Gray will contribute, too.”
Terzolino is a sophomore guard and Lindsay Gray a 5-foot-7 junior forward.
“I’ve been very happy from top to bottom with this group of girls,” Brush said. “They’ve been really working well as a team and have been very supportive of each other.”
Hempfield remains in Section 2 amid a revamped lineup void of most traditional rivals. Joining the Spartans in the section this season are Baldwin, Bethel Park, Canon-McMillan, Connellsville, Mt. Lebanon, Peters Township and Upper St. Clair.
“No spots are secure yet,” Jessica Persin said. “We all came in wanting to show this coach what we’re about. We’re a scrappy bunch, and everyone knows it.”
Coaches and players agree ball security is paramount. The Spartans want to win the turnover battle each night out.
“Everything starts with the ball. Everything happens with the ball,” Persin said, insisting Brush already has the players focused on the concept.
“The thing I stress most is skill development,” Brush said. “Ball-handling skills lead to success in other areas. We’re going to play hard the entire game and take care of the basketball. We’re going to go hard from the opening tip. ‘Never give in,’ I tell them. Nothing good can happen from that.”
Dave Mackall is a freelance writer.