Hempfield girls team seeks some chemistry
When Gene Brisbane was a teacher at Harrold Middle School in the Hempfield Area School District, he taught history.
But if the Hempfield Area girls basketball team wants to be successful, Brisbane will need to teach chemistry.
Brisbane has been coaching Hempfield for the past 20 seasons, his teams have won 313 games and usually win or challenge for the section title.
This season is no different. Norwin is favored to win Section 1-AAA, but Hempfield looks to be a serious challenger if Brisbane can get his team to play together.
If it does, Hempfield should qualify for the WPIAL playoffs for the ninth consecutive season.
Hempfield graduated its leading scorer in Maria Montini; its leader in rebounds and assists in Melissa Lupinacci; and its top defender in Tara Catone. Montini is playing basketball at Pitt-Johnstown, Catone is at California (Pa.), and Lupinacci is playing softball at California (Pa.).
“They were all good leaders,” Brisbane said. “We’re working on team chemistry. We have nice depth and a lot of different combinations we can use. We just have to find the right combinations.”
Hempfield returns two starters in junior forward Danielle Murphy (9.9 points per game) and senior guard Katy Balko (7 points per game).
But Brisbane has numerous players ready to step up and buy into his team concept.
Some of the players he expects to contribute are senior forward Katie Kline; guards Megan Delisle, Marissa Siard and Courtney DeBridge and forward Hannah Falcsik, all juniors; and forward Taylor Lubinsky, a sophomore.
Brisbane said some of his promising juniors and sophomores eventually could help the varsity. Brisbane’s teams pride themselves on playing sound defense and forcing turnovers.
“We’ll try to mold the team from the defense out,” Brisbane said. “This team has the ability to mix defenses up. We won’t be in one defense. A lot will be determined by matchups. If we can get the defense solid, it makes up for a lot deficiencies.”
Hempfield scrimmaged against Woodland Hills last week, and Brisbane said some if his teams’ weaknesses were exposed.
The play was ragged, which Brisbane expected. He had hoped some of the veterans would have played better.
“It was a typical first scrimmage,” Brisbane said. “We let them watch the film quite a few times. We have to do it by committee. They have to understand their roles.
“Defense has won us a lot of games over the years. When we’re doing things correctly, we’re creating a lot of turnovers and points off the turnovers. We have to limit our turnovers. If you look at turnover totals at the end of game, you can usually see who wins it.”
Leaders of the pack
Tribune-Review preseason rankings
Team (2008-09 record) The skinny
1. Mt. Lebanon (31-0) The defending PIAA and WPIAL champion returns four starters and is ranked No. 9 nationally by USA Today.
2. Bethel Park (21-3) Guard Candace Martino (16 points per game) and forward Danielle McNabb (12) will carry the Black Hawks.
3. Gateway (16-12) Sophomore guard Destiny Brown averaged 20 npoints and 8 rebounds per game as a freshman.
4. Butler (19-3) Look for Florida State recruit Olivia Bresnahan and Cassie Cygan, both senior guards, to carry the Golden Tornado deep into the playoffs.
5. Norwin (18-5) With senor guards Nicky Costabile (14 points per game) and Nicky Brenner (10), the Knights are poised for another strong season.
Projected section champions: 1. Norwin 2. Gateway; 3. Butler; 4. Mt. Lebanon
Players to watch: Alexis Aiken, 5-8, G, So., North Allegheny; Lauren Arbogast, 6-0, G, Jr., Mt. Lebanon; Jess Babe, 5-6. G, Sr., Mt. Lebanon; Olivia Bresnahan, 5-11, G, Sr., Butler; Destiny Brown, 5-9, G, So., Gateway; Madison Cable, 5-11, G., Jr., Mt. Lebanon; Nicky Costabile, 5-4, G, Sr., Norwin; Ryah Gadson, 5-9, G, Sr., McKeesport; Candace Martino, 5-7, G. Jr., Bethel Park; Danielle McNabb, 6-0, F, Sr., Bethel Park; Belma Nurkic, 5-9, G/F, Jr., Baldwin.