Kittanning girls basketball team return its core
There’s been a changing of the guard for Kittanning girls basketball.
The Wildcats must replace 1,000-point scorer and four-year point guard starter Emily Knepshield, but with four of their top six players returning and a deep backcourt, Kittanning again has high hopes for their season.
Kittanning brings back experienced senior guards Alaina Thomas and Tiffany Montgomery, senior forward Emily Klingensmith and junior guard Taylar Wolfe.
That group will be in the center of the action if the Wildcats are to match last year’s 15-8 record that included a preliminary-round playoff win.
“We only lost two seniors (forward Sydney Cloak was the other) and basically have four returning starters, so we bring back a lot of experience as a group,” Kittanning coach Janelle Kotyk said. “We’re going to play hard each game and try to improve each day.”
Point guard is the obvious hole in the lineup for Kittanning, but with Thomas and Wolfe having experience at that position, Kotyk expects her veterans to share the job capably. Adding in the outside shooting of Montgomery, the Wildcats appear to have a solid returning backcourt.
“Both Alaina and Taylar have played point guard at the middle school and JV level, and we’re essentially running a two point guard set,” Kotyk said. “I’m comfortable with both of them handling the ball, and we’re pretty blessed at that position to have two girls I can trust with that job.”
Under the basket is where Kittanning will need to turn to some new faces.
Only Klingensmith has much varsity experience among post players.
The Wildcats hope to get good minutes from sophomore Elise Hulings and freshman Katelyn Crispen, both of whom stand about 5-foot-8 or 5-9, but Klingensmith will be the team’s top inside presence.
“Emily’s going to have to be a leader for them and help with the learning curve for the other girls,” Kotyk said. “Elise is very offensively skilled, and Katelyn has a more aggressive personality going after rebounds, so they both bring something different.”
Figuring out what each of her players does best is the top challenge facing Kotyk, especially against a Section 1-AAA schedule that got tougher with the addition of Ford City and Deer Lakes to perennial powers Mars and Hampton.
But once the Wildcats settle into their new roles, the expectation is they again will challenge for a playoff berth.
“Each of our girls has different strengths, and the key is to try to identify those and let them do what they do best,” Kotyk said. “When we get into trouble is when we do things outside of our comfort zone, but we’re taking it one day at a time and getting girls comfortable in their roles.”