Leechburg girls basketball must move on from historic era
The greatest girls basketball era has ended at Leechburg, and it’s time to move on.
Graduated are the six key players who accumulated 58 victories over the past four seasons and won the program’s first WPIAL playoff games and made two PIAA appearances.
The coach, Joel Ceraso, also has moved on, replaced by Valley graduate Andre Carter.
“I love it here,” Carter said. “I think everything is going great here. We only have nine girls. They’re here, and I think we’re going to surprise some people this year. I really do.”
Waiting in the wings the past several seasons is junior Maddie Ancosky, who is anxious to show what she can do after limited roles the last two seasons.
“I think we’ll work well together as a team,” Ancosky said. “Some of us are still developing our skills. But if we communicate and play our game, we’ll be fine.”
“Maddie got some experience here last year,” Carter said. “Aubry Skeel and Claudia Henry and Kat Yurjevich, who didn’t come out for two years, is back, so we have a nice core.”
Junior Rina Foley is expected to round out an inexperienced starting five.
While other teams are practicing their sets, Carter has Leechburg working on fundamentals and situational basketball.
“We really haven’t gone over too many plays,” Carter said. “I want to teach the girls how to play, different concepts. If this happens, this is what we can do. Just different things to let them know to start learning a basketball I.Q. is what we’re really teaching them now.”
Carter will make his coaching debut Dec. 7 as the Blue Devils host Saltsburg at 7 p.m. as part of their annual tipoff tournament.
Said Ancosky: “I think the teams we play won’t be prepared because they know our whole starting lineup is gone. We’re all new. We’re all fresh. Nobody knows how we’ll play together.”
Leechburg has dropped to Class A this season and will have a six-team section that includes St. Joseph, Aquinas Academy, Clairton, Propel Andrew Street and perennial power Greensburg Central Catholic, which has made the playoffs 37 of the past 38 seasons.
Carter feels the best way to get back into contention is via defense.
“They love to play defense, and we’re doing very well there,” Carter said. “One of goals is deflections. If we get 20 deflections, I think we’ll be good. We have little goals, but they’re buying into it.”
The reserves also are seeing defense as a route toward playing time.
Carter is hoping the numbers situation is temporary. He coached the seventh and eighth grade teams during the fall. The turnout was much better, and the two grades combined for 11 victories.
Raevaan Mottley, who played at Greensburg Salem, will be Carter’s assistant.
George Guido is a freelance writer.