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McKeesport girls basketball team healthy, anxious to start new season |

McKeesport girls basketball team healthy, anxious to start new season

Ronald Vezzani Jr. | Trib Total Media
McKeesport's Maniah Robinson practices ball movement skills during practice on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014, at McKeesport.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For Trib Total Media
McKeesport girls basketball coach Eric Smith reviews some details with players prior to the start of practice on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014, at McKeesport.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For Trib Total Media
McKeesport's Nassiah Bray practices ball movement skills during practice on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014, at McKeesport.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For Trib Total Media
McKeesport's Carley Tanney warms up prior to practice on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014, at McKeesport.

This season is all about returns for the McKeesport girls basketball team.

The Tigers bring back four starters from last season’s squad, as well as two key players who are returning from injury.

Those injuries, coupled with a young team, led to a subpar 2013-14 season. So the Tigers also expect a return on their invested time in the form of a mature and hungry team.

“This year, we are going to depend on the experience we got last year,” said McKeesport coach Eric Smith. “We’ve talked about competing for a playoff spot this year. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t.”

The Tigers finished 8-14 overall and 3-9 in Section 2-AAAA in 2013-14. The only starter missing from that team is Jamie Reddix, who averaged nine points and five rebounds per game.

Returning are leading scorers Johnasia Cash (12 points per game) and Nassiah Bray (11 points per game), as well as T.T. Burke and Carly Tanney.

Ronasae Upsher (concussion) and Maniah Robinson (ACL) missed significant time because of injuries, but both are healthy and ready to go, Smith said. Robinson, a junior, worked her way into the starting lineup as a freshman before missing last season.

“Everyone knows what they’re doing already, so we’re focused on getting better together,” said Tanney, who will be counted on for her defense and rebounding. “We get along really good, and we’re excited to have everyone back.”

One of the few new looks at McKeesport is the Neenie Campbell Memorial Gymnasium, which was recently renovated. The touch-up included new hardwood, locker rooms and a sound system.

Before that, the Tigers were in the practice gym, also located in the high school. That became a challenge with various sports teams needing to schedule practices. The practice gym is smaller as well, so certain things, such as the newly implemented fast break were hard to execute.

“It was a little bit chaotic,” said Smith. “But I think the girls realized we need to get to work and get going wherever we’re at.

“We didn’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves because we didn’t have a gym.”

One of the Tigers’ top priorities this season is to remain consistent. They won consecutive games multiple times last season, but also suffered losing streaks in between.

Smith has a hunch that his returning players and those coming back from injury will put McKeesport on a more even keel.

“That’s the burning issue, for sure,” Smith said.

The positive side of those injuries, Smith said, was that players had to be moved around on the court and thus became better all-around players that understood the game plan from different angles.

“We’re going to be banking on that.”

Ed Phillipps is a freelance writer.

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