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Seniors set foundation for Mars girls basketball team |

Seniors set foundation for Mars girls basketball team

| Saturday, March 7, 2015 5:39 p.m
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
Mars' ENicole McCloud battles Highlands' Renee Cebula for a loose ball during their game Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015, in Adams.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
Mars' Elise Sheehy pulls a rebound away from Highlands' Ashlyn Jonczak during their game Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015, in Adams.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
Mars head coach Tony Howard talks to an official during a game against Highlands Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015, in Adams.

The Mars girls basketball team’s seniors had a strong four-year run.

They won 59 games overall, went 43-5 in section play and helped put three section banners on the wall of the Fightin’ Planets’ gym.

That’s why head coach Tony Howard was sad to see their high school hoops careers come to an end with a 52-34 loss to South Park in a WPIAL Class AAA first-round playoff game.

“It’s not the result we had hoped for. Like I told the girls after the game, they really focused on the process. They put in all the work and focus and time to prepare for that game,” he said. “The results were what they were.”

The Eagles pulled away in the fourth quarter to upset Mars (18-5), which entered the tournament as the No. 2 seed. It pushed the Planets’ playoff drought to five seasons. Their last postseason win came in 2010.

“We played a really good first half. We had one bad quarter, and the realization started to set in that we needed to start fouling a whole bunch (to try to stop South Park and come back),” Howard said.

“We can live with the results. South Park is a good team and reached the state playoffs. There’s no shame in losing to them. There’s always a lot of focus on the last game of the year, but these girls went through the process the right way and did everything we focused on. It just wasn’t our day.”

Mars loses a pair of 1,000-point scorers in Ali Goetz and Sara Getsy.

“They have been solid since they came into the program as freshmen. Our program was at a different point then and both were thrust into the spotlight. Right away, we knew we had a couple of special players,” Howard said.

“I am impressed with how they continued to work and find different ways to score throughout their four years. They are two of the hardest workers on the team and came back better offensive players each season.

“Teams knew they had to key on them more and more, so they had to find different ways to grow. We’re sad to see them go. Hopefully, our younger girls are ready to seize that opportunity and learned a lot from them.”

Jess Bunner, Bonnie Workman and Hunter Berneburg are the team’s other three seniors.

“We’re graduating 17 varsity letters. That’s a lot of time. I think we’re losing over 2,800 points and 1,250 rebounds, too,” Howard said.

“They were such a good mix. Jess was a penetrator and a very good athlete. Bonnie was a 3-point specialist. When teams would key on other girls, she was able to knock down some big shots for us through the years. Hunter Berneburg is the hardest worker on the team and had the greatest commitment. She is a great role model for the young girls.”

Starters Elise Sheehy and Nicole McCloud return next year.

“We have a good number of girls who have had a lot of experience in limited roles. They will be asked to expand on that,” Howard said. “Our seniors helped take the program to new heights. It was absolutely a great run.

“I don’t know if they realize how big of a feat it is to win three section championships in four years. Whenever they come back and see the banners on the wall, then maybe they’ll realize it.

“As great of a run as it was, the younger girls are ready to take this opportunity and have their chance to pick up some of the stats and minutes here. We’ll get the process started by working on fundamentals and strength training. We have to shift our game plan and strategy a bit and kind of get used to playing together since there will be some different people in new roles.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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