It’s been chaos in the preseason around the South Allegheny girls basketball practices, and that’s the way first-year coach Shaun Johnston wants it.
Johnston, a boys assistant last season, takes over the Class AA Gladiators girls program for Ashleigh Hays, who resigned after one season.
He could find out Saturday in the team’s first preseason scrimmage at Class AAAA Woodland Hills whether his newly installed chaotic style of play has a chance of being successful.
He plans to rotate two lineups at various intervals with the hope of wearing down opponents.
To provide depth, Johnston added five players with no varsity experience for whom he has coached on the school’s powder puff football team.
“We’re going to be aggressive,” he said.
“The style we play could win us a few more games or it could send us right out of the competition early if we get into foul trouble.”
The return of senior forward Abby Dranko, the leading scorer (15.8 ppg.) last season from a 4-16 team, adds to Johnston’s hopes. He said the 5-foot-11 Dranko “could start for virtually any team in the WPIAL.”
Johnston said the team’s 10-player rotation to start the year consists of Dranko and fellow seniors Miranda Andrejchack, Emaile Burkholder and Shannon Connors; juniors Hanna Elder and Karley Harrison; and sophomores Alyssa Kennedy, Bailey Myers, Kacey Sullinger and Katelyn Wyler.
Elizabeth Tiekut, a 2008 graduate and career 1,000-point scorer at South Allegheny, will serve as Johnston’s assistant.
“Frankly, the lack of players scared me at first,” Johnston said. “That’s why I went out and recruited three seniors and two juniors from the powder puff team. Those girls are aggressive and won’t get pushed around.”
He hopes they’ll learn fast in time for the team’s WPIAL schedule.
South Allegheny, which moves to Section 2-AA from 3-AA, opens the regular season Friday at the Brownsville Tournament against Morgantown (W.Va.) Trinity Christian.
South Allegheny, East Allegheny, Greensburg Central Catholic and Shady Side Academy are making the move from Section 3-AA to 2-AA as part of the WPIAL’s realignment plan and will joined Apollo-Ridge, Burrell, Freeport and West Shamokin in 2-AA.
“I do think we can be much more competitive than the school has been in the past couple years (despite changing sections,” Johnston said. “We’re going to try to build this team on defense and create as much chaos and problems for the other teams as possible.
“We’re only going to be as good as our defense will take us, and we’re going to need a big year from Abby Dranko. She’s got great skills in every facet of the game. She’s our leader.”
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected].