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High School Basketball

Dunson’s energy, defense key to success for Penn Hills girls basketball

Andrew John
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Penn Hills’ A’Lysa Sledge, Ariana Dunson (0), Niya Moore (32) and Adia Brisker (1) surround Oakland Catholic’s Sierra DeAngelo on Jan. 10 at Oakland Catholic.

Seniors Tayonna Robertson and Adia Brisker can constantly be seen leading the Penn Hills girls basketball team offensively in the box score.

But it’s the energy and defense provided by senior Ariana Dunson that could make the difference in the postseason.

The Indians have a 13-5 overall record with a 9-2 mark in Section 3-5A play.

Dunson isn’t looking to see her name in the box score; she takes pride in her work on the defensive end. Dunson loves to lock down on her opponent and get a big stop or steal for her team.

“No matter what is going on, you know she’s going to come out and play hard. She’s going to play fast and change the game with the way she plays defense,” coach Robert Cash said.

“She’s one of our consistent shooters. The effort and energy she brings to the team we look for it night in and night out.”

This season, the Indians have had a five-game winning streak and six-game winning streak. The two winning streaks sandwiched a 51-47 loss to North Allegheny at the Penn Hills tournament Dec. 27.

Even though Dunson isn’t known for her offensive game, she scored 19 points in a 57-56 loss to Latrobe in section play Jan. 24.

“She was playing off the ball and we expected her to make some shots, but once we moved her to the point guard spot, control the team and make shots as well I think it helped her learn the offensive part of the game a little bit more,” Cash said.

“Now she’s doing a really good job on putting pressure on the defense on a make or a miss, figuring out how to make the best decision for the team, as well as knowing when she needs to make a shot for the team.”

The 5-foot-6 guard has been battling through a shoulder injury all season that limited her dribbling and shooting. It came to a point where Dunson needed to miss time for close to two weeks at the beginning of the calendar year to get treatment.

Since returning Jan. 10 at Oakland Catholic, Dunson has gradually started to find her scoring touch, which culminated with her performance at Latrobe.

“I’m just trying to win so I’m doing whatever I need to do. If I have to score, I’ll score. If I have to defend, I’ll defend,” Dunson said.

Last season, Dunson’s role expanded when she was asked to score more with Robertson only available to play in nine games. Diamond-Jay Whittington also missed the whole season with a torn ACL.

In her senior season, Dunson feels the Indians’ time is now to bring home a championship with Robertson and Whittington fully healthy and Brisker taking another step forward offensively.

“This year has been tough because we want to make it all the way to the championship,” she said. “This year, we have everybody back, and we’re ready to win a championship. It’s not easy, but we know we can win the whole thing. We got to work hard and practice every single day.”

Andrew John is a freelance writer.