Penn-Trafford girls battling for WPIAL playoff berth
The WPIAL playoff hopes for the Penn-Trafford girls basketball team may boil down to the final game of the regular season.
The Warriors (10-9, 6-5) stand in fifth place in Section 3-5A, trailing Oakland Catholic (16-2, 10-1), Penn Hills (13-5, 9-2), Woodland Hills (10-8, 8-3) and Latrobe (11-5, 7-4).
P-T ends the regular season Feb. 8 at home against Latrobe, which edged the Warriors, 47-43, in their first matchup last month.
“We are in a dogfight with some other really good teams,” P-T coach John Giannikas said. “It will be an exciting last two weeks for the team. Basically, we are starting playoff games right now.”
Prior to a 71-39 loss Jan. 28 to Oakland Catholic, Penn-Trafford had won four games in a row and five of their previous six, including a 42-38 victory over Penn Hills.
“I really like how our team is coming along,” Giannikas said prior to the Oakland Catholic contest. “They have really good chemistry and, individually, each player is accepting her role and doing it the best to help us succeed. We are sharing the basketball well right now, and the players don’t care who gets the points.”
The Warriors are led offensively by Bella Long, a 5-foot-10 junior guard/forward, and Stephanie O’Donnell, a 6-2 senior forward. Long is averaging around 14 points per game. O’Donnell is averaging 8.5 ppg.
Reaghan Panza, a 5-6 senior guard; Kenzie Powell, a 5-8 sophomore guard; Allie Prady, a 5-5 sophomore guard; and Maura Suman, a 5-5 freshman guard, all score between 7 and 8 points per game.
Long, the program’s all-time leader in 3-point field goals, and O’Donnell are the Warriors’ top rebounders; Suman and Powell lead in assists.
Long hit her 92nd career triple Jan. 22 in a 52-38 section win at Albert Gallatin, breaking Taylor Cortazzo’s mark of 91 set in 2013.
Prady; Morgan Hilty, a 5-7 junior guard/forward; Brooke Cleland, a 5-4 sophomore guard; and Danielle Ochendowski, a 5-10 senior forward, are P-T’s leading reserves.
“Allie Prady has been doing really well as our sixth man,” Giannikas said. ”Morgan Hilty, Brooke Cleland and Danielle Ochendowski have also given us good minutes off the bench.”
Penn-Trafford, which went 7-15 in 2018-19 and saw its 10-year streak of playoff appearances snapped, dropped to Class 5A in an all-new section this season.
Giannikas said this year’s team is working diligently in practice and in games, hoping to secure a return to the WPIAL playoffs.
“It has been a great group of kids to coach and if they keep working as hard as they have been, great things are yet to come for them,” Giannikas said. “Nothing would make our staff happier than seeing their hard work pay off and for them to get into the playoffs.
“It won’t be easy nor should it be, but we believe in these kids and I think their best is yet to come.”
Ray Fisher is a freelance writer.