School: South Park
As 2018 came to a close, the South Park girls basketball team was 3-5 overall after back-to-back losses to Gateway and Elizabeth Forward in the Betsy Invitational.
What a difference a new year makes.
Since the start of January, the Eagles are 7-1 and after two more wins last week, they sit atop Section 2 in Class 3A.
“We feel that with our tough nonsection games vs. Peters Township, Chartiers Valley, Gateway, Southmoreland and Elizabeth Forward, that we have prepared ourselves for the future,” third-year coach Marty Matvey said. “We just need to finish what we have started.”
The Eagles have turned to senior Maura Huwalt as their closer to finish the job.
On Monday in a showdown for first place, South Park rolled at home over Washington, 70-46.
“Maura set the tone for us against Washington with her strength and poise,” Matvey said. “We knew going into the game that if we could match their toughness and physicality while keeping our composure that we could execute our game plan.”
Huwalt tallied 35 points in the 24-point victory.
Matvey was not surprised as they have come to expect that kind of performance.
“Maura’s teammates fed off of her strength and poise on both ends of the court whether it be her back to the basket dominance on offense or defensive prowess, and that, in turn, got our entire team’s confidence going throughout the game.”
Three days later, there was no sign of a letdown as Huwalt scored 20 points in a 70-28 rout of Charleroi.
“Maura is a strong back to the basket inside player, which is a rare talent seldom seen these days,” Matvey said. “Her left hand is just as strong as her right, and she also is a capable shooter and excellent passer.”
Heading into the final two weeks of the season, Huwalt and the Eagles have a one-game lead over both Washington and Seton LaSalle.
South Park only has three seniors on the roster, but Matvey believes the leadership of Huwalt, Cassidy Zandier and Charlyn Blackburn will be huge for the Eagles down the stretch and into the postseason.
“Our three seniors are our captains,” he said. “Not because they are seniors, but because each of them embody the leadership traits that are necessary to have a healthy and competitive team. I am so lucky to have the perfect chemistry of team leadership between these three young ladies.”
Reilly Sunday, Moon
She is only a freshman, but Moon opponents are quickly finding out there is no day of rest when playing this Sunday. Reilly Sunday helped keep the Tigers’ playoff hopes alive in Section 1-5A when she scored 29 points on Monday in a 63-37 victory over Lincoln Park, followed by a 24-point performance Thursday as Moon beat West Allegheny, 55-45. While the future may be bright for Sunday, those two wins improved the Tigers to 5-5 in the section where they are in fifth place with two weeks left, trailing fourth-place South Fayette by one game as they prepare to battle the Lions on Jan. 28.
Megan Kallock, Greensburg Salem
Two big sections wins over a span of three days last week has Greensburg Salem tied for the fourth and final playoff spot in Section 1-4A. Senior Megan Kallock led the way in both victories as she scored 33 points at home on Tuesday in the Golden Lions’ 62-40 triumph over Burrell. Two days later, Kallock had the correct combination again as she pumped in 26 points in a 43-36 win at Knoch as Greensburg Salem and Apollo-Ridge are tied for fourth place, one game behind Knoch.
Anni Truschel, Aquinas Academy
Now be honest, how many people know where tiny Aquinas Academy is located? It is north of Pittsburgh in Gibsonia. Anni Truschel is doing her part to put the Crusaders on the map. The senior guard began the week by scoring 26 points in 41-26 win for Aquinas Academy over Leechburg that increased the Crusaders’ lead over the Blue Devils in the fight for third place by two games. Truschel then dropped in 30 points on Thursday in a tough 60-48 loss to first- place Greensburg Central Catholic. Despite the loss, Aquinas Academy has clinched a Class A playoff berth.
Don Rebel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Don at [email protected] or via Twitter @TheDonRebel.