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Marisa leads the list of Almanac All-Stars

Marisa leads the list of Almanac All-Stars

Eleanor Bailey/The AlmanacMakenna MarisaEleanor Bailey/The AlmanacMaria CerroEleanor Bailey/The AlmanacMegan McConnellEleanor Bailey/The AlmanacMackenzie WagnerEleanor Bailey/The AlmanacO…

Marisa leads the list of Almanac All-Stars

Makenna Marisa

Eleanor Bailey/The Almanac

Makenna Marisa

Eleanor Bailey/The Almanac

Maria Cerro

Eleanor Bailey/The Almanac

Megan McConnell

Eleanor Bailey/The Almanac

Mackenzie Wagner

Eleanor Bailey/The Almanac

Olivia Westphal

Eleanor Bailey/The Almanac

Alyssa Hyland

Eleanor BaileyThe Almanac

Samantha Kosmacki

Eleanor Bailey/The Almanac

Isabella Mills

Eleanor Bailey/The Almanac

Haley Sabol

Eleanor Bailey/The Almanac

Lillian Young,

Peters Township ruled the girls’ basketball scene in the South Hills this winter, reaching the WPIAL Class 6-A championships and finishing 21-5 overall. So it comes as no surprise that the Indians dominate the 2018 Almanac All-Star list, which was selected based on games viewed by teams in the readership area as well as input from a coaches’ survey.

Makenna Marisa garnered the top honor as Most Valuable Player. The 5-11 junior, hands down, was the premier performer in the district according to rival coaches

“I think she is the best player in the WPIAL,” USC skipper Pete Serio said. “As a team you can only hope to contain her. She does everything so well. She rebounds, she passes. She always seems to guard the other teams best player.”

Comments like that leave PT floor boss Bert Kendall delighted he doesn’t have to defend Marisa. Marisa’s 25-point performance propelled the Indians into the district finals after a 55-39 victory against Bethel Park.

“She’s a super player. A special player,” Kendall said. “She makes us go.”

As Marisa went, so did the Indians. Into the record books she led them as Peters Towns hip played in its first WPIAL championship contest in girls’ basketball since 2008. The Indians also captured the Section 3 title and advanced to the PIAA tournament before being stopped by Bethel Park. PT had beaten the Hawks on three previous occasions this season.

Throughout the Indians’ 21-5 campaign, which included the loss to nationally ranked North Allegheny (28-1) in the WPIAL final, Marisa consistently dropped in 23 points per game. She also grabbed nine rebounds, dished up three assists and picked up three steals an outing.

While utilized mainly as the Indians’ playmaker, directing the offense from the point, Marisa excels at any position on the floor and was a leader off of it.

“Makenna is a complete player. We can put her anywhere on the court and she will excel,” Kendall said. “She makes everybody around her better. She leads because of her unselfishness. She’s just special.”

Many Division I college programs think so, too, as Mari sa has offers from Duquesne, Pitt, Ball State, Villanova and St. Joseph’s.

“She’s going to make somebody very happy but we’re just glad we have her back for one more year,” Kendall said.

Kendall is happy to have Isabella Mills returning but sad that Lillian Young is graduating. The tandem also made the Indians nearly unstoppable this season.

“Let’s not forget they had other good players as well,” said Serio. “Mills and Young were very good. If you tried to just stop McKenna, then the others would beat you.”

Mills gave the Indians’ that second strong jab to go with Marisa’s first punch. The 5-11 junior fired in 13 points and pulled down eight rebounds a game. She also contributed three assists and two steals a game.

Meanwhile, Young will be off to Edinboro University to play for the Fighting Scots. The 5-10 senior forward can bury the 3-pointer as easily as clean the glass. She managed 10 points per game and added four rebounds, t wo assists and a steal each outing.

“Though she is a natural guard, Lillian defended post players,” Kendall said. “She also was the vocal leader on our team.”

For the Indians, though it all started at the top with Kendall.

After nine years as an assistant coach at Bethel Park, Kendall filled the vacancy at Peters Township in 2013. By beefing up the team’s schedule and applying what he learned when he helped the Hawks reach the WPIAL finals in 2005 and win a district title in 2013, he managed to improve and restore the Peters program to past glories.

Among the accomplishments, Kendall and his staff, which includes his daughter, Katie, and Samantha Loadman, standouts during BP’s consistent playoff runs, was returning the Indians to the WPIAL finals, a section title and 20+ victories. For his efforts, Kendall has been named Almanac Coach of the Year.

CV duo repeat

While Chartiers Valley was unable to defend the championship it had captu red in 2017, Megan McConnell and Mackenzie Wagner continued to display the skills that garnered them acclaim in the past. The Colts started the season without two key starters because of ACL injuries, but they advanced to the Final Four in Class 5-A of the WPIAL, finishing 18-8 overall and runner-up in Section 1.

McConnell and Wagner were the consistent force behind CV’s success. Both served as team captains and both make their second appearance on The Almanac’s all-star list.

As a freshman, McConnell earned Rookie of the Year and All-State acclaim after averaging 11.3 points per game during the 2016-17 regular season and 16 throughout a playoff run that ended in the quarterfinals of the PIAA tournament. Now a sophomore, the 5-foot-5 point guard tossed in 482 points this winter for an 18.5 average. She connected on 144 of 198 free throws. Additionally, McConnell averaged 4.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 4.0 steals per game.

According to head coach Dan Slain, McCon nell played a pivotal role in CV’s 10-game winning streak that continued until a 44-42 loss to Gateway in the WPIAL semifinals. The Gators went on to win the Class 5-A title with a victory against Oakland Catholic.

“Megan was a ‘coach’ on the floor,” Slain said. “Her leadership, grit and tenacity set the tone for our team and elevated its level of play.”

The season-ending ACL injury to Gabi Legister forced Wagner to adjust her playing style and position at CV. The “consummate” shooting guard thus played in the post at times during the season as the Colts adjusted to the loss of their 6-2 center.

A junior, Wagner scored 434 points for a 16.7 average. She converted 81 percent of her shots from the charity stripe. Additionally, Wagner managed 7.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.1 steals per game.

“Mackenzie responded with great offensive production from her perimeter position and also from her post position as she is an offensive threat from anyw here on the floor,” Slain said. “She and Megan provided the “fuel” that powered the engine for our CV team this past season.”

Two power BP

Youth also played a key component to Bethel Park’s success as Maria Cerro and Olivia Westphal fueled the Hawks’ bid to return to the WPIAL finals. Though unable to duplicate their 2017 success, the Hawks compiled a 19-7 slate that included a runner-up showing in Section 3 behind Peters Township and an appearance in the quarterfinals of the PIAA tournament where they lost to North Allegheny.

A junior, Cerro controlled the attack both offensively and defensively. Her 14-point, nine-steal performance in a 53-35 win against State College epitomized Cerro’s play throughout the 2018 campaign and exhibited her many skills.

“Maria is tricky,” said BP floor boss Jonna Burke. “She is like a cat. Ready to pounce.”

Cerro burst through regularly, averaging 17 points per game. Though only 5-foot-5, she al so managed 4.5 rebounds an outing. She dished up 3.0 assists and managed 2.9 steals a game.

Meanwhile, Westphal certainly burst onto the scene. The freshman led the Hawks in scoring with a 13.7 average per game. She also added 3.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.0 steals a contest. Westphal, like Cerro, was named All-Section, first team.

“To be honest, I don’t even think of Olivia as a freshman,” Burke said. “She has never played like one. She played poised. If she was ever nervous it did not show.”

Kosmacki kool

At South Fayette, Sam Kosmacki was one cool customer. Showing little emotion, she calmly guided the Lions to new heights in program history.

Kosmacki led the Lions to two trips to the Petersen Events Center to compete for WPIAL championships, claiming the crown in 2016. She helped South Fayette to the western regional final in 2017, falling one game shy of competing for a PIAA title.

Quietly, she also reached personal milestones. She topped the 1,000-point plateau on Feb. 2 when she scored her first basket in a 58-55 loss to West Allegheny, a mark that former SF coach Matt Bacco said speaks highly to what she meant to the program.

The 5-11 senior proved a valuable asset for the Lions both inside and outside, though she mostly controlled the action from the point-guard position.

“Sam’s versatility is unique,” Bacco said. “She has great size and length, can run the floor, shoot the three and play in the post. Her transition game is difficult to stop, too. When she gets loose in open space, she is tough to contain.”

Indeed, Kosmacki scored in double figures in 16 of 18 contests and averaged 14 points per game. Plus, she averaged 6.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.3 steals and 2.6 blocked shots a game.

Lebo pair star

Though Mt. Lebanon posted a lackluster 13-13 record, the Blue Devils advanced far into the post-season, reaching the Final Four in the WPIAL tournament and compet ing in the PIAA tournament. While a tough non-section schedule helped them reach their playoff potential, Alyssa Hyland and Haley Sabol enabled the Blue Devils to improve on a day-to-day basis because of their skill level and commitment to team.

A 5-8 guard, Hyland led the team with a 12-point scoring average. The senior will play basketball at Case Western next year.

Sabol, meanwhile, returns as she is a sophomore. The 6-0 forward, who can play a guard position, averaged 10.3 points per game.

Both Hyland and Sabol earned Section 3 honors. Both received second-team recognition.

Eleanor Bailey

Almanac Sports Editor

An award-winning journalist, Eleanor Bailey has been employed by Observer Publishing Company since 1982. She is the sports editor at The Almanac and a contributor for the Observer-Reporter.

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