2012-13 Progressland Girls Basketball All-Stars announced|
Saturday, March 23, 2013
By Jon Christoff Sports Writer
The girls basketball season recently came to a close in Progressland, and there were several highlights to the season that will make the year one to remember.
There were exemplary individual performances in addition to team efforts that won't be forgotten any time soon.
Four teams advanced to the postseason with West Branch leading the way in the District 6 Class A bracket.
The Lady Warriors won the Moshannon Valley League title for the third time in a row, were the only local team with a winning record and advanced into the quarterfinal round before being upended by eventual runner-up Portage.
Curwensville and Philipsburg-Osceola participated in their respective district brackets, only to bow out in their first contest.
In District 9 AA, the Lady Tide hung with top-seeded Kane before bowing out, while the Lady Mounties couldn't figure out Tyrone in the D-6 AA tournament and fell to the Lady Eagles for the third time this season.
A young Clearfield Alliance Christian School squad also advanced to its conference's tournament, where the Lady Crusaders went 0-2.
Joey Castagnolo's Clearfield squad battled in the always tough Mountain League and gained some valuable experience moving forward, while Glendale's up-and-down season resulted with eight wins under head coach John Matchock's watch.
Harmony went winless for the second straight season, but Ralph Butterworth's team showed signs of life this season on several occasions and bumped its points per game average by more than 10 from a season ago.
Moshannon Valley also struggled, but the Damsels put forth one of the most memorable efforts of the season when they downed the Lady Owls after trailing by 17 in the second quarter.
Purchase Line had one of its better years in head coach Rebecca Hudak's first season en route to six wins.
The Lady Warriors' success was the story of the year in Progressland, which makes head coach Dan Socash the obvious pick for the Coach of the Year.
The task of tabbing a Player of the Year was much more difficult, however.
Several players had more than a fair argument in claiming the title, but it was the Lady Bison's Breanna Peters who earned the honor for the second straight season.
West Branch's Janene Couteret and MeLesha Ahlberg and Glendale's Katelyn Matthews also had POY-like résumés and were named to the first team, as were Philipsburg-Osceola's Briana Rusnak and Curwensville's Ciara Strickland.
Here is a closer look at the best of Progressland's best:
Coach of the Year: Dan Socash, West Branch: From the time the season tipped off until its final buzzer, the Lady Warriors reigned supreme in Progressland, and their front man was a big reason why.
Socash guided West Branch to its third Moshannon Valley League championship in the past four seasons, led it to the only winning record in the area and coached them to the school's first playoff victory since 1987.
The Lady Warriors were the only local team to average more than 45 points per game and were one of two to hold opponents under 40. West Branch got the job done whether it was cashing in on its stellar defensive effort or knocking down an area's best 74 3-pointers.
West Branch won six straight contests from Jan. 17 to Feb.1, and won four of its last five before being knocked out of the District 6 Class A tournament by second-seeded Portage.
The highlight of the Lady Warriors' season came on Feb. 18, where they handled Blacklick Valley by 30 points.
Player of the Year: Breanna Peters, Sr., Clearfield: Head coach Joey Castagnolo's team had a down year by recent standards.
If there was one thing Castagnolo can take solace in, it's the fact that Peters did nothing but live up to her Player of the Year standards.
The cream of the Progressland crop a season ago, Peters was just as impressive in her senior campaign where she nearly cracked the 1,000-point plateau and became Clearfield's all-time leading rebounder.
Peters' offensive production was down slightly from a season ago, but that's because the injury bug forced her to the sideline for two contests. The Lady Bison forward averaged 15.2 points this season with only Central and Punxsutawney being able to slow her down.
Peters put up monster numbers in wins over Huntingdon (20 points, 12 rebounds) and Philipsburg-Osceola (24 points, 19 rebounds), while pouring in a season-high 28 points in a late-season loss to the Lady Mounties.
Despite only netting eight points in a loss to the Lady Dragons on Jan. 23, Peters made school history with her 10-rebound night to pass Kristen Aveni atop the Lady Bison leaderboard.
MeLesha Ahlberg, Sr., West Branch: Versatility was the name of the game for Ahlberg, who could do anything head coach Dan Socash could ask of her.
Whether called upon to drive to the basket, knock down a 3-pointer, rebound or play defense, the Lady Warrior was a jack of all trades.
Ahlberg was second on the team with her 11.3 points per game average, and was top in the area with 40 3-pointers made.
The West Branch winger scored a career-high 30 points in a win over Curwensville, while pouring in 21 against Juniata Valley.
Janene Couteret, Sr., West Branch: A key to stopping the Lady Warriors was slowing down Couteret. Needless to say, there weren't a lot of teams that succeeded.
The Lady Warriors' point guard victimized opponents to five steals per contest, many of which she converted into easy buckets on the other end - thanks to her unparalleled speed.
Couteret was always a step ahead of the competition, whether she utilized her standout defense, her innate ability to distribute the ball to open teammates or whether she was creating offense on her own.
The West Branch senior averaged a team-high 13.2 points per contest, which included three 20-point contests in wins over Glendale, Moshannon Valley and Juniata Valley.
Couteret ended her senior season with 17 double-digit scoring performances.
Katelyn Matthews, Sr., Glendale: If the top award in Progressland was the Most Valuable Player, Matthews would have perhaps a bigger claim than anyone else.
The Lady Viking senior led her team in pretty much every statistical category, including a team-high 15.6 points per contest. Without her, Glendale wouldn't have averaged 20.
Matthews shot 44 percent from the field for the season (131-for-295), and averaged 12.1 rebounds per contest to go along with 35 blocks and 45 steals.
Matthews was also unselfish, as her 38 assists were third on the squad.
Moshannon Valley League opponents trembled at Matthews' presence, as she terrorized opponents for an average of 20.9 points in eight league contests.
Matthews ended the season with seven 20-point games.
Briana Rusnak, Sr., Philipsburg-Osceola: To say that Rusnak's career was marred by injuries would be an understatement, as most of her career was cut short because of knee injuries.
It's no coincidence that when Rusnak's knee braces came off in late December the Lady Mounties began to crawl out of a 1-6 start and won seven of their next nine.
The P-O senior poured in double-double after double-double and helped the Lady Mounties return to the postseason after a one-year hiatus.
Rusnak scored in double figures in 20 of her team's 23 contests, including a season-high 23 in a win at rival Clearfield and 20-point efforts in games against Moshannon Valley and Tyrone.
On the glass, Rusnak was as tough as they come, snagging 17 in her 21-point effort against the Lady Eagles, while adding 15 more in a win over Huntingdon.
Rusnak ended the season with 270 rebounds, 49 steals and 32 assists.
Ciara Strickland, So., Curwensville: While this season's first team has a senior flair, Strickland proved time and time again that her consistency was worthy of being placed among the area's elite.
After having a solid freshman campaign, Strickland broke out that much more during her second year running the Lady Golden Tide's offense.
Curwensville ranked second, behind only West Branch and P-O, in points per contest and Strickland was the driving factor in her team's success - whether she utilized her speed or defense to create her offense, or her shooting ability and uncanny ability to find an open teammate.
Strickland ended her season with 309 points, including three 20-point performances, to go along with 94 rebounds, 78 assists, 83 steals and 10 blocks.
Rounding out the this year's all-stars on the second team were Clearfield Alliance's Alyssa Wharton, Clearfield's Dakota Farmery, Curwensville's Katrina Seaburn and Becca Johnson, Philipsburg-Osceola's Abby Showers, and Purchase Line's Karli Rorabaugh.
Glendale's Cassidy Noel, Harmony's Lindsay Welteroth, Moshannon Valley's Hannah Kitko, P-O's Haylee Hayward, Purchase Line's Melanie Hilliard, and West Branch's Christie Sabol and Brianne Nye rounded out the squad as honorable mention picks.