Alle-Kiski Valley athletes of the week: Cheswick Christian’s Drake, Burrell’s Okopal

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Wednesday, February 7, 2018 | 8:30 PM


Allyson Drake

School: Cheswick Christian Academy

Class: Sophomore

Sport: Basketball

Report card: A newcomer to organized basketball, Drake has proven invaluable in the Chargers' pursuit of a Southwestern Christian Athletic Conference championship. The 5-foot-7 forward hit the game-winner with 4 seconds remaining in regulation to give Cheswick Christian Academy (11-3, 5-1) a 21-20 win over Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf this past Tuesday. In addition to posting double-digit scoring figures in seven of the Chargers' 14 games this season, Drake's tied for the team lead in points per game (7.3) and ranks second in rebounds per game (7.6).

What made you finally go out for basketball?

I've never really been an athlete. My whole life, I've been a girly-girl. We played basketball a lot in gym, and girls on the team encouraged me to play.

What's your favorite part of the sport?

I love the teamwork. Everyone is very encouraging.

What makes this year's team so special?

Our speed for sure.

What do the Chargers need to do to beat Trinity Christian Academy this weekend?

I would say if we make mistakes, not to get down on ourselves.

Where does this team need to improve the most going into the SWCAC postseason?

Boxing out and rebounds.

Who is the most underrated player on the team?

Lexi Blazevich.

Is there a team motto for this year?

“We fight.”

Who is the comedian in the locker room?

I would say Nina Rusalova.

What three words best describe you?

Funny. Determined. Kind.

What three people would you like to have dinner with?

Michael Jackson, Hollyn (recording artist) and Ed Sheeran.

What is your favorite subject at school?

Biology.

Favorite school lunch?

The oven-fried chicken.

What is something interesting about you that nobody knows?

I have a twin brother (Andrew), and I am one minute older than him.

Who wins in a game of one-on-one?

He does. I have to give it to him. He's been playing since eighth grade.

Jake Okopal

School: Burrell

Class: Senior

Sport: Basketball

Report card: No Alle-Kiski Valley player has been more clutch of late than Okopal. With Burrell (10-11, 7-3) trailing Section 3-3A rival Apollo-Ridge and a share of the section title on the line Tuesday, Okopal knocked down a 3-pointer with 2.3 seconds remaining in overtime to give the Bucs a 45-44 win. On Friday against section co-champs Shady Side Academy, Okopal buried a 3-pointer with 25.8 seconds left to give Burrell the lead for good. A 6-foot-1 guard, Okopal averages 8 points per game and is shooting 32 percent from behind the 3-point arc. He also pitches and plays third base for the Burrell baseball team. He finished last season with a 3-1 record as a starting pitcher.

What's the secret to knocking down a game-winning shot?

Right place, right time. Everything aligned perfectly in both games to get the shot off at the end, and I took them.

Is there a bit of magic surrounding this year's team?

I think everything is coming around for us late in the season. We have the community behind us, our coaches, and we believe in ourselves.

What was the scene like in the Apollo-Ridge gym when your shot fell?

The gym got quiet. Our fans and our bench went crazy.

Did the ball get all net or did it need some help from the backboard?

All net.

How many times have you practiced a game-winning shot like that?

Ever since I started watching March Madness and people winning it at the buzzer, and I actually got the opportunity. It was unbelievable.

Burrell is 7-3 in the new year. What's changed?

We knew section play was coming up and the coaching staff got us prepared in practice.

Is there a team motto for this year?

“Relentless.”

There could be a three-way tie for first place. What does that say about the section?

It's a competitive section, and it's a lot of fun to play in. All of our games come down to the last quarter.

Who is the most underrated player on the team?

Zach Gimbel. He plays great defense.

Who is the comedian in the locker room?

Luke Kastelic.

What three words best describe you?

Outgoing. Comical. Intelligent.

What three people would you like to have dinner with?

Floyd Mayweather, LeBron James and Josh Harrison.

What is your favorite subject at school?

Math-related subjects.

What are your plans for after high school?

I'm looking into Kent State or Penn State and I'm going for aerospace engineering.

What is something interesting about you that nobody knows?

For basketball, I have a superstition. I keep a lucky penny in my right sock.

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