Cal (Pa.)-bound Allen leaves legacy of leadership, success with Bishop Canevin girls basketball

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Friday, June 1, 2018 | 7:06 PM


When the Bishop Canevin girls basketball team needed a point guard, the coaching staff turned to Brionna Allen. When they needed a post player, Allen got the call again.

Few players have the versatility to play positions with such divergent skills and responsibilities. Allen didn't merely fill those spots in the Crusaders' lineup, she excelled at each. As a junior, she was named second-team all-state as a point guard. This past season, she was first-team all-state at center.

More importantly, she was a key cog in the Crusaders winning WPIAL titles in each of those seasons. Allen, in fact, won three WPIAL titles and earned two PIAA silver medals during her four years with Bishop Canevin.

“Not a lot of people get to win three WPIAL championships,” Allen said. “It definitely was a blessing to do that.”

“Blessing” might be a word Crusaders coach Scott Dibble would use to describe Allen. An assistant for two seasons with the team before taking over as head coach for the 2017-18 season, Dibble had nothing but praise for his graduating senior.

But rather than spewing numbers, Dibble talked about her selfless, team-first attitude as being her most valuable contribution.

“The nice thing about Bri is she's a leader first and foremost,” Dibble said. “I can honestly tell you in three years I've been here, I don't think she missed a practice. She has no arrogance about her. She did everything we asked.”

That included frequent position switches. Allen said she often played different positions on her AAU team, so being asked to do the same for Bishop Canevin wasn't uncharted territory. She admitted moving to the post a season after playing point guard was daunting at first.

At 5-foot-6, Allen isn't the prototypical center. What she lacked in height, however, she made up for with her aggressiveness.

“I am aggressive on offense and defense,” she said. “I've always been known for being the aggressive one on the team. I guess it kind of grew with me.”

Added Dibble: “Bri can do everything. She can shoot it, handle it, defend. She's one of our best defenders by far, and she's one of the craftiest kids I've ever coached. The other kids respected the way she went to work every single day, and I think they learned a lot from her.”

Her style should serve her well as she moves on to the next chapter of her basketball life. In April, she signed a letter of intent to play at Cal (Pa.), which has had great success nationally — including an NCAA Division II title in 2015 — under coach Jess Strom.

Strom's system is predicated on frenetic play, so it should be a good fit for Allen. And she will be able to focus on one position as she was recruited as a guard.

She also will get a chance to work with former Bishop Canevin teammate Gina Vallecorsa, who made eight starts and averaged 4.1 points for the Vulcans last season.

“You kind of feel where you want to go and where you feel comfortable,” Allen said, “and I knew I should go to Cal.”

Allen also is comfortable with the legacy she left behind. The three WPIAL titles are nice, but she hopes to be remembered for more.

“As a great player, a team player, a good friend to my teammates, a coachable player,” she said. “And someone who never gave up on a play.”

Chuck Curti is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at ccurti@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CCurti_Trib.

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