A-K Valley Senior Spotlight: St. Joseph’s Maggie Bernat

Monday, March 11, 2024 | 11:33 AM

The St. Joseph girls basketball team has been blessed with height and length from its four senior starters.

Julie Spinelli is a 5-foot-11 guard, Emma Swierczewski is a 5-10 swing forward and Anna Kreinbrook is a 6-2 center who can clog the middle. Throw in junior point guard Gia Richter, and the Spartans are a talented bunch.

One very important piece for the starting five has been versatile forward Maggie Bernat.

“Maggie is the consummate ‘whatever you need, I’ll do for you’ type player,” coach Geoff Dutelle said. “Because of her length and quickness, we can match her up defensively with anybody. She’s very happy playing any role.”

Dutelle said Bernat’s responsibilities on the court are numerous, from pulling down rebounds to setting screens. Because of her ability to read the court, she has more assists than a player at the four position normally would have.

“She also takes good care of the ball,” Dutelle said. “She reads the situation well and follows through with the pass if it’s there but can make the smart and quick decision if it isn’t.”

Bernat’s roles can vary depending on what system Dutelle wants to employ.

“It makes me feel valuable on the court,” said Bernat, who is also 5-10. “I try to fill in any role coach needs me while looking out for my teammates and helping them play their roles.”

But whatever the situation, Dutelle is happy to have Bernat’s smarts out on the court.

“Her attention to detail is unmatched,” he said. “She knows an entire play, not just her floor position. That allows me to plug her in for Anna if I want to run a smaller lineup. We played a game without Emma, and I had Maggie playing a little bit more on the wing.”

St. Joseph’s tall frontcourt trio has been a nightmare for opposing teams and, coupling it with the Spartans talented backcourt, was a big reason St. Joseph went 19-3 overall in the regular season and undefeated in Section 3-A at 8-0.

In the WPIAL playoffs, the Spartans beat Bishop Canevin by 30 in the first round and fought hard in their second-round 65-56 win over Aquinas Academy.

“This year I feel we’re focused in on reaching that next level that we haven’t been able to get to the last couple of seasons,” Bernat said.

The Spartans finally got over the semifinal hump and faced Union in the Class A championship game. Although they lost 50-43 in overtime, they played well and were set to take on St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy at home in the first round of the PIAA playoffs.

As the season draws to a close, Bernat took a few minutes for a Senior Spotlight Q&A:

You, Julie, Emma and Anna have been playing together and starting for a long time. What’s the dynamic between you four?

It definitely helps our connection on the court. We all know how each other wants to play, so that helps with chemistry. We’re also great friends off the court, so it’s just an enjoyable experience to be on the court together.

More specifically, what has the trio of you, Emma and Anna been like for opposing teams to face?

We’re one of the taller teams out there, so I guess most teams would be intimidated by our length, and it’s definitely a factor.

What can you say about the game against Aquinas and the way you guys battled?

It was our ability to stay together as a team. We tried to help each other out the entire game. We didn’t fall apart and really embraced the team aspect of the game.

What was it like finally making it to the Class A title game?

It was relieving. We’re just so motivated. We put all our energy into that game against Aquinas, and we finally got the result we had been working so hard towards.

What will you miss from playing with this senior class?

I’ll miss our whole dynamic. We spend a lot off time on and off the court, so I’ll just miss having a constant group of people I can spend time with.

College plans?

I haven’t picked a school yet, but I think I’m going to study architecture.

Favorite high school memory so far?

Coming off our win against Aquinas would be my favorite moment right now.

One piece of advice you would want to leave your teammates before graduating?

Keep relying on each other. That’s something that has helped us this entire year. If they keep doing that next year, they’ll also have success.


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