After dramatic turnaround last season, Leechburg girls plan to keep climbing

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Wednesday, November 22, 2023 | 11:01 AM


If the WPIAL gave out a most improved award, the Leechburg girls basketball team might have won it last year.

The Blue Devils went from a winless 2021-22 season to seven victories and a playoff spot.

Now the goal is to keep trending upward.

“It was an exciting year,” Leechburg coach Andre Carter said. “We were right in the middle of our conference. We went from last to third. It was good, and now we’re excited to get going again.”

Leechburg finished third in Section 3-A last year and lost to West Greene in the first round of the playoffs.

Leechburg graduated three seniors, including starters Christine Guo and Maddie Masterlerz, but three players who started return: senior Olivia Vigna, junior Josalyn Collini and sophomore Addie Zanotto.

Zanotto started about half the games as a freshman last year.

Twin sisters Ava and Grace Richards also return. Both sisters, who are seniors, contributed key minutes off the bench last season.

There are a few freshmen coming in and a couple of seniors who are returning to the team after taking last season off.

Overall, Carter said he expects to have around a dozen players, up from 10 last year.

One of the players returning is senior guard Cassidy Wright, who Carter plans to deploy as a defensive specialist.

It’s a role that Wright thrives in.

“She loves defense,” Carter said. “She tells me she’ll rebound and screen the whole time (on offense), because her thing is she wants to be put on the other team’s best guard, and that will be her job. I’m excited to see what she does this year. We typically play zone, but with her, we can play a little bit of man and possibly some junk defenses, box-in-ones and throw some different things at teams.”

The Blue Devils will host Nazareth Prep, Apollo-Ridge and Springdale at their annual tip-off tournament Dec. 1-2.

St. Joseph, Jeannette, Riverview and Hillel Academy are in Section 3-A with Leechburg, in what is one of the smaller sections in the WPIAL. St. Joseph is the defending section champ. Leechburg finished third behind Riverview and is aiming to improve on that this season.

“I believe St. Joseph has everybody coming back, so they’ll be the favorite,” Carter said. “We want to compete with St. Joseph and challenge Riverview for second place. The games with Riverview are always competitive. If we can get an upset against St. Joseph, absolutely that’s what we’d like, but our goal is to be second and do a little bit better than we did the previous year.”

Leechburg girls at a glance

Coach: Andre Carter

Last year’s record: 7-12 (4-4 Section 3-A)

Returning starters: Olivia Vigna (Sr., F), Josalyn Collini (Jr., G), Addie Zanotto (So., G)

Top newcomers: Cassidy Wright (Sr., G)

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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