After top scorer, lack of depth presents challenge for Derry girls basketball

Tuesday, November 23, 2021 | 4:53 PM

When Gene Brisbane took over the girls basketball program three years ago, he inherited a struggling program.

Derry qualified for the WPIAL playoffs in 2020, but the team took a step back in 2021. Like every team, covid-19, injuries and other circumstances slowed the progress.

As Brisbane begins his third season, he finds himself with a squad the returns one starter — senior Tiana Moracco — and a thin roster.

Only nine players have decided to play this season. A potential returning starter at point guard decided to concentrate on her studies and compete in indoor track.

But Brisbane remains optimistic about the season.

He’ll build his team around the talented, 5-foot-9 Moracco, a guard who averaged 19.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 3.5 steals per game. Moracco is 259 points shy of 1,000 points in her career.

“It’s going to be tough,” Brisbane said. “These girls are quality people. They want to be here, and they’re giving good effort. Their effort and attitude has been excellent.”

Derry finished 3-11 overall and 1-9 in Section 1-4A during a covid-shortened season that saw five games postponed. The Trojans did win two of their final four games.

Brisbane will be working with a group that lacks varsity experience. Two players — junior guard Lauren Hood and senior forward Faith Shean — are returning from injuries.

The others who have seen some playing time include 5-7 junior forward Mara Lewis, 5-9 sophomore guard Rachelle Marinchek, 6-foot senior forward Sara Bungard and 5-5 sophomore forward Allie Chamberlain.

A couple of new faces that excite Brisbane are 5-4 sophomore guard Samantha Gruska and 5-5 freshman guard Jane Huss.

“The goal this season is improving individually every day we step on the court,” Brisbane said. “That will help us as a team to improve. Everyone is going to get quality repetitions at practice.”

Building confidence and being consistent every day is something Brisbane is looking for.

“We have to be able to play solid defense,” Brisbane said. “We’re going to mix it up against teams and be able to change or disguise defenses to confuse our opponents.”

Along with playing defense, Brisbane said the team has to be able to score points.

While Moracco will be the focal point on offense, Brisbane has to develop other players capable of picking up the scoring slack.

Brisbane said that Knoch is the team to beat in the section, but he also feels Freeport, Highlands and Deer Lakes will be contenders and that Burrell and Valley will be much improved.

And while the Trojans will lack numbers this season, which probably means no junior varsity games, the future looks bright.

Brisbane said the middle school team had good numbers and some talented players, and he hopes to get back into the elementary program.

“I want to build the program back up,” Brisbane said.

Derry girls at a glance

Coach: Gene Brisbane

Last year’s record: 3-11 (1-9 Section 1-4A)

Returning starters: Tiana Moracco (sr., G)

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at


More Basketball

Cheswick Christian Academy boys vie for 1st SWCAC title since 2015
A-K Valley high school basketball playoff preview capsules for Feb. 24, 2024
WPIAL sets playoff sites, times for Monday’s basketball semifinals
What to watch for in WPIAL sports on Feb. 23, 2024: Class 6A boys finally get postseason started
Franklin Regional keeps rolling, beats Gateway in quarters