Akron the right fit for North Allegheny’s Martindale

Thursday, July 12, 2018 | 10:51 PM

Rachel Martindale showed resolve through her nightmare. The North Allegheny senior basketball standout had her season cut short by a knee injury suffered during the Tigers’ 79-48 win in the WPIAL Class 6A championship game March 3.

Martindale, who scored her 1,000th career point in the victory, didn’t want the setback to impact her future. What Martindale found out soon after was the schools pursuing her weren’t too worried by it.

It was a minor bump in the road for Martindale, who committed to play basketball at Akron this month.

“It was a worry to me,” Martindale said. “The coaches that were there still wanted me knowing I couldn’t improve for nine months. It was motivation. Now I have a reason to come back and continue to get better.”

The Zips, who hired long-time associate coach Melissa Jackson for the top job this month, beat out a field that included St. Francis (Pa.), Youngstown State and Morehead State. Akron finished 9-21 last season.

Making a college commitment wasn’t something Martindale was unaccustomed to. She had originally decided as a freshman she would play softball at Pitt, but changed her mind.

“Basketball is a faster sport and all-around it is more enjoyable,” Martindale said. “I love them both, but basketball is still my true passion.”

It’s a passion that has manifested itself during a golden age for North Allegheny. The Tigers have won the past two WPIAL Class 6A crowns and reached the PIAA finals in 2017. In each of the past three seasons, North Allegheny has reached at least the semifinals of the state playoffs.

Tigers coach Spencer Stefko described Martindale as his quarterback on offense and defense. A lot of aspects of her game, he believes, will make her a good fit on the next level.

“I think she’s pretty close to that level,” Stefko said. “That’s why they brought her in. She doesn’t have that glaring weakness. I don’t think she’s going to have to change her shot or anything. I think she can go and help them right away. The games will be faster and longer, but she’s performed at that level in AAU before.”

Martindale hopes to return to the court in November. During her junior season, Martindale averaged 15 points per game. One advantage to the process of working back is to work on the little things.

“I’m getting faster,” Martindale said. “Rehab is helping with that. Agility and making my shot as consistent as can be are my goals.”

Martindale is glad to have her college choice out of the way.

It wasn’t any easier the second time around.

“It was definitely a little more nerve-wracking,” Martindale said. “I’m more excited about Akron. I wanted to make sure it was the right fit the second time around.”

Josh Rizzo is a contributing writer.

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