Aquinas Academy girls basketball excels in first season in WPIAL

Sunday, January 21, 2018 | 7:42 PM

Over the past five years, the Aquinas Academy girls basketball team has carved out its place as the premier program in the Southwestern Christian Athletic Conference.

During that span, the Crusaders had three conference titles and an overall record of 92-23.

About a year ago at this time, after a meeting with the athletic board, coach Alan Carson asked his team about the idea of playing in the WPIAL for the 2017-18 season. The answer he received was unanimous.

“They wanted the challenge of playing in the WPIAL,” Carson said.

“The SWCAC was great, but they didn't like the fact that some of the games were competitive and a few of them were not. They told me that they wanted the challenge, and they've been tremendous in stepping up to that challenge.”

The Crusaders have done well to deliver. The team has jumped to a 10-3 overall record and 4-1 mark in Section 3-A, good for second in the league.

If there were any questions about Aquinas Academy's ability to hang with WPIAL athletes, they've been answered. That's evidenced by the Crusaders' defensive play, as they've held opponents to 31.1 points per game, the second-lowest output in Class A.

“We try to get the girls to take a lot of pride in playing defense,” Carson said. “They're really good athletes. We have a couple of kids that are really quick and have great feet. As a team, we have to rotate and help so we take a lot of pride in being able to do that and playing strong defense.”

The leadership of senior captains Ruth Zaharko, Emily Rose Vangura and Ceci Ligouri has keyed the group's defensive mindset, Carson said.

However, the Crusaders have delivered offensively, as well. Newcomer Mary Casamassa averages 16.3 points, and she is complemented by Anni Truschel, Chloe Scioscia, Elizabeth Blume and Sarah Richthammer.

One of the reasons Aquinas Academy has developed into such a balanced team is Carson and his pass-oriented offense.

“We have seen different defensive looks from opponents, but I've told the girls that I have not coached a good team that did not score most of its baskets from assists,” he said.

“On most nights, Mary is going to be our leading scorer. But then there are nights where she's not the leading scorer, and the leading scorer is Chloe or Ceci or Anni. There's like four or five girls that have led us in scoring at one point or another in the last year. I think we're well-rounded.”

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.


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