Behind Zelmore, Mt. Pleasant sets sights on WPIAL playoff run

Thursday, December 2, 2021 | 3:04 PM

The Mt. Pleasant girls basketball team won seven of its final nine games last season. Among the victories was a first-round defeat of Freeport in the WPIAL Class 4A playoffs.

The win catapulted the Vikings into the quarterfinals for the first time in seven years, but the postseason stay was short-lived. Neighboring rival Southmoreland ended Mt. Pleasant’s season, defeating the Vikings for a third time in less than two months.

It wasn’t the end Mt. Pleasant wanted, but the effort and three returning starters are causes for, as longtime coach Scott Giacobbi puts it, “cautious optimism.”

“I think we can put a high-quality team on the floor,” Giacobbi said. “The concern I have is depth. That is something we’re going to need to be effective.”

As Mt. Pleasant searches for key reserves, there’s no denying the quality of its returning starters.

Junior forward Tiffany Zelmore leads the way. She averaged 19.6 points and 8.1 rebounds last season, and she topped 30 points three times.

“She’s just a hard-working player. She goes baseline to baseline,” Giacobbi said. “She’ll get in transition quickly, and she has a diversity of scoring. She scores a lot inside, but she’ll step out and score from the perimeter. She makes a lot of stuff happen.”

Zelmore also makes more than 80% of her free throws, and there is a secret to her success from the free-throw line.

“In practice every day, we shoot them after water breaks. We have this game — makes, misses and swishes. If you miss, you have to run the full court and back,” Zelmore said, laughing. “Though running is good, too.”

Running Mt. Pleasant’s offense is senior point guard Hannah Gesinski. Senior guard/forward Ali Bailey is the other returning starter, and both bring different dynamics.

“Hannah was with us as a freshman and Ali since her sophomore year. They provide leadership and consistency, which is job No. 1,” Giacobbi said. “Ali has a real toughness to her. She’s a great player who will step up and take a charge. She took three in a summer league game. Hannah is flashy and crafty with the basketball, and she makes good decisions. She’s a really good defensive player.”

The trio will be key for Mt. Pleasant, which finished 11-8 last season with a 4-6 record in Section 3-4A, which was good for fifth place.

Climbing the standings, challenging Southmoreland and advancing to the WPIAL semifinals for the first time likely will depend on contributions from others.

Sophomore guard Riley Gesinski, Hannah’s sister, is expected to provide key minutes, and a quartet of seniors — forwards Kennedi Rogers and Melissa Davis and guards Kaylee Hutchinson and Shiann Stokes — will figure into the rotation.

“Riley really works well with us,” said Zelmore, who throws discus and shot put for the track and field team. “Our section is pretty tough, but if we practice hard, I think we can be really good. If we work hard and work together, we’ll be successful.”

Mt. Pleasant girls at a glance

Coach: Scott Giacobbi

Last year: 11-8 (4-6 Section 3-4A)

Returning starters: Ali Bailey (Sr., G/F), Hannah Gesinski (Sr., PG), Tiffany Zelmore (Jr., F)

Top newcomers: Riley Gesinski (So., G), Kennedi Rogers (Sr., F), Kaylee Hutchinson (Sr., G), Melissa Davis (Sr., F), Shiann Stokes (Sr., G)


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