Brentwood basketball seasons started strong, ran out of steam

Sunday, March 21, 2021 | 10:01 AM

Brentwood’s basketball season started with a bang but fizzled out at the end.

After a 12-0 start in a season delayed a month by covid-related concerns, the girls team dropped its final two games, including a 47-44 decision at home to Beaver Falls in the first round of the WPIAL Class 3A playoffs.

“I am obviously disappointed in the playoff loss,” coach Rachel Thomas said. “We just couldn’t find a rhythm. I think our loss at Fox Chapel was a really good loss. It was a fast-paced, physical game. Even though we lost by one, it was our best performance of the year.

“Then, I believe our playoff game was one of our worst. It’s unfortunate that no one could shoot well that night. In my opinion, we really should have beat that team.”

Brentwood’s boys team started out 7-1 and eventually lost five of its last six contests, including a 53-44 decision at home to Seton LaSalle, also in the WPIAL Class 3A first round.

“We went through a rough stretch at the end of the season,” coach Dan Thayer said. “Early in the season, because of so many schedule changes, we played almost every game at home. When we hit the middle of our schedule, we started to play all of those games on the road. With an inexperienced team, it is very difficult to learn to win on the road, and I think this was a big factor in our slow finish.

“On the road, you have to play cleaner games — reduce turnovers, play better defense and focus on getting good shots each possession. We lost a couple of close games, and I think it took a toll on our confidence. We started worrying about what we could do to not lose instead of focusing on what we need to do each play.”

What started out as banner seasons for both Brentwood squads quickly spiraled downward at season’s end.

The girls team had only two seniors on its roster — Paige Miller, a 6-foot forward and the team’s tallest player, and Taylor Davis, a 5-4 guard — plus a host of underclassmen who gained valuable varsity experience this year.

Mallory Daly, a freshman guard, led the squad in several categories as she made an immediate impact.

Her older sister, junior guard/forward Maura Daly, will step into a senior leadership role in 2021-22, as will Bella Grimm (G/F) and Cecilia Foley (G).

Two other leading freshman prospects are forward Mia March and guard Bobbie Wardzinski. Sophomores looking to contribute include guards Jenna Yee, Avyonna Washington and Brianna Folino.

“Although losing seniors is always difficult, I truly believe we have a great core of athletes (returning),” Thomas said. “A lot of players gained valuable experience. We should be able to make a long run next year.

“We faced a lot of adversity this year. It’s a valuable lesson for our players. I already know they are fueled to work hard in the offseason and come back stronger.”

After slipping past Avonworth’s slowdown tactics Feb. 22 to win an 18-14 section decision, the Spartans lost 55-54 to Class 5A Fox Chapel the next night in their regular-season finale.

Fox Chapel was a quarterfinalist in the 5A playoffs.

The Brentwood girls won the Section 3-3A title with an 11-0 record.

The boys team also had two seniors on its 2020-21 roster — Mr. Outside, guard Chase Rosing, and Mr. Inside, forward Riley Brendel. Juniors Nathan Ziegler (G), Mitchell Fox (G/F) and Dalton Daly (G), along with Brady Fest (G/F), look to provide senior leadership and court savvy in 2021-22. There also were four up-and-coming sophomores on the team in forward Tavian Miller and guards Talan Kammermeier, Carter Betz and Aguek Deng.

“We are looking forward to 2021-2022. We hopefully will get a chance to have a pretty normal offseason,” Thayer said. “We have seen a lot of growth from our returning players even though we were really not able to do everything we would normally do.

“But we saw some very good things from Nate Ziegler, Dalton Daly, Tavian Miller and Mitch Fox. We have some really good players to work with, and hopefully we can use this season as a building block. We feel we can have a good team in place as we start next season.”

Top freshman prospects in the program include Zachary Wuenschell (G/F), Aiden Gordon (G/F) and Jacob Nagel (G).

The Brentwood boys ended up 9-7 overall and third in Section 3-3A.

“I thought the season was a successful one,” Thayer said. “With all the uncertainty that surrounded it, I was proud of the way we played. When last season ended, we graduated six of our top eight players. We lost a lot of players that played varsity basketball for three or four years. So as we came into this season, there were a lot of question marks.

“Even with a big chunk of practice canceled as we were beginning the season, we saw a lot of growth. I was pleased with the contributions we got from a number of players. We came into the season with a very inexperienced team and it was great to see so many develop as the season progressed. We were able to play for a section title in our last game. We won a lot of big games, and in the games we lost, we competed until the very end. It was a unique but rewarding season.”


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