Carlynton girls show glimpses of bright future during .500 season
Sunday, March 28, 2021 | 10:01 AM
The Carlynton girls basketball team had turned itself around, going from a struggling program a decade ago to one that was a legit championship contender over the last six years.
Since 2015, the Cougars won at least 19 games four times, participated in the state playoffs four times and reached the WPIAL semifinals four times.
However, a very young Carlynton team straddled the middle of the road in 2021. The Cougars finished 5-5 in Section 3-2A, 10-10 overall.
“In a .500 season, we have to continue to find the positive things that we did and focus on limiting the bad,” Carlynton third-year coach Darian Robins said. “Going into the last part of the season when we had our stretch of three out of four, we saw improvements on both the offensive and defensive ends. Like most, the pandemic has played a role in the lack of continuity during the season. Overall, the improvement was there and built through the season.”
Part of the step back for the program was its overall youth. Amanda Masdea was the lone senior on the Cougars roster. The team was led by three sophomores in Jada Adams, Skyla Brown and Chloe Williams.
“We are young, and I love that,” Robins said. “We have the youthful spirit to get out and just get after it, but with that comes inconsistency, which hurt us at times. That sophomore class will be a force over the next few years for sure, and we are looking forward to the progression.”
After finishing tied for third place behind Burgettstown and Fort Cherry, Carlynton entered the Class 2A open tournament as the No. 10 seed in a 21-team playoff field.
Carlynton was awarded a 2-0 victory over No. 7 Shenango when the Wildcats ran into covid-19 related issues and could not play their first-round game. This lifted the Cougars into the quarterfinals for the seventh time in eight years.
“For me, I think it would have been better to play that game, get the jitters out, and provided we won, be able to play a bit looser,” Robins said. “The girls were hungry for Shenango. We watched film and prepared to be competitive.
Instead, the Cougars faced the No. 2 seed, undefeated Serra Catholic, in their playoff “opener.”
“Serra is a well-coached and highly disciplined team, which showed during our game,” Robins said. “The silver lining in that was it made our girls hungry to compete at a higher level.”
The Eagles jumped out to a 17-4 lead after the first quarter and extended their advantage to 35-14 by halftime. Williams had 14 points to lead the Cougars while junior Kendall Kline added 11 points.
It truly was a back-and-forth season for Carlynton. The Cougars never won more than two games in a row, but they also never lost two straight.
Robins focused on the positive of what he hopes was a stepping-stone season for the program.
“Really, it was about getting through the season in good health for the team,” he said. “We knew we would have a bit of a learning curve after graduating such a decorated class last year. That being said, we got better every day we came into the gym. We competed on every possession, and for that I am proud of the girls.
“The thought of having an intact team coming into next year is exciting. The offseason will be filled with leagues and training. We know we are not at the level we expect to be at and have committed to getting closer during our offseason.”
Besides having an experienced team back in the fold, there is one other thing that excites Robins when looking ahead to the 2021-2022 campaign.
“Hopefully things will be back to ‘normal’ with crowds, noise and the excitement of hoops again,” he said. “The fact we are young and have our core coming back should be pivotal for success for the coming year. I am really excited to see what these girls can do once they get more consistent and trust the skills they have.”
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