Cheswick Christian Academy girls feature experience, potential

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Wednesday, November 21, 2018 | 7:54 PM


Getting banged up and bruised along the way are the necessary scars a team must accumulate during a championship run.

The Cheswick Christian Academy girls basketball team limped into the 2017 Southwestern Christian Athletic Conference postseason with a young team, even younger bench, and down three starters to injury.

It’s an easy guess as to how that all worked out, but third-year coach Clinton Blazevich wouldn’t have it any other way. His Chargers got a taste of what they need, which was depth and quality experience on the bench.

“I don’t coach girls, I coach basketball players,” said Blazevich, who led the Chargers to the SWCAC quarterfinals in his first two seasons. “The girls that were new last year, that had huge potential, now have experience with huge potential.”

The Chargers (15-8) finished second behind rival Trinity Christian School in the SWCAC Greater Pittsburgh Conference before being shown the door in a 30-17 loss to Plants and Pillars in the quarterfinals.

“I think the girls were disappointed because it was not where we wanted to be, but we were still proud of what we accomplished,” Blazevich said.

The Chargers return all five starters. Even with all of the returning talent and the much-improved bench, Blazevich still doesn’t have a go-to scorer.

The closest threat of a clutch shooter is 5-foot-5 senior small forward Bethany Kosor. Kosor, last season’s top scorer, enters the season with 556 career points and is 90 points away from moving into second in school history behind Alicia Maust (1,065 points) on the Chargers’ all-time career points list.

“She’s our best all-around player and can shoot from about anywhere on the court,” Blazevich said.

Down low in the paint, Blazevich touted the growth and development of 5-8 junior center Allyson Drake’s game. Drake picked up the sport last season and was quickly ushered into the starting lineup. She finished second on the team in points and was voted as the fifth-best player in the Greater Pittsburgh Conference.

“She was something else last year,” Blazevich said. “She has a basketball mind this year, and she’s physically demanding underneath the hoop.”

Sophomore point guard Desiree Hamilton brings a natural basketball presence to the floor. Last season, the Chargers offense somewhat ran through Hamilton, who finished as the assists leader.

“I would say that she is very unaware of how good she truly is,” Blazevich said. “She has a a lot of humility, which is great, but I want some confidence to complement that humility.”

A defensive coordinator for the the Chargers flag-football team, Blazevich isn’t shy about the fact that he is not an offensive-minded coach. Cheswick Christian’s pressure defense kept the Chargers in games when the offense wasn’t clicking.

“We have speed and athleticism and when you’re fighting against Goliath, you have to be David to win,” Blazevich said.

It should come as no surprise that 5-7 power forward Alexis Blazevich is the Chargers best defender. An extension of her father on the floor, Alexis led the Chargers last season with 52 blocked shots. Junior shooting guard Kelsey Kiger has the best outside shot on the team and is another standout on defense. Blazevich said he’d like to see Kiger drive the lane more often.

“She’s a scrapper,” Blazevich said. “She’s probably the toughest girl on the team. She gets beat up more than anybody I know and she goes back for more.”

Top players coming off the bench include sophomores Nina Rasulova (forward) and Anna Ivanov (guard). Both played large roles down the stretch last year and are expected to contribute even more this season.

“They know themselves better this year than they did last year,” Blazevich said of his team. “I think this team is on its way in finding its identity.”

William Whalen is a freelance writer.

William Whalen is a freelance writer.

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