Derry girls basketball stays above .500, seeks playoffs

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Wednesday, January 1, 2020 | 5:12 PM


It was a nail-biter in the truest sense of the term.

Derry’s Kamryn Kelly sank a free throw with 0.1 seconds remaining to clinch a tense 47-46 win against Bishop Canevin on Saturday in the second round of the Mt. Pleasant holiday tournament.

“It was very nerve-racking at first,” said Kelly, a four-sport standout at Derry. “I was dribbling down the court, and a (Bishop Canevin) girl fouled me.

“One of our goals is to make our shooting percentage a little better. We push ourselves at practice and give 100 percent all the time. I think we’re better than what we’ve shown so far.”

A 5-foot-8 senior forward, Kelly finished with a team-high 13 points and 11 rebounds and was complemented by 5-9 sophomore guard Tiana Moracco and 5-6 senior guard Danielle Mullen, who chipped in 12 and 10 points.

The Trojans lost to Belle Vernon, 57-45, in the first round of the tournament and open the new year with a 5-4 record.

Hannah Wedow with 15 points and Kelly with 13 led Derry in the scoring column against BV.

With four returning starters from last season, Derry is aiming to make some serious noise in Section 3-3A this season, hopefully followed by a strong showing in the WPIAL playoffs.

“Our goals are to have a winning season, qualify for the WPIAL playoffs and challenge for a section title,” coach Gene Brisbane said. “My expectations (prior to the start of the season) were that we are going to work hard to put a very competitive team on the court and build a solid team chemistry that would yield positive results.

“So far, our team has come to practice each day with a positive attitude willing to put forth the necessary effort to steadily improve. We still have a lot of work to do. We are not satisfied. We haven’t won anything yet, but we are headed in the right direction.”

There are five seniors, four sophomores, three freshmen and no juniors in the program.

Kelly, Mullen, Moracco and Wedow, a 5-7 senior guard/forward, are the returning starters.

Kelly is a four-year letterwinner in volleyball and recently signed with Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va., to continue her softball career.

She sports a 4.0 GPA and is vice president of the Interact Club and a member of the National Business Honor Society.

Brisbane has mixed all five seniors — the two others are 5-7 forward Sarah Aukerman and 5-8 guard/forward Olexei Nuttall — into the starting lineup. Moracco and sophomore guard Emma Huber have provided solid support.

Brisbane, a retired teacher, is in his first season as the Trojans’ floor boss. He is the fourth coach in as many years for the girls team.

He formerly coached the girls team at Hempfield, where he attained 327 wins, five section championships and three trips to the WPIAL semifinals over 20 years. He resigned from Hempfield in 2010.

Brisbane later was women’s basketball coach at Westmoreland County Community College, logging 50 wins and three conference titles in three seasons.

This is his 24th year coaching girls basketball.

“My philosophy is that playing a team sport affords student-athletes the opportunity to work together for a common goal,” Brisbane said. “Also, I believe it is important to be fair, honest and to be able to have an atmosphere of trust and respect between the athletes and coaches.

“I believe it is an honor to be a coach and that you are preparing your student-athletes for the many challenges they will encounter in their future endeavors.”

Derry, which missed the playoffs by one game last season, is a member of Section 3-3A again, along with Carlynton, Deer Lakes, East Allegheny, Shady Side Academy, South Allegheny, Steel Valley and Valley.

Carlynton won its first three section games to stand in first place, followed by a trio of 2-1 squads — Deer Lakes, Shady Side Academy and Derry.

“Our goal always is to try to win the section and make the playoffs,” Kelly said. “I think we can beat anyone in our section if we execute.”

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