Derry girls basketball team makes sure history doesn’t repeat

Wednesday, February 12, 2020 | 6:28 PM

History was not going to repeat itself. The Derry girls basketball team saw to that.

The Trojans missed the WPIAL playoffs a year ago by one game. This year, there was little doubt the team would return to the postseason for the first time in four years.

“Early in our season, the players decided they were not going to go through another frustrating season,” first-year coach Gene Brisbane said. “Then, they set out to accomplish that goal. They initially had to find their new identity because their leading scorer and rebounder graduated.

“Their confidence grew with each game, and they accepted their roles with a quiet determination to make good things happen.”

With four starters back, Derry finished second in Section 3-3A with an 11-3 record, the second-best section mark in school history and one game behind Carlynton (12-2) in the final standings. Deer Lakes and East Allegheny tied for third at 9-5. The Trojans clinched their playoff berth by winning their final four section games against Shady Side Academy, Steel Valley, Deer Lakes and Valley.

Derry landed the No. 6 seed for the playoffs and plays Feb. 19 against No. 11 Freedom (14-8), the fourth-place team from Section 1, at 6:30 p.m. at Fox Chapel.

“The playoffs truly are a one-game-at-a-time mentality,” Brisbane said. “We are focusing our complete attention on our next opponent.”

Freedom earned its playoff berth despite losing four of its last five games, including a 41-38 section loss to Avonworth last week.

The Bulldogs are one of the youngest teams in the playoffs with two seniors and one junior.

Sophomore Jules Mohrbacher netted a team-high 17 points against Avonworth. Mohrbacher joined four returning starters on this year’s team, including last year’s leading scorer, junior Karissa Mercier. Seniors Morgan Swab and Myah Hrinko and sophomore Renae Mohrbacher also started in 2018-19.

Derry’s playoff push was ignited by two big wins in the season’s first month, as the Trojans registered eight victories in a nine-game stretch in December and January.

“Beating East Allegheny and Homer Center on back-to-back nights was a real boost to the girls’ confidence,” Brisbane said. “Then, a hard-fought win over a very good Bishop Canevin team really got them believing in themselves.

“Defeating Deer Lakes both home and away were important for us in the section standings and our overall record.”

Derry’s 14-8 record is the third-best regular-season mark in school history.

The Trojans’ starting lineup consists of senior guard/forwards Hannah Wedow and Olexei Nuttall, senior guard Danielle Mullen, sophomore guard Tiana Moracco and senior forward Kamryn Kelly, a four-sport athlete.

Moracco led the team in scoring (14.5 points) as well as assists and steals. Wedow, who averaged 9.3 points, and Moracco finished one-two in 3-point field goals.

Wedow, Mullen, Moracco and Kelly started in 2018-19.

Kelly averaged 11.8 points and a team-high 8.9 rebounds. She also led the team in blocked shots.

Sarah Aukerman, a senior forward, and Emma Huber, a sophomore guard, are top reserves for the Trojans.

There are five seniors, four sophomores, three freshmen and no juniors in the Derry program this season. All five seniors see court time.

Brisbane, a retired teacher, is the fourth coach in as many years at Derry.

He previously coached the girls team at Hempfield, where he attained 327 wins over 20 years, and later was the women’s basketball coach at Westmoreland County Community College, logging 50 wins in three seasons.

This is his 24th year coaching girls basketball.

“We’ve had a lot of fun this season,” Brisbane said. “I’m glad the Derry Area School District gave me the opportunity to coach these girls. They’ve been great. Also, I’m very thankful that former Derry player, Lauren Felix, was able to be my assistant. She’s done a wonderful job.


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