Expectations high for ‘underestimated’ Bethel Park girls

Saturday, December 3, 2022 | 11:01 AM

Optimism is abundant in the Bethel Park girls basketball program.

“The team is very excited for the season to start,” coach Samantha Loadman said. “We’ve been putting in the work for months and can’t wait to start playing some games.

“We expect to show up for every game prepared and ready to compete. I expect incremental improvement each and every game as our players continue to focus on their skill sets and gain experience. We play in a very competitive section, so it is essential to get off to a good start.”

The Black Hawks’ second-year coach — Loadman was hired after Bethel Park coaching legend Jonna Burke resigned following the 2020-21 season — has a solid group of players to build around this year.

Several girls spent time in the starting lineup last season, including senior guards Mary Boff, Sophia Nath and Olivia Willig, junior forward Becky Gillenberger and sophomore forward Ella Sabatos.

“Mary had a great junior season,” Loadman said. “She is a leader, and we expect her to continue to produce and come up with big plays on both ends of the floor.”

Boff brings smarts to the Black Hawks’ backcourt. She is a member of the National Honor Society with a GPA of 4.24.

“I think we are in a good place because our team is going to be underestimated,” Boff said. “I have high expectations for the players stepping in for the seniors we lost last year. Our coaches have done a great job preparing us for the season. Our practices have been competitive and high-energy. I am excited to see where we go this year.

“A key (to the season) is going to be our speed. Just like last year, we are going to need a team effort in every game. Our team always makes the extra pass, and I feel our team is very close and supportive of each other.”

Boff is joined by her younger sister Kathryn, a freshman guard, in the Bethel Park program this season.

“My personal goals are to be a good leader to my teammates and to be a mentor to the younger girls, especially my younger sister,” Boff said. “I hope to be more vocal off the court as well as on.”

Non-starters a year ago who are expected help out more this year include senior forwards Bella Bomar and Carley Omara, plus junior guards Ella Harmon and Julia Benlock.

Junior guards Ella Harmo and Julia Benlock and sophomore point guard Sadie Orie also look to make contributions this season.

“Our goals are to play together as a team and work hard each and every practice,” Loadman said. “We want to continue to develop a chemistry that enables us to compete for a section title and, as importantly, we want to be a playoff team.”

The Black Hawks coach likes the composition of this year’s squad.

“I think one of our strengths is our versatility,” Loadman said. “We have several different players that can step up on any night and make the big play. And we do have some length on our roster. We have two players at 5-10, two at 5-11 and one at 6-0.”

Bethel Park advanced to the WPIAL semifinals and PIAA second round last season, finishing with a 13-11 record.

The Black Hawks won eight of 10 games down the stretch of the regular season to end up third in Section 2-6A with an 8-4 record, trailing only Mt. Lebanon (11-1) and Upper St. Clair (9-3). Mt. Lebanon went on to win the WPIAL championship and finish as the PIAA runner-up.

Bethel Park remains in Section 2-6A with the only change being Chartiers Valley is in and Hempfield is out.


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