Girls basketball preview: Hempfield expects fluid lineup

Saturday, November 28, 2020 | 6:29 PM

Over the last two seasons, Tom Brush had a firm rotation for the Hempfield girls basketball team.

Unless there was foul trouble or an injury, the lineup didn’t change much.

But this season, the Spartans could look different from game to game.

“We’ve had a pretty set rotation here,” Brush said. “We might have a different sixth player come in each game now, depending on how things go. It’s going to be more of a team effort, and we’ll need a lot of girls to step up.”

Four starters are back, including senior Emma Hoffner, who likely will see an increased scoring role. The Ohio softball commit joins other experienced players in senior Kelsi Terzolino, junior Capri Decaro and sophomore Brooke McCoy.

Balanced scoring likely will happen organically for an athletic group that lacks year-round basketball players.

“Emma didn’t have to do as much offensively, but she can score,” Brush said. “She has started since she was a sophomore. She’s done a solid job and had stepped up as a leader.”

Sarah Liberatore was a 1,000-point scorer in her Spartans’ career, and much of what Hempfield did last year worked through her.

“We need everyone to contribute in some way,” Brush said. “We’re not going to rely on one player.”

Don’t expect the Spartans to lead their section in blocked shots or wingspan.

McCoy is one of the tallest regular players at 5-foot-8.

“Last year was a big adjustment for Brooke,” Brush said. “She did a nice job, and we expect an even better year from her.”

Several juniors will look to add depth, including guard Alexis Hainesworth, and senior Makayla Lander will help in the post.

Freshman Sarah Podkul is another guard to watch.

Hempfield did not get together as a team until the fall, so practices have been about finding chemistry and staying safe amid the covid-10 threat.

“The girls have been very enthusiastic and have pushed each other,” Brush said. “We’re trying to get everyone up to speed.

“We’re just hoping we can have a season.”

Brush expects Baldwin, Upper St. Clair, Mt. Lebanon and Bethel Park to battle for the top spot in Section 2.

A pressing defense, which he hopes makes up for a lack of size, could be what keeps the Spartans competitive against those 6A heavyweights.

“For us, it’s about keeping those teams uncomfortable,” the coach said. “Keep those teams out of rhythm and off-balance.”

Hempfield was scheduled to open the season against Franklin Regional at the Connellsville tournament, but the event was cancelled. Brush is hoping for a make-up game. His daughters, Maria and Angelina, play for the Panthers.

Hempfield at a glance

Coach: Tom Brush

Last year’s record: 8-14 (5-9 Section 2-6A)

Returning starters: Capri Decaro (Jr., G), Emma Hoffner (Sr., G/F), Brooke McCoy (So. G/F) Kelsi Terzolino (Sr., G)

Top newcomers: Alexis Hainesworth (Jr., G), Makayla Lander (Sr., F)

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at or via Twitter .


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