Girls basketball preview: Kiski Area forced to adapt after injury sidelines top sophomore

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Monday, November 30, 2020 | 7:30 PM


Lexi Colaianni made the most of her freshman season with the Kiski Area varsity girls basketball team.

Colaianni averaged 8.5 points through 22 games last year, tops among all underclassmen on the team. Cavaliers coach Nick Dizon said she worked hard in the offseason with hopes of raising her game as one of the returning team leaders.

But injury news received Monday put those plans in certain jeopardy. Colaianni, Dizon said, has a hip stress fracture. The injury recovery time, roughly 12 weeks, means she most likely will miss the entire 2020-21 season.

“She had hip issues for a while, but before, at worst, she would get treatment and be out a few days,” Dizon said. “We thought that it was that again, but she said it was worse this time than it had been.

“It’s heartbreaking. She is such a hard worker. It’s a tough thing for her to deal with, and it’s extremely tough for everyone else. The other girls were very concerned for her. Lexi is always a positive person, and she was really positive in this situation, hoping it wasn’t anything too serious.”

Dizon said he addressed the news with his team at Monday’s practice and began the process of moving forward without Colaianni on the court.

He said Colaianni’s absence will change some things for the team, which is hoping to improve on last year’s 6-16 overall record and 0-12 mark in Section 2-5A.

“We’re going to have to have a number of kids step up because Lexi was our most consistent scorer coming back,” Dizon said.

Last year, the Cavaliers had to deal with another significant injury as the now-graduated Hannah Potter, the team’s leading scorer, missed most of the season because of a wrist injury.

While Dizon expects Colaianni to continue to be a leadership presence, he also will be counting on varsity experience from returning starters in senior guard Sam Worthing, senior center Morgan Reed, junior center Dejah Burnett and junior guard/forward Karly Keller.

Burnett, at 6-foot-1, will be counted on to score and pull down rebounds at both ends. She averaged 7.1 points and 8.6 boards last year.

Reed hopes to do the same in her final varsity season after averaging 6.7 points and 6.8 rebounds as a junior.

Worthing (5.4 ppg.) returns with experience. She led the team with nearly four assists a game last year.

“Throughout last year, a lot of the kids grew in their games,” Dizon said. “There were a number of younger kids who got a chance to play, and they did a lot for us. As a team, in the latter part of the season when we knew we weren’t going to be a playoff team, we started to look to play towards this year and the future.”

Dizon said returning team members took advantage of a number of offseason opportunities, including workouts and tournament games, to get better.

“The kids’ motivation to get better has always been great, and it’s picked up a notch this season,” Dizon said.

They were joined by a group of incoming freshmen who hope to make an impact.

“They really do a great job of helping set the tone in practice,” Dizon said. “They bring a lot of energy.”

Dizon said with the ongoing covid uncertainties, he has implored his players to live in the here and now in terms of season preparation.

“As of today, we have practice, and that’s all we care about,” he said “Tomorrow, we have practice, and that’s all we will care about. What we can control is right in front of us, and we want to take advantage of that with good work in the gym. We want to get better today and keep moving forward.”

Kiski returns to Section 2-5A with last year’s section playoff qualifiers Plum, Mars and Armstrong. Hampton also is back.

Gateway and Franklin Regional left the section and were replaced by Fox Chapel, a playoff qualifier last year in Class 6A, and Indiana, which moved up from Class 4A after making the postseason a season ago and barely missing the playoffs in 2019.

“The section is always a dogfight,” Dizon said. “It’s always so hard to predict. I know the girls have put in a lot of work and will compete every night and give their best effort.”

The Cavaliers are working toward the season-opening Burrell tournament Dec. 11-12. They are scheduled to play the Bucs on the first night at Burrell and then host a game on night two.

The early season schedule has Kiski facing nonsection Connellsville (Dec. 15) and Knoch (Dec. 18) before opening section play at Hampton on Dec. 21. The schedule is subject to change.

“For us to play as many nonsection games as possible is important because we want to experiment a little bit with the lineup and the rotation and put everything together the best way we can,” Dizon said.

Kiski Area girls at a glance

Coach: Nick Dizon

Last year’s record: 6-16 (0-12 Section 2-5A)

Returning starters: Dejah Burnett (Jr., C), Karly Keller (Jr., G/F), Sam Worthing (Sr., G), Morgan Reed (Sr., C)

Top newcomers: Abbie Johns (Fr., G/F), Cora Coleman (Fr., G/F)

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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