Girls basketball preview: Shaler to lean on tenacious defense, team speed

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Sunday, November 29, 2020 | 11:01 AM


Sophomore center Mackenzie Barr expects the Shaler girls basketball team to dig in and defend on every possession.

The Titans can count on tough defense entering this season but will be searching for ways to score. Shaler graduated two players, Emily Cavacini and Megan Lacy, who were a big part of their offense.

Without the benefit of a guaranteed number of section games due to uncertainty with the coronavirus pandemic, the Titans will have one game — their Jan. 15 season opener against Fox Chapel — before Section 1-6A play starts.

“We have to adapt and play our game,” said Barr, a 6-foot forward. “We’re not going to have many nonsection games, so we have to take practices day by day because we’re not sure which day will be our last.”

The section didn’t get any easier with realignment for Shaler, which missed out on the playoffs by one game last year. Penn-Trafford — a perennial playoff contender — moved in.

Titans coach Cornelious Nesbit believes not having more nonsection games will make things difficult.

“It hurts us, as we plan on playing a lot of young kids,” Nesbit said. “When you are an older team, you don’t have to worry about chemistry and figuring things out. But all the teams in the same boat.”

Offensive punch will come from other young guards. Sophomores Haley Kostorick and Bella Battaglia will be aiming to keep their opponents on the move.

Senior guard Audrey Fisher will also play an important role for Shaler.

Nesbit believes his young group will look to be aggressive.

“This group, I expect us to play fast,” Nesbit said. “We are a lot faster than last year. A lot of kids can play multiple positions. We expect to play up-tempo. Defense is going to be the name of the game for us.”

Shaler, which finished 9-13 overall and 6-8 in the section last year, is building from a strong defensive foundation. The Titans held opponents to 40.8 points per game, which was the fourth-best mark in Class 6A last season.

“We’ve been practicing a lot on defense and focusing on that,” Barr said. “Defense is the part of the game which could win us games. We’ve been working on that.”

Nesbit also expects Barr to be a big contributor on offense. She was able to get a lot of playing time as a freshman.

“Her ability to finish in the paint,” Nesbit said when asked where Barr would contribute. “She’s worked a lot on her 15-foot shot.”

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