Girls basketball preview: Valley seeks 1st winning season in 17 years

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Monday, December 7, 2020 | 6:05 PM


Jada Norman is ready to take that next step, both in her personal game and for the team overall.

The Valley sophomore forward feels this year’s team can raise its level of success higher than in recent seasons. The Vikings won just one game a year ago.

“We’re working hard to build off of some positive things from last year,” said Norman, who averaged nearly 18 rebounds a game as a freshman.

“We were able to see what a number of the other teams did, and we want to take those kind of things and put them into our game. I think we can do a lot more things (on the court). We’re excited and ready to win more games.”

Valley has not had a winning season in 17 years, but Norman and others hope to change that sooner rather than later.

She is one of four returning starters, joining fellow sophomore Tori Johnson, a point guard, along with junior guard Diamond Guy and senior forward Lyric Alexander.

Alexander is the only senior on the eight-player roster.

“We have several good verbal leaders who also lead in practice by example,” Valley coach Ernie Sipolino said.

Norman got a strong start in her quest for Valley’s career rebounding record (880) held by her mother, Tonya Pryor-Norman, who went on to star at Duquesne.

“Jada handled herself really well last year going up against a lot of experienced girls,” Sipolino said. “We’ve had talks about her being able to reward herself with more points when she is pulling down an offensive rebound.”

Johnson paced the offense last year at 14 points per game.

“We saw some good things from Tori at point guard,” Sipolino said. “She just needs to toughen up a little bit more and understand she has the talent to continue to do great things at this level. She’s a great 3-point shooter when she’s on, and we’ve been working a lot with her footwork and how to step into shots. I know she will make some great plays for us.”

Sipolino said all eight on the roster will see game action this season.

“We’re only going to get better if I can play everybody,” he said. “We’re also going to try and play a JV schedule.”

Others hoping to make an impact for the Vikings are junior forwards Desire Ingram and NiAsia Berger and freshmen guards Shelby Seybert and Ryleigh Kasten.

“This is the first year in the five or six years I’ve been here we’ve been able to learn a complicated offense with high-level continuity, where to move, when to move, where to cut, things like that,” Sipolino said.

“Before, it was one pass and then shoot if we didn’t throw the ball away. Our ball skills are getting much better, and they are understanding what needs to be done to create good scoring opportunities for all five people.”

Sipolino said the girls have remained positive and have worked hard through all of the covid uncertainties and are ready to begin competition. Valley is scheduled to open its season Friday afternoon at home against Springdale.

Section play is slated to begin Dec. 17 at home against Derry.

“There are some schools who haven’t been fortunate enough to be in the gym yet,” Sipolino said. “The girls are grateful for the opportunity to be together and practice. They want to be here for each other.”

Valley will have less travel for section games this year. Gone are longer trips to schools such as Carlynton, South Allegheny and Steel Valley.

Valley again will face Derry and Deer Lakes in section play. It also will take on local rivals Burrell, Knoch, Freeport and Highlands.

“It will be good to see where we stand against some of these more established programs,” Sipolino said. “We’re coming along one step at a time. We keep building each day. I am excited.”

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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