Girls basketball preview: With top scorers back, excitement grows at Knoch

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Tuesday, December 1, 2020 | 3:59 PM


It’s a new year for the Knoch girls basketball team, and the Knights have a lot to be excited about.

After going 17-7 a year ago and making a trip to the WPIAL Class 4A quarterfinals, the Knights return four of their top six scorers and have a ton of young talent back from last season.

Madilyn Boyer led the team in scoring last year as a sophomore, averaging 13.8 points and 6.0 rebounds a game, and current senior Neveah Ewing was right behind her with 13.6 points and 4.8 rebounds a game.

“It’s a new year, so I’m not looking at anything in those terms,” Knoch coach Chris Andreassi said about returning so much talent. “It’s a brand new year, and I’m evaluating for what we’re doing for right now. More than anything, it puts us a little bit ahead having that returning talent.”

Along with Boyer and Ewing, the Knights also return guards Nina Shaw and Megan Vasas. Both contributed as freshmen last year and played significant minutes for the Knights. Shaw averaged 7.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game and penetrated defenses with a keen ability to get into the paint and find open teammates.

Vasas averaged 3.5 points and also contributed off the bench for the Knights. With so much young talent returning and the team only losing four seniors, Ewing and the Knights are confident heading into this season.

“We’re feeling good, but we did lose four seniors that were good players, but we have young girls coming up,” Ewing said. “From building on what we’ve done the past two years, we’re pretty confident and we just want to keep pushing forward.”

In 24 games last season, the Knights averaged 52.1 points while only allowing 43.6, which was the second-lowest in their section. At one point, midway through the year, the Knights hit a stride and had an eight-game winning streak heading into their regular season finale against eventual WPIAL champion North Catholic.

During that stretch, Andreassi said the team was coming together.

Andreassi doesn’t believe that there will be any change to his team’s style of play, but after losing starting center Lauren Cihonski, their tallest player, the Knights will have to be a better rebounding team in 2020.

“We have to rebound. Without a doubt, rebounding has to be a key,” Andreassi said. “We don’t have a big center in the middle anymore. So, we just have to be a good rebounding team.”

Although they were young last year, the Knights gained a lot of experience with three of their top six scorers being sophomore or freshmen. Even with that youth, the Knights still challenged several teams and battled their way into the WPIAL quarterfinals.

That type of experience, playing against top teams like North Catholic, Freeport, Fox Chapel, Mars and others only allowed the Knights to improve more. Ewing believes that will be crucial as the team looks to build on what it has built the past two seasons.

“Our young guards got playoff experience last year and big-game experience like when we played Freeport or Indiana,” Ewing said. “So, all that experience just adds up and makes them more confident.”

The Knights will stay in the same section this season, but they will also have new opponents as Deer Lakes, Derry, and Burrell all join Section 1-4A.

Knoch girls at a glance

Coach: Chris Andreassi

Last year’s record: 17-7 (11-3 Section 1-4A)

Returning starters: Neveah Ewing (Sr., F); Madilyn Boyer (Jr., G); Nina Shaw (So., G)

Top newcomers: Megan Vasas (So., G); Hattie McGraw (So., G)

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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