Hempfield girls look to keep offseason momentum rolling

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Saturday, November 19, 2022 | 11:01 AM


Some offseason success and a taste of victory has the Hempfield girls basketball team beaming with confidence and believing it can win more games than it loses.

The Spartans won a summer league at the Greensburg YMCA, went undefeated at the Seton Hill Shootout, finished 5-1 at the Cal (Pa.) team camp and went 3-1 at the Greensburg Salem shootout at Hempfield Rec Center.

Now, can the jolt of positive results translate to the WPIAL season and bring optimism to a team that has not had a winning season since 2016-17?

“The impressive thing is that not one time (in the offseason) did we have our full team together,” coach Tom Brush said. “Some teams had more returning players than we did. We’re looking forward to seeing what we can do with everyone.”

Multisport athletes abound at Hempfield, so Brush didn’t get his full group on the same court together until Friday’s first official practice.

“This is the best offseason we’ve had since I’ve been here,” he said. “I know we’ll play better teams, but the girls are more confident going into section play and they think we can compete.”

Brush still has a relatively young team, so he is cautiously optimistic. Plus, last year’s group did surrender 60.1 points per game while scoring 41.6 on the way to just five wins.

“We don’t play our first section game until the new year, Jan. 2, so we’ll have some time to jell,” Brush said. “But I think we will be able to go up to 10 deep at times, and we’ll have multiple girls who can score in double figures.”

Four starters are back, led by leading scorer Brooke McCoy, one of the few seniors who brings experience and a lead-by-example mentality.

McCoy has shown she can score off the dribble or from the perimeter.

Juniors Sarah Podkul and Ashley Hosni also are key cogs in the backcourt. Their ball-handling will be crucial to Hempfield breaking down pressure and calming the Spartans so they can run crisper offensive sets.

“Those three are the key for us,” Brush said. “We know what Brooke can do, but Sarah and Ashley kind of fly under the radar. Ashley does a lot for us on defense, and Sarah is our point guard and helps us with rebounding. They’re great leaders.”

Sophomore forward Mia Shipman and sophomore guard Allison Cervola are other players who will help Brush push the tempo.

Ava Shipman is a freshman to watch after showing potential over the summer. She is one of four ninth graders who could see time, joining Mads Pevarnik, Gabby Coccia and Cat Devito.

A potentially long rotation could also include senior forward Jayme Flock, sophomore guard Kennedy Nelson and senior forward Ayayna Martin.

“We have a lot of girls who can handle the ball,” Brush said. “They should not be fazed by the pressure. And I am confident I can go to the bench if we get girls in foul trouble.”

The season tips off Dec. 2 at the Laurel Highlands tournament.

At a glance

Coach: Tom Brush

Last year’s record: 5-16 (2-10 Section 2-6A)

Returning starters: Ashley Hosni (Jr., G), Brooke McCoy (Sr., G/F), Sarah Podkul (Jr., G), Mia Shipman (So., F)

Top newcomers: Allison Cervola (So., G), Cat Devito (Fr., G), Jayme Flock (Sr., F), Kennedy Nelson (So., G), Ava Shipman (Fr., G)

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

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