Kiski Area girls hope experience, work ethic lead to growth

Monday, November 25, 2019 | 4:57 PM

Kiski Area girls basketball coach Nick Dizon couldn’t have been happier with the work his group put into its offseason.

Whether it was mandatory or voluntary, Dizon saw his girls putting in max effort, whether it was getting into the gym after school in the spring, playing AAU basketball in the summer or committing to open gyms in the fall.

Now the hope is all that hard work will translate into more success on the court.

The Cavaliers went 5-16 last year and were winless in Section 2-5A play, but they return the bulk of their roster and believe that they’ll be a much stronger team.

“The commitment level has really gone up over the spring and summer,” said Dizon, who’s entering his second season with the Cavaliers. “A lot of our kids played AAU together and some of them played AAU for other teams. The gym was full all spring, summer and fall and we had a lot of kids putting in extra time, which is something I didn’t really have my first year.

“I was happy with everyone, including the JV kids, for the work they put in. Some of the JV kids worked hard enough that they could get some varsity time this year.”

Kiski Area returns four players that saw starting time last season: Hannah Potter, Sam Worthing, Karly Keller and Dejah Burnett.

Potter, a senior guard, was the team’s leading scorer and is a four-year starter. She’s a Fredonia State (N.Y) recruit. Worthing, a junior, joins Potter in the backcourt. Keller and Burnett are sophomore forwards.

The Cavaliers graduated only two seniors. Violeta Kenzevich, a senior that started last year, did not come out for the team this year because she’s focusing on volleyball.

Junior Nicole Hilty and senior Leah Simendinger provide forward depth that has varsity experience. Sophomore Riley Hanan, junior Morgan Reed and freshman Lexi Colaianni will also see plenty of time on the floor.

“Everyone shows up here every day and works as hard as they can because we have something to prove,” Worthing said.

Potter has seen a lot of double teams over the last three years and that’ll likely continue. However, the Cavaliers are confident that they’ll have more depth in their scoring after working together all offseason.

“Everyone has worked hard to improve, so I think we’ll have a good solid core of people that we can rely on,” Potter said. “It’s not just one or two people. It’s everyone.”

The Cavaliers open with Saltsburg at Leechburg on Dec. 5.

Reigning section champ Gateway, Franklin Regional, Hampton, Mars, Plum and Armstrong are in Section 2 with the Cavaliers.

“Every team in there does things the right way,” Dizon said. “They’re tough, defensive teams. Basically every game you go into, you know it’s going to be a dogfight.”

Though the Cavaliers went winless in section play a season ago, they were competitive in many games.

They lost to Armstrong by six points in the first meeting and by 10 in the rematch. They had a 39-34 loss to Plum, a playoff team, and a 43-33 loss to Gateway.

The hope is to turn some of those narrow defeats into wins. There’s been improvement on the defensive end and a concerted effort to focus on not letting opponents string runs together to go along with added scoring depth.

“Our big thing is that our defense needs to be there if we’re going to win games,” Potter said. “Last year, teams would get out to a lead because our defense would struggle at times, and I think if we really pick it up on defense, it will lead to us converting on offense.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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