Kurpakus showing scoring touch for St. Joseph girls basketball

Thursday, January 11, 2018 | 4:12 PM

Last year as a junior, Chloe Kurpakus was one of three St. Joseph players to score in double figures as she averaged 12.2 points.

Her ability to put the ball in the basket along with 1,000-point scorer Lizzy Celko, now graduated, was a big reason the Spartans were able to earn the No. 6 seed for the WPIAL Class A playoffs, upend No. 3 Quigley Catholic in the quarterfinals and qualify for the PIAA tournament.

Kurpakus spent a lot of time in the gym in the offseason perfecting her shot and working on other aspects of her game. She knew she would be counted on for more of the scoring load this year.

So far, the 5-foot-8 guard has delivered. She leads the Spartans (5-6) at 19.9 points per game, one of the highest averages in the A-K Valley.

“Losing Lizzy and her 20 points, I knew I had to step up, along with others,” Kurpakus said. “It's rewarding to know I have shot the ball well and have scored the way I have. But the team win is the most important thing.”

St. Joseph started 0-2 in Section 3-A play with setbacks to Tribune-Review Class A No. 1 Winchester Thurston (5-3, 3-0) and Xavier recruit Ayanna Townsend on Dec. 21 and to WPIAL newcomer Aquinas Academy (8-2, 3-0) on Jan. 4.

“With the success we had last year, we knew coming into the season we would get everyone's best game,” Kurpakus said. “We understand our opponents know more about us. We are just trying to overcome that and play to our strengths.”

Kurpakus scored a season-best 28 points in a spirited 71-65 victory over nonsection rival Serra Catholic on Dec. 11 and added 26 in a dominant victory over Jefferson-Morgan seven days later.

St. Joseph tallied a season-high 72 points against Jeannette last week, and Kurpakus had 26.

She has shown continued prowess for recording points close to the basket and from long range. She leads the team with 28 3-point field goals through 11 games.

Kurpakus also is averaging 2.7 assists and 3.0 steals.

“Chloe's exceeded everything I could've imagined when it comes to her aggressive play,” St. Joseph coach Sally Ackerman said. “She has that fire inside that probably exceeds even her own expectations. She's always had a great shot. Watching her take that next step for this team has been fun to watch.”

Kurpakus said she's confident in her team's chances to get in the section win column Thursday at home against Imani Christian (2-8, 0-3).

“We were disappointed with the Aquinas loss, but it showed us what we needed to fix,” Kurpakus said. “I think we will come out strong against Imani. We need to play a complete game. Coach (Ackerman) always stresses to us that we can't play one good half and expect that to carry us to a win.”

A section matchup at home with Clairton (5-5, 1-1) follows Friday before a road section contest at Eden Christian (4-6, 1-2) on Monday.

While a 5-6 overall record isn't what St. Joseph wants at this point in the season, the veterans, including fellow seniors Gia Angelo, Alex Jones and Anna Swierczewski, know what it feels like to turn on the jets and finish a season strong.

Last year, after a 2-5 start, the Spartans went 15-4, including the two playoff victories.

“We've definitely been through this before and experienced rough stretches,” Kurpakus said. “We're just trying to smooth things out like our defense. That's been a weaker point recently. We're just trying to get in the right place and get the gears moving forward.”

Kurpakus said she and the other seniors understand the sense of urgency in their final season.

“We want to continue to bring that feeling to the entire team,” she said.

St. Joseph topped nonsection rival Quigley Catholic twice last year, and the teams meet again next Wednesday. Quigley is No. 3 in the latest Trib rankings.

“I love playing Quigley,” Kurpakus said. “It's been a rivalry for some time.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mlove_Trib.


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