Latrobe girls look to turn lessons learned into playoff berth

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Monday, November 25, 2019 | 6:10 PM


Latrobe’s girls basketball team expects a year to make a big difference for its roster.

Other than three seniors, the Wildcats were loaded with sophomores and freshmen last year. That inexperience hurt a little as the team finished out of the WPIAL Class 5A playoffs with a 12-9 overall record and a 8-6 mark in Section 3.

This year, though, Latrobe hopes to cash in on some lessons learned last winter.

“They worked very hard this summer between leagues and camps. The chemistry is probably one thing that’ll be a plus. They play very well together,” coach Mark Burkardt said. “They have gained quite a bit of confidence and maturity. They are playing hard and smart. They are understanding more of what we want.”

The Wildcats remain a young team, though, with one senior in Lex Pynos, who will start at forward.

“Things have been going really good recently,” Pynos said. “There has been such enormous growth from the beginning of summer to now. The work we’ve put in has transitioned us to play more as a cohesive unit and a family as well.

“We do have a very young team. But what we lack in experience, we make up for in heart and dedication.”

Junior guard Rachel Ridilla led the team in scoring at 14.6 points per game. She returns to the starting lineup, along with sophomore forward Anna Rafferty, who averaged 9.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. Junior letterwinners Ava Vitula, Lexi McNeil and Lexi Weatherton and sophomore Bailey Watson will see playing time as well.

“We’re young, but we’re somewhat experienced,” Burkardt said. “It’s kind of a nice combination.”

The Wildcats hope to utilize more personnel in order to play at a faster pace.

“One of our biggest strengths this year is that we have a bigger bench. There’s a lot of competitiveness. Basically, everyone on the team can play,” Pynos said. “We do have a faster pace to our play. If someone gets winded, we can put in someone and not see a big drop-off. That’s nice because we like to push the ball and run it. If we get a quick basket off the break, we’ll take it.”

Latrobe is not afraid to slow things down offensively, either.

“We can do both on offense, which is nice. In the past, our goal was to push the ball because we didn’t have much size in the half court,” Burkardt said. “We have better size this year, so we have the ability to play both styles.”

The Wildcats plan to be diverse on defense, too.

“We’ll mix it up there also. We’ll do a little bit of everything,” Burkardt said. “Two areas we are looking to improve are our defense and rebounding. I have seen we’ve improved in both during the offseason and, hopefully, that will continue during the season.”

Latrobe hopes to move up in the Section 3 standings. That won’t be easy since the section produced two WPIAL semifinalists last year in Oakland Catholic and Penn Hills.

“It’s an extremely competitive section. The teams last year were really good,” Burkardt said. “I think it’s going to be a battle every night when you go out there.”

The Wildcats are confident they can be among the section’s top teams.

“I think we’ll be able to compete with our section,” Pynos said. “I think we’re all hoping to make playoffs.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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