Mt. Lebanon’s Ashleigh Connor named 2022 TribLive HSSN Girls Basketball Player of the Year

Monday, April 4, 2022 | 10:36 PM

2022 TribLive HSSN Girls Basketball Player of the Year

Ashleigh Connor

Mt. Lebanon

5-foot-10, Senior, Guard

Ashleigh Connor isn’t loud and fiery, nor is she quiet and reserved.

You could categorize her leadership skills as kind of goofy.

“She knows how to have fun and not take the game too seriously, she’s a total goofball at the right times,” Mt. Lebanon coach Dori Oldaker said. “She trusts her teammates and her teammates trust her.”

That trust led the Mt. Lebanon girls basketball team to a WPIAL Class 6A basketball championship, the fourth in school history and the first in 10 years.

It also allowed Connor to cap off her great season by being name the TribLive HSSN Girls Basketball Player of the Year.

Connor was one of the top scorers in the district this season, averaging 21 points for a Blue Devils team that went 27-2. She finished her career with 1,742 points.

Connor shot 42.9% from the field and 34.2% from the 3-point line this season.

“Ashleigh really focused on her outside shooting and her 3-point range over the summer,” Oldaker said. “She wanted to become a more consistent outside shooter, and her hard work paid off during this season. During the playoffs, she really came up big on the boards and became a huge rebounder for us. She practiced just as hard as she played in the games.”

Connor averaged 8.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.7 steals per game.

Mt. Lebanon lost to Plymouth-Whitemarsh in the PIAA championship game.

The Blue Devils’ only other loss was in the regular season finale to rival Upper St. Clair.

“Ashleigh was always our biggest concern,” Upper St. Clair coach Pete Serio said. “She is a player who can take over a game and put her team on her back and win the game. Her ability to get the rim and finish is what made her so difficult to guard.”

That ability was on display in this year’s WPIAL title game. Connor scored 23 points as Mt. Lebanon defeated Upper St. Clair, 55-44.

“Ashleigh has really continued to improve in all aspects of her game throughout the four years I have watched her,” Serio said. “Her confidence and leadership is what has made her go from a very good high school player into a special high school player.”

Oldaker agrees there is something about the Saint Louis recruit that stands out from other talented players.

“Ashleigh has the ‘it’ factor; she’s a winner,” Oldaker said. “She hates losing and she’s super competitive about everything she does. She is never satisfied with her game and is always trying to improve.”

TribLive HSSN had a chance to find out a little more about the 2022 Girls Basketball Player of the Year with a Q&A session with Ashleigh Connor:

How did it feel when time was winding down in the WPIAL championship game vs USC?

It felt incredible. Multiple WPIAL titles was my goal when I started high school, but then realized how difficult they are to win. Being able to secure the title in my senior year and win for my team and the Mt. Lebanon community was just amazing.

Having lost to the Panthers in your final regular season game, did that make beating them in the finals even sweeter?

Yes definitely. We did not play well against them in the final regular season game, and knew we would be ready for them if we got a chance to play them in the playoffs. USC played well in the final regular season game, but we knew we were working for something bigger, and that loss really helped focus us for the playoff runs.

Did you expect this kind of success with only two losses, a WPIAL title and a PIAA runner-up back in December before the season began?

I would say no, but I definitely expected very high things this year. I’ve played with Brooke (Collins) and Reagan (Murdoch) for nine years and we were constantly improving year over year. We knew we had what it takes to be one of the best teams around this year, and we went out and proved that. We talked about winning regularly, and I was going to do everything I could in my power to try and get us there. This team was something very special and we did great things. I will never forget this season.

You delivered consistent scoring all season, despite opposing defenses focused on you. How tough is that and how rewarding is that as well?

Very tough and rewarding. I knew that many teams would be keying on me and face guarding me, and it just meant I had to play a little harder and ensure I was doing the little things to make sure we won. I tried to focus more on rebounding and making sure I made the right passes. I needed to be at my best every game. I made sure to stay calm and composed and just play my game no matter what they tried to do. We trusted each other to make the right play. It’s easy to try and force the game when the defense is doubling you; patience and allowing the game to come to me was the key.

How would you analyze how you did this season?

It was a great season. The team’s success was so outstanding and focusing on the team and my all-around game allowed me to surpass my individual goals. Many people refer to me as a scorer, and yes, I like to score, but I’m just as excited when making that assist, taking the charge or battling for the rebound. This is such a great game and I just love playing it. Being recognized as the Player of the Year are goals I set for myself, but I could have never gotten there without the Mt. Lebanon team and staff.

You will be attending Saint Louis in the fall. What were some of the reasons behind your choice?

I visited a number of schools and St. Louis just felt right. I really liked the campus, my bond with the players was immediate and the staff’s belief in the impact I could make on the program. The Saint Louis coaches were at the WPIAL championship and our state playoff games. St. Louis is in transition right now, having let go of the coaching staff, and a number of teammates I’ve become friends with are entering the portal. I’m very excited and anxious to meet the new coaching staff and understand their vision for the program.

Coach Oldaker described you as goofy and somebody that likes to have fun until it’s time to get down to business. Is that a fair description?

Somewhat goofy. I like to keep it light before I head to the gym, but once I am in the gym it’s all business. Keeping the mood light was one of the keys to our success, as the team did not stress.

How much did the Mt. Lebanon football team’s success in the fall drive your team this winter?

The football team had an amazing season. We knew that we had the potential to follow in their footsteps, and took it as motivation to succeed in the ways that they did. This absolutely helped drive us. We just came up one game short, but it was a great year to be a part of Lebo athletics. I wish we could play Plymouth-Whitemarsh again.

What was your personal highlight from this past season?

Winning the WPIAL championship game with my team and all the memories we made together. I rebounded well this year. We didn’t have much size this year so I needed to change my game a bit and go down low and battle it out with the bigs.

What do you do for fun away from sports?

I like to go the beach, play with my dog (Coach) and eat out.

Besides food and water, what three things would you need if you were deserted on a beach for a week?

I would need a blanket, a first aid kit, and my dog (Coach).

Three favorite meals?

Steak with mashed potatoes, Hibachi chicken with fried rice, and a Caesar salad.

Favorite movie of all-time?

My favorite movie would have to be “Black Panther” because I loved Chadwick Boseman and loved the movie.

Top three artists or bands you like to listen to?

I’m not a big music person, but Bruno Mars, Kid Cudi and Taylor Swift.

People would be surprised to know … what … about Ashleigh Connor?

People would be surprised to know that I have operated on a cadaver, and I am thinking about going to medical school.


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