Mt. Pleasant scoring phenom Zelmore puts in the work

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Wednesday, February 8, 2023 | 8:21 PM


Practice is over, and her teammates have gone home for the evening.

But Tiffany Zelmore is still firing up shots, rebounding for herself in an echoing gym and making sure she doesn’t leave on a miss.

“You good, Tiff?” Mt. Pleasant girls basketball coach Scott Giacobbi says as he waits for one last ball to come back to the rack he is trying to put away.

“Almost,” Zelmore yells back in an almost sheepish tone.

She banks in a few more.

“This is what she does,” Giacobbi said. “Before and after practice, she just works. To be a player like her, it doesn’t just happen.”

Mt. Pleasant’s scoring machine doesn’t have a nickname, but her initials seem to fit: TAZ.

Tiffany Amber Zelmore.

Perfect.

Zelmore seems to rip through the paint like a Tasmanian devil and whips up dust as she pulls down offensive rebounds.

“I get most of my points underneath or driving to the hoop,” Zelmore said. “I like to work on my game. I come early to practice and stay late.”

Zelmore, who has accounted for 59% of her team’s points, has been the most consistent volume scorer in Westmoreland County basketball over her four-year career.

The second-leading scorer in the WPIAL this season, the senior forward averages 28.7 points for Mt. Pleasant (14-7), which clinched a playoff spot in WPIAL Class 3A.

Zelmore has pumped in 603 points this season to raise her career total to 1,569, second-most in Mt. Pleasant history behind Michelle Katkowski (1,896). She also averages 10.1 rebounds this season.

“It was one of my goals this year to get 1,000,” the 5-foot-10 Zelmore said. “I knew I was close. But I wasn’t sure I would get to 1,500. It’s nice to see it happen.”

While she makes a living finishing around the rim — she spends more time in the paint than the kids she works with at a daycare art class — Zelmore has stepped out and showed range.

“I might have to play guard in college because I am not that tall,” she said. “I am ready to shoot 3s, depending on how teams are guarding me.”

The playoffs are a bonus for Zelmore, who has topped 30 points 10 times this year, and has 41- and 38-point games.

The fourth-year starter has been putting up big numbers so consistently, with such regularity, those who follow her no longer are surprised.

Teams have thrown the kitchen sink at her. But she’s washed her hands and politely asked for a towel.

“She just finds a way to score,” Giacobbi said. “She has seen it all: face-guards, box-and-1s, whatever defense. She creates offense.

“Her hands around the basket are amazing. She works in the pivot to get quality shots.”

Surprisingly, Zelmore only played three years of AAU basketball, in grades 6-8.

But she sill could be headed toward a college career. She wants to either play basketball or throw the discus and shot put at the next level.

“It depends on the right opportunity and situation,” she said. “I think it would be too tough to do both. I will have to make a decision at some point.”

Only a few schools have shown interest so far, mainly at the Division III level or below.

Zelmore has seen ups and downs during her prep career. Mt. Pleasant won three games (3-17) when she was a freshman, went 11-8 her sophomore year and struggled to an 8-14 mark last year.

Mt. Pleasant appeared in the playoffs two years ago, but that was when the WPIAL held an open tournament because of unbalanced schedules caused by the covid pandemic.

Any team could play in the postseason.

This year, the Vikings earned their way in.

“I thought the move to (Class) 3A put us with a better equivalent of competition,” Giacobbi said. “There are so many good teams in 3A. We hoped to be competitive.”

Said Zelmore: “It feels better this way.”

Last season was a challenge on and off the court for Zelmore, who watched her mother, Denice, battle breast cancer.

Denice Zelmore won that battle and is back in the stands watching her daughter rack up the points.

“She inspires me every single day,” Tiffany Zelmore said. “She works so hard in whatever she does.”

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Despite her sizable role, Zelmore has had help.

Seniors Marissa Garn and Carly Smith have added to the team’s leadership, and junior point guard Riley Gesinski runs the offense.

“Sometimes, an assist is as good as a hoop,” Giacobbi said. “And when teams focus on Tiff, it opens up offense for other girls.”

Mt. Pleasant has 36 wins with Zelmore in the lineup but only one playoff victory. She wants more.

“It’s been a better season,” she said. “Scoring over 600 and making the playoffs is great. But the ultimate goal is a playoff win.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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