North Allegheny girls basketball team reloads after epic season

Sunday, December 12, 2021 | 9:19 PM

Lizzy Groetsch and Paige Morningstar led North Allegheny’s girls basketball team to a season for the ages in 2020-21.

It easily could be labeled the best girls basketball season in school history.

The Tigers captured their first PIAA championship, won a fourth WPIAL title in five years, stormed through Section 1-6A with a 14-0 record and wrapped up it all up with a sensational 27-1 record.

And they did so in the midst of a challenging pandemic with strict covid-related protocols.

NA clinched the state championship with a 55-40 win over District 1 champion Spring-Ford.

“These kids have seen what high school greatness, selflessness, team ego and personal humility look like,” coach Spencer Stefko said following that historic victory. “We are all better human beings for having been a part of the lives of Lizzy Groetsch, Madelyn Reardon and Paige Morningstar. If we’re smart, we’ll take the things they have shown us and make those things a piece of us forever.”

The loss was the first for Spring-Ford (24-1), which was seeking its second state title.

“The reason this feels so great is because they’re a great team,” Stefko said. “When you get a chance to play 24-0 in a championship game, it’s special.”

Groetsch, a 5-foot-11 guard and Penn recruit, was named the Trib HSSN Girls Basketball Player of the Year in 2020-21. Morningstar, a 6-1 guard/forward and Louisville volleyball recruit, was MaxPreps’ top girls high school athlete in the country.

Groetsch and Morningstar, the only seniors in the Tigers’ starting lineup in the playoffs, leave big shoes to fill. Over the past four seasons, NA was 103-8 with four section titles, three WPIAL crowns and one PIAA championship.

The three returning starters this year are guards Emma Fischer, a 5-8 senior and Seton Hill recruit, Jasmine Timmerson, a 5-8 junior, and Kellie McConnell, a 5-5 sophomore who is a niece of Chartiers Valley coach Tim McConnell.

Fischer, one of NA’s top 3-point shooters, has competed at the varsity level since her freshman season and was a part of back-to-back WPIAL championship teams in 2020 and 2021.

The Seton Hill campus is familiar territory for Fischer, a 1,000-point scorer for her career who plans to major in finance in college.

Emma’s older sister Maddie is a senior forward for the Griffins. Maddie won WPIAL titles with NA in 2017 and 2018.

Timmerson, a high-energy backcourt player and proficient defender, holds Division I offers from the likes of Michigan State, Robert Morris, Duquesne and Niagara. She averaged 10.2 ppg last year.

Cam Phillips, a 5-6 junior guard, is expected to have an expanded role for the Tigers this season, while others looking to make an impact include Taylor Rawls, a 5-5 senior, and juniors Annalyn Isaacs, Eva Prenatt and Mia Tuman, a 6-foot forward.

Along with McConnell, the sophomore class is represented by Caroline Henderson, Emily Glass, Lydia Betz, Grace Heliger and Lauren Mihm.

Top freshmen in the varsity program include Natalie Kinross, Mia Jones, Leah Skeweres, Alayna Bolen and Isabella Williamson.

North Allegheny is a member of Section 1 again in 2021-22, along with Butler, North Hills, Norwin, Penn-Trafford, Pine-Richland, Seneca Valley and Shaler.

NA, Norwin (9-3), Penn-Trafford (9-5) and Butler (8-4) were playoff qualifiers a year ago.

NA was scheduled to tip off its 2021-22 schedule Dec. 10-11 in the Oakland Catholic tournament. The Tigers’ first home game is set for Dec. 17 against Pine-Richland.


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