North Allegheny girls motivated to win PIAA title

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Thursday, December 6, 2018 | 9:27 PM


Setting new program benchmarks has become standard for the North Allegheny girls basketball team’s senior class.

Over the previous three years, they helped the Tigers compile an 81-8 record. North Allegheny collected the program’s first two WPIAL Class 6A championships, had three playoff runs reach the PIAA semifinals and finished as state runner-up in 2016.

All of that success without a PIAA 6A title has given North Allegheny — especially the seniors — strong motivation for one more run.

“It is our last chance to come out on top,” said senior guard Rachel Martindale, who committed to Akron. “I feel that is what motivates us as seniors, knowing that this is our last year and we have an opportunity to win it together.”

The Tigers began their pursuit when they hosted Penn Hills in the Wright Automotive Tip-Off tournament.

North Allegheny coach Spencer Stefko is happy to captain this ship again.

“Probably the neatest thing about this group is that all of them find a way to make the team better,” Stefko said. “Even the kids who might not play as well. They make practices so much better. The practices are at a level you can’t imagine. A lot of times, the kids who are pushing the envelope are kids who don’t play a lot of minutes or don’t play any minutes. What makes this class so special is all seven of them love each other and all contribute heavily.”

Brynn Serbin, Kristen Chomos, Brooke Barcia, Martindale, Kamaria Carioto, Olivia Whitacre and Mary Evankovich are the seven seniors returning from a team that finished 28-1 and lost in the PIAA semifinals.

There will be some intrigue in how Martindale bounces back from a knee injury.

Martindale saw her season end after scoring her 1,000th career point in the Tigers’ victory over Peters Township in the WPIAL finals.

She was named first-team all-state and averaged 15.3 points and 6.0 rebounds.

“My instinct was to protect and coddle and to ease her back in. Rachel and the professionals overruled me,” Stefko joked. “I was certainly planning on easing her into things. She and my trainer and her doctor and physical therapist had other ideas. She’s already been given a full go.”

The seniors certainly won’t have to go it alone. Sophomore point guard Lizzy Groetsch scored 18 points in the WPIAL finals and will help run what can be a devastating offense.

Martindale believes North Allegheny will be strong overall.

“I believe our team’s strong point is our defense and our desire to do whatever it takes to win,” Martindale said.

That desire helps create what Stefko has a lot of pride in. North Allegheny has created a winning atmosphere.

“The best thing is they create a special locker room,” Stefko said. “They create a special practice. Practices are fun with them. Watching them compete. I think one of the best things they do is compete as a team and enjoy each other off the floor. That shows up in the way we play. The way we move the ball is easy to be proud of.”

Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.

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