North Hills girls ready to tackle difficult challenges

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Thursday, December 5, 2019 | 11:40 PM


When Jim Dudas accepted the head coaching job for the North Hills girls basketball team, he knew it was going to be a challenge. He didn’t know the challenge to implement his system and culture would be impacted by the injury bug.

Dudas, who was named the Indians head coach in April, takes over for Lauren Wilmus after North Hills finished last season with a 4-18 overall record and 3-11 record in Section 1-6A with a young and inexperienced team.

In recent years, Dudas was an assistant coach for the North Allegheny boys basketball team. Previously, he was head coach at South Fayette, Quaker Valley and Oakland Catholic. Dudas, who has 14 years of coaching experience, guided Quaker Valley to its first section title in 31 years in 2012.

Dudas will look to do the same at North Hills in a tough section that includes North Allegheny and Norwin.

“I want to go out and compete every night,” Dudas said. “I want the program to improve. I want the girls to get rewarded for the effort they put in during the offseason. The goal amongst all of us is to get to the playoffs.”

In the early going, Dudas will be shorthanded as he deals with injuries to five key contributors. Two could be lost for the season.

Dudas will start the season without the services of senior point guard Claire Babicz and junior guard/forward Sydney Ryan. As Dudas hopes for both to return in January, Dudas will look to ease junior guard/forward Lexi Kotwica back into the mix as she comes off an ACL injury with the hope she will be ready for the start of the season.

If all were healthy, Dudas would’ve penciled them into the starting lineup. However without their services, Dudas will look to shuffle a starting lineup that will now include four seniors and one junior.

The four seniors are guard Kayla Haile, forward Nina Topich, forward Savannah Powers and guard Shaylin Hagerman, who returns to the team after being away for a couple of seasons.

“The way the girls handle it is unbelievable,” Dudas said. “It’s such a pleasure to coach them with the way they are handling everything. We don’t have to talk about it. They just go out there and work. We aren’t dwelling on anything and we move forward.”

Dudas has been known for his fast-paced offense and pressure defense. He understands, however, that he will need to cater his style of play to his personnel with the lack of depth this season.

“The style of play would be all relative if I have all healthy kids,” Dudas said. “When you lose your point guard and two other starters, you can’t play at the pace you want to play at. You have to play at a pace that allows you to compete.

“My preferred style is playing up and down the court 90 feet and pressing, but we don’t have the depth to do that,” Dudas said. “We have to watch our foul trouble and we might have to do some things that are out of character for me as a coach but more advantageous for the kids.”

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