Nowhere to go but up for St. Joseph girls after 1-21 season

Sunday, December 1, 2019 | 7:01 PM

Last season was one to forget for the St. Joseph girls’ basketball team.

The Spartans won just once in 22 games, for several reasons.

For starters, the team was a year removed from losing one of the best senior classes in school history, a class filled with three-sport stars, as well as the transfer of another starter from a 14-win team in 2017-18. That was a team that made the playoffs and won its first-round game. In 2016-17, the Spartans reached the state playoffs.

Last year, the Spartans returned about 20 minutes of varsity experience. A lot of the girls who ended up playing had never played before. Coach Dennis Jones, who was in his first season, had to teach them the game, even things that seem basic, like double-dribbling.

This season, the challenges will continue for the Spartans, who have eight players to start the year, seven of whom are healthy.

It’s about continuing the rebuilding process of the program, one that, according to Jones, has a potentially bright future.

“Last year we were trying to teach girls the game while playing the game. We were over our heads,” Jones said. “If we can get to eight wins this year, I think that’d be a big step forward. There are prospects on the horizon in the future.”

That doesn’t mean the Spartans are throwing away the upcoming season. In fact, it’s the opposite. Jones said they are still all trying to grow.

Senior Erika Cook, juniors Ally Swierczewski and Kelsey DuVall and sophomore Stella Swanson return from last year’s team with experience. DuVall will miss at least the first month rehabbing an injury, Jones said, but she is expected to be a contributor once she is able to return.

Trinity Lockwood-Morris, a transfer, is one of the top newcomers. She has played travel basketball before. She is a sophomore, and classmate Kelly Wolfe as well as freshmen Sam Bainbridge and Noelle Bigenho will see time.

“We’re trying to be competitive and continue learning the game. It’s really that simple,” Jones said. “We don’t have a summer league or a fall league or anything like that which is a disadvantage, but we’re hoping to change that.”

St. Joseph scrimmaged Riverview last week, and things were better than expected, according to Jones.

When the Spartans scrimmaged Riverview last year, Jones said they couldn’t even stay close to the Raiders’ junior vasity team. But this year was a bit of a reversal. He said while they weren’t really able to stay with Riverview’s varsity squad, there were still some good signs and things to build on.

“We have nowhere to go but up,” Jones said. “There is a lot of energy and enthusiasm with the girls on the team.”

The Spartans get their season going at 6:30 p.m. Friday when they host Shady Side Academy in their tip-off tournament. The section schedule begins Dec. 19 at home against Clairton. Each of the Spartans’ first six games will be at home.


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