Penn Hills girls basketball team stays in WPIAL playoff hunt

Thursday, January 30, 2020 | 9:45 PM

Last season, the Penn Hills girls basketball team was on the doorstep to the WPIAL Class 5A championship game. This year, after all the seniors left, the Indians find themselves fighting for their WPIAL playoff lives down the stretch of the regular season.

The Indians (8-11, 6-5), who have only two seniors on this year’s team, found themselves in a three-way tie with Penn-Trafford and Latrobe for the final two playoff spots in Section 3-5A with three section games remaining.

After starting the season 2-5, the Indians seemed to right the ship with a four-game winning streak during the holidays. However, the Indians won just two of their last eight games, including a four-game losing streak that followed the four-game winning streak.

“This season has been up and down for us. We’ve had our moments where we’ve played well, and we’ve had moments where we’ve struggled a little bit. We’re taking it day-by-day and trying to get better,” coach Robert Cash said.

In the last eight games, the Indians lost close contests at Woodland Hills, 46-45, on Jan. 14 and at home against Latrobe, 43-41, on Jan. 24.

The Indians lost two games by fewer than 10 points against Penn-Trafford and Uniontown. During the stretch, the Indians’ two wins both came against Laurel Highlands, where Penn Hills outscored the Mustangs, 115-24.

“We’re trying to just stick together. The last week and a half has been tough for us. We are trying to keep the team together and focused to where we want to be. We’re just fighting and keeping games close and making enough plays to win games so we can hopefully get one of those last playoff spots,” Cash said.

“We hope to make a run at this. We’ve got enough talent in the locker room to win some games and possibly win some playoff games. We’re just trying to put it all together now.”

The Indians had matchups at home against Albert Gallatin, at Oakland Catholic and at home against Woodland Hills remaining.

However, it looks like Penn Hills will need outside help as Latrobe and Penn-Trafford square off at Latrobe for what could be an elimination game.

Throughout the season, the Indians have been without the services of key contributors such as junior forward Delaney Carpenter and junior guard Amoni Blackwell.

But Cash looks to have their services to play alongside senior forward Niya Moore, who has stepped up in their absence, with junior forward Jasmyn Golden and junior guard Jayla Golden.

Cash has been pleased with the effort and contributions made by senior guard Michelle Moses and freshman guard Sierra Moten.

The Indians have allowed only 39.3 points per game — the third fewest points allowed in Class 5A behind Gateway and Armstrong. However, the Indians only average 43.4 points per game.

“This year has been the most challenging year. In the past, we were able to go out and get it done and stay focused,” Cash said. “This year with all the seniors leaving last year and coming in with two seniors and a bunch of juniors … trying to get them to understand it’s their time to shine and step up has been a challenge.”

Since Cash has taken over as head coach in 2016, the Indians have reached the WPIAL playoffs every year. Cash expects to be in the mix for the WPIAL title every year but understands there are bigger lessons learned by his players.

“For us, it’s bigger than basketball,” he said. “We put all our time in with helping our kids understand that. At the end of the day, our basketball journey will teach us things that will be important to us in life as adults.”


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