Penn Hills girls look to fine-tune game heading into playoffs

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Sunday, February 11, 2024 | 11:01 AM


Making adjustments late in the season has served the Penn Hills girls basketball team well.

The Indians won back-to-back games going into their section finale, putting them in the playoffs for the second straight year. Without having to scratch and claw late for a spot like last season, senior guard Hannah Pugliese and her teammates could focus on fine-tuning skills.

Coach Robert Cash believes Penn Hills needs to score around the rim more effectively. The Indians typically are locked into low-scoring games and can’t waste opportunities to put points on the board.

“We did drills where we had to make 25 layups and then do 25 layups on the other side,” Pugliese said. “We’ve also been starting practice differently with full-court layups rather than passing drills.”

Penn Hills averages 44.2 points per game while holding its opponents to 42.1 points per game. The Indians (9-10, 6-5) have figured things out recently against the top two teams in the section. Section 1-5A champion Indiana took its only loss Jan. 31 on the road to Penn Hills.

The Indians followed that up with a win over Plum.

“We had to make some adjustments from what they were doing from an offensive/defensive standpoint,” Cash said. “We honed in on getting everyone settled on the execution of the play. We want to focus on the play and make sure everyone knows what their job is.”

Pugliese said she and her teammates have a better idea of where they need to be. Penn Hills opened the season by losing its first four games, including a 49-37 setback on the road to the Little Indians.

“We didn’t show up that night,” Pugliese said. “Our urgency was high to go back and beat them.”

Cash said the team has improved a lot with its mental approach since the beginning of the season. Penn Hills wasn’t sharp in attacking the rim early in the year, and it resulted in a few tough losses in the section.

“It was almost a lack of focus,” Cash said. “They weren’t putting the ball where it needed to be. I wanted them to focus on finishing the play and getting to the next play.”

Penn Hills, which had a section game with Kiski Area after the deadline this edition, was hoping to end up in third place. The Indians are hoping to make a better run in the postseason this year. Penn Hills lost to McKeesport in the first round last year.

“Definitely not to be the team that just goes to the playoffs and loses the first round,” Pugliese said. “Go as far as we can go and prove we are here and we can make a run.”

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