Penn-Trafford girls expect late-season momentum to carry over

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Friday, November 29, 2019 | 4:10 PM


Penn-Trafford’s girls basketball team ended last year by going 7-2 down the season’s home stretch.

The Warriors advanced to the WPIAL playoffs as a third-place team in Section 3-5A, marking the 11th time in 12 seasons that P-T was a postseason participant.

There were two juniors, six sophomores and two freshman on last year’s squad, which finished with a 13-10 record.

“I’m excited about our team,” coach John Giannikas said. “We had a strong second-half finish last year and are expecting to build on that. We expect to continue that (building process) at the beginning of this season. We have a nice mix of upperclassman and some good energy from the younger grades.

“We will be a little more guard-oriented this year. The guards have been creating shots for each other and have become better scorers and all-around players.”

One of the key players back this year is 5-foot-11 senior guard/forward Bella Long, the team’s all-time leading 3-point scorer.

Long led the Warriors in scoring and rebounding last season.

“Bella has worked very hard at making herself stronger,” said Giannikas, who is in his 14th season as P-T’s floor boss. “She has expanded her game to being able to score in the post and is a solid defender. She competes every possession.

“Bella has an understanding of the game and our offensive sets, and she takes that knowledge to help all the other players when needed. She will be a good coach some day. I expect her to have another solid season.”

Long is a well-versed and well-rounded student-athlete. She competed in volleyball for four years at P-T, owns a 4.1 GPA, and participates in the National Honor Society, Science National Honor Society and Community Action program.

Long, who is planning to continue her career at Slippery Rock, is anticipating a winning season along with a solid run in the playoffs.

“We have been working on our offense and moving without the ball,” she said, “as well as off-ball defense. One of our strengths this year is definitely experience because we are returning four (starters).

“My personal goals this season are to improve my defense as well as ball-handling. I also would like to become more of a scoring threat.”

The Warriors are flooded with talent at the guard position, thanks to the return of backcourt players such as 5-6 junior Allie Prady, 5-9 junior Kenzie Powell and 5-6 sophomore Maura Suman, a point guard and team leader in assists last season.

Long, Prady, Powell and Suman are returning starters.

Two P-T softball players, 5-7 senior guard/forward Morgan Hilty and 5-5 junior guard Brooke Cleland, are expected to contribute to another strong playoff run by the Warriors this winter.

“Morgan and Brooke will be giving us important and big minutes,” Giannikas said. “We have other girls that can help as reserves as well.”

A top reserve back from last season is junior Jade Czesnakowski, a 5-10 frontcourt player.

Leading freshman prospects include guards Kylie Piconi and Lillian Palladino, forward Madison Setzanfand, who is injured and expected to return in late December, and guards Natalie Farrow, Faith Czesnakowski, Brooke Bratkovich and Delaney Greene.

Tayler Jones is a 5-5 sophomore guard. Cassie Cunningham is a 5-8 sophomore forward.

Penn-Trafford dropped down a division last year and competed in a section consisting of teams from three counties: Albert Gallatin, Latrobe, Laurel Highlands, Oakland Catholic, Penn Hills, Uniontown and Woodland Hills. Oakland Catholic is the reigning section champion.

“Our section will be tough again,” Giannikas said. “Woodland Hills has the most (players) and most talent back. Oakland Catholic, Penn Hills and Latrobe will be very good again. I expect Laurel Highlands, Albert Gallatin and Uniontown will all be better as well.”

Penn-Trafford opens the the season Dec. 7 against McKeesport in the McKeesport tip-off tournament. The Warriors’ first section game will take place Dec. 12 at home against Penn Hills. The P-T girls will host a holiday tournament Dec. 28-29.

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