Pine-Richland girls basketball starts over with new cast

Sunday, November 26, 2017 | 11:15 PM

For some teams, the offseason is a time to sharpen players' skills and expand their games. But for the Pine-Richland girls basketball team, the offseason presented a much larger task.

The entire starting five from last year's group that finished 21-2 won't be around because of graduations, season-ending injuries and transfers. As a result, before coach Tom Reighard's team takes its home floor Dec. 11 against West Allegheny in its first WPIAL contest, is must forge a new persona.

“I'm excited about the kids that I have,” Reighard said. “We work hard, and we get after it. They're forming a new identity.

“That's fun because you have different kids in the gym working hard and getting after it, just competing. There's a lot of opportunity there.”

While most of last year's contributors aren't on the roster, that doesn't mean the Rams will be devoid of experience. Senior guards Kayla Graf and Taylor Brenner will take up ball-handling duties after playing reserve roles last season.

In the frontcourt, senior Callie Polce brings experience to the forward spot, and Victoria Crankovic, a 6-foot senior who missed all of last season with an injury, is expected to play a significant role in her first year of varsity action.

“Victoria didn't play much in ninth or 10th grade, but she's a tall girl and she brings a lot of energy in the gym. I'm excited to see what she can do in game action,” Reighard said.

“With Callie, too, we have a couple of big girls there. It's a little different type of game than we were playing last year, from running and gunning to playing more in the post.”

Junior Kendall Gessner is also slotted for minutes at the forward and guard positions, and sophomores Alex Yarbrough and Meghan Luellen are poised to take up spots in the guard rotation.

Overall, Reighard's team might not have the familiar faces in its lineup that helped push the program to new heights last season. But he said this year's group is determined to take up that mantle of success and pass it down.

“Those girls last year had been playing together on varsity from 10th grade all the way through,” he said. “They set a high standard for the next group coming in. Last year was the first time we've won a section title since 1998.

“They set a high standard for Pine-Richland basketball, and now these girls want to live up to it and contribute in the same way.”

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.


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