St. Joseph’s Julie Spinelli headlines Valley News Dispatch girls basketball all-stars

By:
Saturday, March 30, 2024 | 8:57 PM


Player of the Year

Julie Spinelli

5-11, Sr., G, St. Joseph

The St. Joseph girls basketball team took several steps forward in the 2023-24 season and met or surpassed goals and expectations set for themselves at the start in late November.

Two of the goals were met on a single night against rival Aquinas Academy in the WPIAL Class A semifinals Feb. 26.

The Spartans not only vanquished an opponent that had given them fits in past encounters, they also advanced to their first WPIAL championship game. It was something that had eluded the team the previous two seasons with losses in the semifinals.

“We had been trying to beat Aquinas since my freshman year,” senior standout Julie Spinelli said.

“We had lost to them, I think, seven or eight times before. We all worked hard to beat them. We went into that game really well prepared with a good game plan. We knew we could win that game, and that mindset showed through.”

Spinelli led the charge in the 65-56 win. She scored a game-best 32 points, was 14 of 17 from the free-throw line, and added seven rebounds, two assists, five steals and two blocks.

It was a shining example of the effort the Frostburg State commit showed throughout the season in helping lead St. Joseph to the WPIAL title game at the Petersen Events Center and the second round of the PIAA playoffs.

Spinelli, for the second year in a row, has been selected the Valley News Dispatch Girls Basketball Player of the Year. She rose to the top among a bevy of talented area performers, including Plum senior Megan Marston and Kiski Area senior Abbie Johns.

“I couldn’t have done what I did without my teammates,” Spinelli said.

“One of the things that helped us find so much success this year was that we were such a close team. We played for each other and kept a really positive attitude in all of our practices and games. When all of that comes together, you can win a lot of games.”

Spinelli ended the season averaging 21.2 point. While the 32 points against Aquinas was impressive, she tallied a season high in the regular-season meeting with the Crusaders, scoring 36 in a tough 66-62 overtime loss.

She added 35 points in a key 68-59 win over District 9 Class 2A champion Redbank Valley on Jan. 31.

The well-rounded veteran, who finished with 20 or more points 13 times, also averaged 6.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 3.3 steals as the Spartans finished 22-5 and earned both a first PIAA playoff home game and a first PIAA-tournament victory.

The 57-35 PIAA first-round triumph over District 6’s St. Joseph Catholic Academy in Natrona Heights on March 9 was in front of a spirited crowd that packed the home side of the gym.

“The atmosphere for that game was great,” said Spinelli, who averaged 23.4 points in five postseason games.

“Having a big crowd and all that support was a great feeling, and to get the win in our final home game was so special.”

Despite a heartbreaking overtime loss to Union in the WPIAL title game, the experience, Spinelli said, was unlike any other for her and her teammates.

“It was something we had been striving for the past three years,” she said. “We were just so excited to play in that game and be in that moment. Playing at the Pete is something every team wants ever year.

Union was an amazing team, and the game could’ve gone either way. There were so many possessions you can look back on and wonder what would have happened if they would’ve gone differently. To come that close and go into overtime, it was something to be proud of.”

Spinelli’s focus now is on helping the St. Joseph softball team secure victories. But she also has one eye on her pending arrival on the Frostburg campus and the preparation for her first season with the NCAA Division II Bobcats.

“This school year has flown by so fast,” Spinelli said. “I have made so many great memories, but I am also looking forward to my future at Frostburg.”

First team

Adah Fuller

5-10, Sr., F, Knoch

The Knights maintained their recent streak of WPIAL and PIAA playoff appearances, and Fuller shined for her team in her final varsity season. She averaged 11.5 points and 4.6 rebounds, shot 51% from the field, and drained 34 3-pointers to help Knoch compile a 15-12 overall record and a 7-5 mark in a challenging Section 1-4A. Fuller tallied a season-high 28 points to lead Knoch to a 60-40 victory over Central Valley in a PIAA play-in game which clinched the Knights’ trip to the state tournament. That total surpassed her previous season high of 25, with five 3-pointers, in a section win over Freeport on Jan. 2. Fuller now hopes to make her mark on the track as a sprinter in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and the 400 and 1,600 relays.

Abbie Johns

5-10, Sr., G, Kiski Area

When the Cavaliers needed a big bucket, Johns was there to provide it. The four-year starter averaged 18.5 points over 22 games and also was a force in the paint and on defense. She shot 77% from the free-throw line and sank 53 3-pointers. The Section 1-5A first-team selection and Shippensburg recruit is a two-time first-team all-star after making the third team her freshman and sophomore years.

Megan Marston

5-8, Sr., G, Plum

Marston averaged 18.8 points and 4.0 assists in earning first-team honors for the second year in a row. She surpassed 1,000 career points in a Section 1-5A victory over Woodland Hills on Jan. 2. She joined her mother, Colleen, a Gateway graduate, in reaching the scoring milestone. Marston, also a first-team all-section selection, will continue her basketball career at Division II Case Western Reserve.

Kate Myers

5-7, Sr., G, Highlands

Myers earned the attention of opposing coaches and teams again this season as she continued to be a dangerous threat from 3-point range. When guarded closely at the perimeter, she was able to distribute the ball. It was a strong formula for success in a season game plan which saw senior-laden Highlands finish second to WPIAL power North Catholic in Section 1-4A and qualify for the PIAA playoffs for the second year in a row. Now a two-time VND first-team selection, Myers came up big in the Golden Rams’ fight to make the PIAA tournament. She scored 20 points, including six 3-pointers, in a dominant victory over section rival Greensburg Salem in a PIAA play-in game. Myers, who reached 1,000 career points in a win over Mars at home Dec. 28, fittingly on a 3-point shot, will continue to play in college at Division II Pitt-Johnstown.

Gia Richter

5-4, Jr., G, St. Joseph

Richter was the only underclassmen starter on a senior-laden St. Joseph team which repeated as section champion, set an all-time record with 22 wins, and made history with a first-time trip to the WPIAL championship game and its first-ever PIAA-playoff win. The speedy guard averaged 11.1 points and 4.3 rebounds while leading the team in assists (2.9) and steals (3.5). She was a third-team VND selection as a sophomore. Richter scored in double figures 16 times with season bests of 18 in the Spartans’ WPIAL semifinal win over Aquinas Academy, a victory over rival Riverview late in the regular season, and an early-season three-point triumph over Class 5A North Hills. She recorded five steals in both PIAA playoff games.

Second team

Jocelyn Bielak

5-8, Sr., G/F, Highlands

Anna Kreinbrook

6-2, Sr., C, St. Joseph

Kalleigh Nerone

5-5, Sr., G, Highlands

Pascale Olczak

6-1, Sr., F/C, Plum

Katerina Tsambis

5-5, Jr., PG/G, Riverview

Third team

Lola Abraham

5-5, Sr., G, Riverview

Gianna DeVito

5-10, So., F, Kiski Area

Naturelle Ewing

5-8, Sr., G, Knoch

Julianna Fisher

5-11, Jr., F, Burrell

Sophia Yard

5-6, Sr., G, Apollo-Ridge

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

More Basketball

Mike Iuzzolino takes over Sewickley Academy boys basketball program
Belle Vernon hires former Shaler, Gateway coach to lead girls basketball program
20 years later, Roundball Classic continues to evolve
PIAA sets 2025-28 state championship sites for basketball, wrestling, swimming
Chartiers Valley poised to hire Corey Dotchin as boys basketball coach