Strong season has South Fayette girls basketball excited about program’s future

Saturday, April 3, 2021 | 11:01 AM

Every team had to deal with the pandemic this past basketball season, but covid-19 related issues hit some programs more than others.

The South Fayette girls basketball team had several stops and starts it had to deal with, but it was able to enjoy success in a season that started strong at 5-0 and finished with wins in four of its last five games.

“I think the biggest reason for the good start and finish was the ability to have consistent hard practice during those times,” South Fayette coach Bryan Bennett said. “We often played three to four games in a week, and when we did practice, we wanted to make sure we saved the girls’ legs for the next game, so we did more skill work and walkthroughs. During those two stretches, we had more time at practice to go live and work on things we needed to improve on.”

Bennett was proud of his players and how they handled all of the protocols during the season.

“The girls did an outstanding job of following all of the safety protocols South Fayette put into place to allow a return to sports,” he said. “They were just excited to be playing and did whatever it took to make sure we had a successful season.”

This year’s Lions squad was very young with only one senior. Bennett liked what he saw in his team’s growth and maturation.

“As the season progressed, we saw a huge growth in our mental toughness,” he said. “At the beginning of the season, if one of our players made a mistake, you could see them dwell on that mistake for several plays, which led into other mistakes. My coaching staff and I constantly talked about forgetting about the mistake and moving on to the next play. The kids did a great job toward the end of the season moving on, which led to fewer mental errors during the games.”

South Fayette finished 5-2 in the section, one game behind Chartiers Valley and Oakland Catholic in the loss column heading into the Class 5A open postseason tournament.

The Lions rolled past Connellsville, 48-30, in the preliminary round for the program’s first playoff win since 2017.

The season ended with a first-round loss to Latrobe, 52-47.

“For having no playoff experience, I was extremely proud of the way we played in our two playoff games,” Bennett said. “I could tell before the Connellsville game we were a little nervous, but after the first few minutes, the kids settled in and did an outstanding job executing the game plan.

“Going into the game against Latrobe, we knew we were going to have to handle their physicality and size. We did not shoot the ball the way we normally do against Latrobe, but we competed until the very end of that game. I was extremely proud of the effort the girls gave that night. We can take away a lot from that game to help improve for next year.”

With nearly everybody back, there is excitement in the air already for the young Lions to improve on their final 14-6 record this season.

“I am most excited about our team chemistry and work ethic,” Bennett said. “The girls on the team genuinely like each other and are each others’ biggest fans. They also are extremely dedicated, and I never need to talk about giving a better effort at practice. Every time they step on the court, they have an expectation of getting better and challenging each other to better themselves and their teammates.”

However, before looking ahead, Bennett took time to reflect on a unique and successful step his young team took and the fact they got a chance to play at all this season.

“The biggest highlight for us was being given the opportunity to play,” he said. “The kids saw what happened to spring sports last year and were just excited to have the chance to compete. This group of kids did not take anything for granted. They cherished every minute they had in practice and games.”


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