Talented roster should help ease transition for new Knoch girls coach

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Tuesday, November 21, 2023 | 11:01 AM


At first glance, Shane McGraw looks to be stepping into a tough situation as the new Knoch girls basketball coach.

After Knights coach Chris Andreassi resigned in September, Knoch hired McGraw as his replacement in October, only about a month before practice kicked off for the season.

However, McGraw served as Andreassi’s assistant for five years and welcomes back a strong nucleus.

“Chris and I had a great relationship, and I was pretty content with being his assistant,” he said. “When he decided to step down, I thought the time was right, and I was ready for the challenge.”

McGraw acknowledged making the move from assistant to head coach brings increased responsibility.

“It’s a big step,” he said. “Chris is super organized, and he did a great job of making the transition as seamless as possible. But there’s always things you didn’t realize you have to deal with as a head coach. I’m learning on the job as I go. The best advice that I received from Chris was to make the program your own.”

While McGraw plans some changes, the Knights will continue to run a dribble-drive offense and play man-to-man defense.

“The culture has been created here, and we’ll continue to strive to win at a high level,” he said.

Last season, the Knights posted an 18-10 overall record and a 9-3 mark in tough Section 1-4A. They finished tied with Highlands for second, behind eventual WPIAL champion North Catholic.

In the WPIAL playoffs, Knoch lost a second-round game to Quaker Valley, but then beat Belle Vernon and Beaver in the consolation round to qualify for the PIAA tournament. The Knights defeated Punxsutawney in the state playoffs before dropping a 38-35 decision to eventual PIAA runner-up Blackhawk.

Knoch returns a pair of starters: senior guards Cece Kosecki and Naturelle Ewing.

“As a three-year starter, Cece brings a ton of experience to the lineup,” McGraw said. “Naturelle is a good shooter and defender.”

Carly Buterbaugh, a 6-foot junior, is back after missing last season with a knee injury. She started as a freshman.

“Carly has a very balanced game,” McGraw said. “She will play point guard and make our offense go. She also is a nice rebounder, finishes around the rim and is a good defender.”

McGraw expects Adah Fuller, a 5-10 senior forward, and Neah Ewing, a 5-7 sophomore guard, to complete the starting lineup. Senior Abby Hawk will get playing time off the bench.

Knoch has scrimmages against Plum and Beaver before kicking off the season Dec. 1 against the host team in the Armstrong tournament.

The Knights host Highlands on Dec. 18 in their Section 1 opener. Other section foes are North Catholic, Greensburg Salem, Freeport, Derry and Valley.

“We have to be ready to play every game in our section,” McGraw said. “Every night will be a challenge.”

Knoch girls at a glance

Coach: Shane McGraw

Last year’s record: 18-10 (9-3 Section 1-4A)

Key returners: Cece Kosecki (Sr., G), Naturelle Ewing (Sr., G), Carly Buterbaugh (Jr., G)

Top newcomers: Neah Ewing (Soph., G), Lauren Bowser (Jr., G)

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