Trib HSSN girls basketball team of the week for Feb. 5, 2023

Sunday, February 5, 2023 | 8:10 PM

After grinding it out through December and January, every high school basketball coach wants their team to be peaking in early February so they can have success in late February and early March.

For veteran coach Jim Callipare, now in his second year with the Armstrong girls, his team’s actions this past week spoke a lot louder than any words he could use.

The River Hawks defeated a couple of Section 2-5A heavyweights to improve to 8-3 in the section and 17-3 overall with five consecutive wins.

“We’re getting back in the swing of things,” Callipare said. “We started out real hot at the start of the season, and then we had some issues here and there and didn’t play well. Now we’re starting to get it rolling again.”

On Monday, Armstrong hit the road for a section showdown with first-place Mars.

Points were hard to come by as both teams only had double-digit scoring in one quarter. That one quarter for the River Hawks was in the fourth, when they outscored the Fightin’ Planets, 14-7, on their way to a 37-28 victory.

“That was a big game for us because that was our worse defeat of the year when they beat us by 20 at home,” Callipare said. “This was a game that was important for us to go and right the ship. We did a nice job defensively, and we scored the ball and had some balance. That was a big win for us.”

River Hawks leading scorer Emma Paul had 12 points, and Kyla Fitzgerald added 11 points.

Armstrong had little time to celebrate, however, as it returned home to face a Hampton team that had lost to the River Hawks by 20 last month.

“We were very fortunate because we knew they would be giving us their best effort,” Callipare said. “They’re right up there in the mix as well, so it was an important game for them. They have a great point guard in Meghan Murray and they’re very well-coached. We had a nice defensive effort again, and we executed down the stretch to be just a little bit better than them.”

Paul once again led the way for the River Hawks with 20 points as Armstrong used a quick start, outscoring the Talbots, 15-7, for an advantage it would not give up in a 48-42 victory.

Juniors Paul and Fitzgerald are two of the leading scorers in the district, averaging 18 and 15 points.

“They are very consistent,” Callipare said. “They might have a game where they are double-teamed or opponents scheme to take them out of the picture, but they are very good players. They understand the game and can read defenses very well. They’re scorers, but they do the other things that are just as important.”

While Paul and Fitzgerald grab the headlines on most nights, Callipare talked about the role players and how important they have been.

Players such as senior Olivia Yancy, juniors Sarai Weaver, Kali Allensworth, Sophia DeGregorio and sophomores Bella Yancy and Marlo Mellish have all accepted their roles as starters or coming off the bench.

“They all bring something a little different,” Callipare said. “Depending on what kind of game it is or who we are playing, we may start or bring certain people off the bench. Without them, we are not a 17-3 team.”

The chase for the Section 2-5A title has been a three-team race for most of the season. Coming into the final week, Mars is 8-2, Armstrong is 8-3 and Hampton is 7-3.

The River Hawks conclude section play Tuesday when they visit Fox Chapel and wrap up the regular season Feb. 13 at home against Gateway.

Finishing strong would definitely help the seeding process for Armstrong.

“You want to be playing your best basketball at the end, and hopefully we’re trending in that direction,” Callipare said. “We want to put Armstrong girls basketball on the map. We’re having the best season in program history. We want to be in that conversation with the Oakland Catholics and the McKeesports and South Fayettes. But we still have a lot of work to do.”

2023 Trib HSSN Girls Basketball Teams of the Week

Week 4 — North Allegheny Tigers

Week 3 — Oakland Catholic Eagles

Week 2 — Blackhawk Cougars

Week 1 — Shady Side Academy Bulldogs


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