Trib HSSN girls basketball team of the week: Penn Hills
By: Don Rebel
Sunday, January 13, 2019 | 8:48 PM
The Trib’s girls basketball teamof the week is Section 3-5A frontrunner Penn Hills.
After losing to Norwin in the 2015 WPIAL Class AAAA title game, Penn Hills lost in the semifinals of the district playoffs the next two years. Then last season, the Indians lost 31-30 in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs.
Was this a program going backward? The answer through the first half of section play this season is a resounding “no.”
A drop to Class 5A breathed new life into the program, which is 6-0 in section play and 10-3 overall, including five straight wins. Coach Robert Cash said the team’s play without the basketball has been key.
“For us, the key is always our defense,” he said. “We understand that if we lock into our keys defensively we give ourselves a chance to win every night.”
The Indians have the third-stingiest defense in Class 5A behind Chartiers Valley and Oakland Catholic. Cash was asked if it was easy for his team to buy into his defensive style of play.
“Not really. But it does take some time to figure what works for them and what doesn’t,” he said. “You have to make adjustments according to your personnel.
“My kids understand that if they don’t play defense then they can’t play. Defense wins championships, and that is what we want to compete for every year.”
Penn Hills began last week with a 63-24 blowout of Albert Gallatin on Tuesday. Then on Thursday, that defensive mindset was on display in a section showdown at Oakland Catholic.
The Eagles were averaging nearly 60 points, but the Indians shut them down, and when senior Adia Brisker beat the buzzer with a layup, Penn Hills was alone in first place after a 32-31 win.
“It was huge because it has set the table for us,” Cash said. “Every win that you can get away from home is important. We didn’t play well offensively but found a way to win by one.”
Cash likes what he sees from his team as it approaches the midway point of section play.
“I think we are pretty good right now, but we are working to get better. This team is very deep and can play many different ways. As you can see, our offense has not caught up to our defense yet.
“Now that we are fully healthy, we can focus a little more on offense and get ready to go. In a few weeks, I expect us to be a lot better than we are now.“
Another battle for first place awaits the Indians on Tuesday when they host 5-1 Woodland Hills in a game that will be broadcast on the TribLive High School Sports Network.
Don Rebel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Don at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @TheDonRebel.
Tags: Penn Hills