Trib HSSN Girls Basketball Team of the Week: Winchester Thurston Bears

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Sunday, February 17, 2019 | 6:52 PM


The TribLive Girls Basketball Team of the Week is a two-time WPIAL champion in Class A that is on its way to the Class 2A quarterfinals: the Winchester Thurston Bears.

Winning two straight district crowns might seemingly make a first-round victory somewhat insignificant.

But after getting hit hard by graduation and moving up in class, this season has been a struggle for Winchester Thurston. The Bears had to win their final two Section 2-2A games just to make the playoffs.

As the No. 10 seed, the Bears knocked off Section 3 runner-up Frazier, 60-56, in Round 1 on Friday.

“The win was amazing for our team because we were the underdogs going into the game, and it felt great winning the game when everyone is doubting you,” veteran Winchester Thurston coach Monica Williams said.

After an early 16-7 lead after one quarter, the Bears struggled through the next two and trailed 44-40. But a big fourth quarter in which Winchester Thurston outscored Frazier, 20-12, was the difference.

“We went back to what gave us the lead in the first quarter: getting the ball inside,” Williams said. “I told the girls in the huddle that’s there is no tomorrow if we lose this game. They responded well to that message.”

Bears leading scorer sophomore Nya Nicholson was held to 11 points, but freshman Maya Roberts stepped up with 28 points.

“Maya and Nya have been big for me this year,” Williams said. “I was worried in the beginning because we are so young, and my leading scorers are a new freshman and a sophomore that I put a lot of pressure on to step up and put this young team on their backs.”

It didn’t help that senior guard Kate Chaillet missed the early part of the season with an injury suffered in cross country.

“I can see her finally getting back to herself because she is all over the place defensively,” Williams said. “But having the two youngest players on the floor shows such confidence and makes you look forward to what in store in the future.”

The week began for Winchester Thurston with a 57-22 win over St. Joseph on Monday in the regular-season finale.

The Bears advanced to the 2A quarterfinals Thursday against No. 2 seed Brentwood. Williams was asked if it’s different without the bull’s-eye on their back like in years past, but she believes the target is still there.

“After having two unbelievable seasons, teams are coming for us because they assume we wouldn’t be as good with Gia (Thorpe) and Ayanna (Townsend) leaving. And we also moved up a class, so they don’t want the new team coming up and defeating teams that have been here.

“But all I can say is that this young tram has a lot of heart, and I am convinced that they will give a 100 percent effort throughout the playoffs.”

Don Rebel hosts the Rebel Yell podcasts for HSSN.

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