Westmoreland County athletes of the week: Penn-Trafford’s Olivia Pepple, Mt. Pleasant’s Joseph Gardner

Sunday, March 5, 2023 | 12:20 AM

Olivia Pepple

School: Penn-Trafford

Class: Junior

Sport: Basketball

Claim to fame: Pepple took over the fourth quarter Thursday against Hampton to keep the Warriors’ season alive. She scored 11 of her 17 points, including a key 3-pointer, as Penn-Trafford won 49-44 to earn seventh place in WPIAL Class 5A.

Pepple, a 5-foot-9 guard who is drawing some lower Division I college interest, leads the Warriors in scoring at 18 points per game.

What was going through your mind when Hampton started coming back Thursday night?

When Hampton started coming back, I knew I had to take over the game. I thought to myself that I really didn’t want my season to end that night, and I know my teammates felt the same way, so I stepped up and we eventually came out with the win.

Do you think the team still has enough gas in the tank to win in the PIAA playoffs?

This late into the season, a lot of us are physically beat up and tired. With that said, I know my teammates well enough to confidently say that we’re going to give it our all at states and, hopefully, make a run.

What will it take to win in the state bracket?

We need to clean things up. Boxing out, taking care of the ball, limiting turnovers, hitting free throws (etc.). I know we have the ability to win. We just need to go out and play our best game.

How impressive was Maddie Webber of South Fayette (39 points vs. Penn-Trafford)?

Maddie was really impressive in that game. Going into it, we knew she was a great player, but you have to see it to believe it, I guess. We all certainly believe it now.

Are you girls playing for senior Kylee Piconi, who is out with a knee injury?

We definitely step out on the court for Kylee each night. After committing for softball, she didn’t have to come back to basketball at all. She was selfless and decided to play, and every night we wish that she could still be playing.

How many career points do you have?

Right now, I have 768 career points.

Who was your favorite Penn-Trafford basketball player when you were younger?

Maria Palarino.

You have to wear a walking boot for your foot injury. Are you improving pain-wise?

For a while, my foot was making a lot of improvement. In the game against Trinity on Monday, I landed on someone’s foot, and the pain got significantly worse. I’m wearing the walking boot to give my foot rest during the day so that when it comes to game time, the pain should hopefully be better.

What part of your game are you most proud of?

Being able to get to the rim and finish. I feel like I have the ability to take over games and make clutch shots.

What part would you like to improve on?

My 3-point shooting. I think that if I make that percentage higher, I’ll be really hard to guard.

Do you expect recruiting to take off this summer?

I hope that recruiting takes off this summer. All I can do is play like I know how and reach out to coaches, and the rest will take care of itself.

My favorite thing about Penn-Trafford High School is ______?

How everyone supports each other. It makes being in school enjoyable.

Who is the team prankster, bookworm and “mom”?

The team mom is Bryana Bennett, always making sure we have hand sanitizer after games. The team prankster is Kamryn Pieper, and the team bookworm is Marielle Wilson.

Who is the toughest player on the team?

I think that everyone on the team is pretty tough, but the toughest will have to go to Kylee Piconi.

The bus ride to the opening state game will be fun because _____?

The dance parties we have on the way there. We have good team chemistry, which makes long trips like that really fun.

Have you ever been to an NBA game?

No, but I would love to go to one one day.

Before a game I like to ______?

Take a nap and then listen to music with my teammates.

Did you go to the “Pete” to watch the WPIAL finals?

Yes … although I wish I were playing in it.

Do you ever dip into scorekeeper Don Koncsol’s bag of candy at the scorer’s table?

Yes, but only if we win. It’s something small that we all look forward to after games.

Joseph Gardner

School: Mt. Pleasant Area

Class: Sophomore

Sport: Swimming

Claim to fame: Set a WPIAL Class 2A record in winning the 100-yard breaststroke March 3. His record time, his second fastest, was 55.81 seconds. His personal best time is 55.69. He also placed fourth in the 200 IM and helped two relay teams place: second in the medley relay and fourth in the 400 freestyle relay.

What’s it mean to be a WPIAL champion?

It means a lot to me. I come from a wrestling family, and I look up to my sisters: Heather, Sara Jo and Lynn Joelle. I’ve learned a lot from them and saw how hard they worked. I want to be the best I can, and it’s a big challenge following in their footsteps. Heather and Sara Jo were WPIAL and PIAA champions.

What was your feeling when you knew you won the 100 breaststroke?

It was a great feeling. I was so excited. It was exciting to set a WPIAL record.

What’s your goal for states?

I want to be a state champion. As far as work is concerned, I started over the summer. Right now rest and practice are important. I have to work on the little things to get better,

What other sports did you play growing up?

I played baseball, football and I was really good at wrestling. But it would be tough to do both sports because both are in the winter. It would be tough to be really successful, so I picked swimming.

How old were you when you started swimming?

I was 7, but I didn’t start competing until from freshman year. That’s my focus now.

What is you favorite event?

A: I like the 100 breaststroke. It’s my best event, and it was the event my sisters excelled in.

Who is your favorite swimmer?

You can’t go wrong with Michael Phelps. He was the greatest of all time.

Do you plan on swimming in college?

Yes, but colleges can’t talk to me now. I’ll start looking this summer.

What is your favorite snack?

Apples and peanut butter. I usually have that before a workout.

After a meet or practice, where do you and your friends head for a snack?

Applebee’s. You can’t beat the half price appetizers.

What is your favorite meal that your mother makes?

It has to be her honey barbeque chicken over rice.

If you were to have a lunch or dinner with someone famous, who would it be?

Myself. I’d talk about whatever comes up.

What music do you listen to before a meet?

I like to listen to Kanye West.

Where is your favorite vacation spot?

Wherever I can go camping.

It there a place you’d like to visit?

Probably Wyoming. I heard it’s beautiful.

Do you have any hobbies?

I live to fish and hunt. I bagged a few bucks during archery season.

What do you want to do with your life?

I’d like to be a chiropractor or physical therapist.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.


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