Westmoreland County girls basketball notebook: Youth no problem for Penn-Trafford

Friday, December 31, 2021 | 6:01 AM

Senior night shouldn’t take very long at Penn-Trafford this year.

Guard Maura Suman might feel a little lonely when the spotlight shines on her. She is the team’s only senior.

The Warriors feature just three juniors, five sophomores and seven freshmen, an inexperienced but hungry rotation that isn’t backing down from Class 6A basketball.

When they played Hempfield, the starting five featured Suman plus freshman Lauren Marton, juniors Kylie Piconi and Lillian Paladino and sophomore Olivia Pepple.

Freshman Kamryn Pieper came off the bench and scored a game-high 19 points, while Suman (14), sophomore reserve Elle Visco (11), and Pepple (11) also scored in double figures in the 63-39 win.

“Our kids need to grow up quickly and they know that,” Warriors coach John Giannikas said. “They are ready to contribute now. They are not afraid of the moment.”

Most of girls on the team are guards due to a combination of a lack of size and varied skill sets.

“We go as our guards go,” Giannikas said. “When we play our best, we have a balanced attack.”

Freshman to watch

Watch a Franklin Regional girls basketball game and one player stands out because of her imposing size. Six-foot forward Toryn Fulton has long arms and legs and potential to be one of the better “bigs” in the area.

“She is one of those athletes you know can be a factor for us,” Franklin Regional coach Bernie Pucka said.

Fulton has pedigree. She is the daughter of former New York Yankees pitcher Billy Fulton out of Penn Hills. Her dad played briefly in the majors in 1987.

Naturally, Toryn also is a talented softball player. She plays travel ball for Team PA, where she is a shortstop and center fielder.

Clutch frosh

Latrobe ninth-grader Carley Berk also showed she is not afraid of the spotlight. In a recent game against Armstrong, Berk converted a three-point play with less than one second remaining to give the Wildcats a 52-50 win.

Scotties hang tough

Southmoreland, the top-ranked team in WPIAL Class 4A, gave 6A No. 2 Upper St. Clair (7-0) all it could handle in the Cal U Tournament, falling 47-45.

The Scotties, out to stretch this season out longer than any that came before it, outscored the Panthers in the third quarter, 15-5, to get within 35-32 before fading some in the fourth.

Playing big

Sophomore Tessa Rodriguez is one of the smallest players on the Belle Vernon roster, but that hasn’t stopped her from leading the team in several statistical categories, including rebounds.

Five games into the season, Rodriguez, a 5-foot-3 guard, was the Leopards’ leader in rebounds (32), assists (43), steals (23) and blocks (6). She had 24 defensive rebounds.

Rodriguez also competes in track and cross country.

Zelmore keeps pace

Mt. Pleasant junior Tiffany Zelmore continues to be a problem for opponents. But the 5-foot-10 forward isn’t just getting points around the rim on layups and putbacks. No, Zelmore is stretching her scoring range to include pull-up jumpers and even 3-pointers.

“She has shown in a couple games this year she can shoot from the perimeter, drive to the basket or set up in the post,” Mt. Pleasant coach Scott Giacobbi said. “She can be a matchup problem because she can also run in transition.”

She had 27 points in a 54-48 win over Monessen in the Mt. Pleasant Tournament on Tuesday.

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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