Westmoreland girls basketball notebook: Latrobe’s Blair is double-double machine

Wednesday, February 16, 2022 | 4:55 PM

When the ball goes up, Emma Blair is ready for it to come down.

The Latrobe junior forward takes many would-be rebounders to task, firmly planting herself into a position to snare a missed shot and give the Wildcats a fresh chance at a putback or new possession.

The 6-foot-1 Blair cards double-doubles like it’s in her contract to do so. In 18 games this season, she has an impressive 14 double-doubles.

She had 23- and 16-rebound games against Woodland Hills and a 20-point, 20-rebound performance when the Wildcats played Gateway.

Blair might be Latrobe’s answer to Dennis Rodman most nights, but she is far from just a rebounder.

She has stepped up her offensive game, especially during a late-season stretch when senior forward Anna Rafferty was injured.

“Emma has worked very hard on her footwork and post moves, and that is translating into her scoring more this year,” Latrobe coach Mark Burkhardt said. “Rebounding-wise, she has an innate ability to read where the rebounds are going. She has also improved her physical strength, which makes it difficult to take the ball away from her. She is one of the best female rebounders I have coached.”

Blair, who plays AAU for the Western PA Bruins, could end up garnering Division I and II college attention.

“I’m not sure why schools already haven’t flocked to her,” Burkhardt said. “She can shoot it from the outside, too. We just haven’t needed her to.”

Latrobe, seeded No. 7 in Class 5A, opens the WPIAL playoffs 7 p.m. Tuesday at home against Mars (17-5).

Norwin injuries

Norwin won’t open the WPIAL Class 6A playoffs until Wednesday when it hosts Bethel Park. That is good news for the Lady Knights, who are hoping to have three injured players ready for the postseason.

Senior Chloe Lukondi (ankle), sophomore Bailey Snowberger (knee) and sophomore Lauren Palangio (shoulder) missed some time over the last week, so extra rest could be what they need as No. 4 seed Norwin prepares to make a run.

“Usually, I am not a big fan of the downtime,” Norwin coach Brian Brozeski said. “But this year I wish we actually had more of it.”

Matching seeds

It’s not often girls and boys teams from the same schools are awarded the same seedings for the WPIAL basketball playoffs, but that occurred with two local programs.

Monessen’s teams are both No. 5, the boys in 2A and the girls in A, and Greensburg Central Catholic has the No. 4 seed in the 2A brackets.

The Our Lady of the Sacred Heart teams both earned No. 1 seeds in 2A.

Penn-Trafford’s teams have differing seeds — the girls are No. 6, the boys 12 — but both will play at Upper St. Clair in their playoff openers.

Moracco’s mark

The number 1,163 will be significant for any budding girls basketball player at Derry. That is the career point total — and school scoring record — of Trojans’ senior Tiana Moracco, who scored 29 in her last high school game Monday — a 57-46 loss to West Shamokin.

She is planning to mull over some Division III college offers and make a decision soon.

That Leroux?

South Fayette could be in line for a rematch with Latrobe in the 5A playoffs. Latrobe (17-3) will remember the second-seeded Lions (18-4) well, having beat them in the first round last year 52-47.

But the Wildcats also will remember South Fayette’s 6-foot-4 junior forward, Ava Leroux, who played well against Anna Rafferty and Emma Blair around the rim.

Leroux, who has multiple Division I scholarship offers, is the daughter of former Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Francois Leroux. And that would explain Ava’s size: In his prime, her dad was a physical specimen with a physical approach — 6-6 and 240 pounds — and he bashed wingers into the boards.

South Fayette, which also features guard Maddie Webber (17 ppg), has to get past No. 15 Greensburg Salem (15-7) first. Those teams play 8 p.m. Tuesday at South Fayette.

Latrobe (17-3) hosts Mars (17-5) 7 p.m. Tuesday in the first round.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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