Westmoreland girls basketball notebook: Yough making major strides

Wednesday, January 19, 2022 | 9:19 PM

Scores can be indicative of how far struggling programs have come — a measurement of improvement.

For Yough, three results stand out on the schedule.

The Cougars (3-9, 1-3 heading into Wednesday night’s game against No. 4 Southmoreland) did not win any of the three — they weren’t favored to — but they closed the gap significantly and made their opponents work.

The Cougars only lost to Class 4A No. 2 Belle Vernon, 43-34.

Talented Elizabeth Forward had to swat away the Cougars before settling for a 53-41 win.

And Class 5A Plum certainly didn’t coast when it played Yough, squeezing out a 44-36 win.

Word around Section 3-4A is the Cougars are a tough out. Don’t take them lightly and be ready to play physical.

Yough coach Mike Gerdich is seeing gradual development from his team. This is, after all, a program that broke a 99-game section losing streak last season.

“Our young ladies are consistently competing, and as a result, we are hanging around and are still in many of the games in the fourth quarter,” Gerdich said. “The biggest difference is this team, for the most part, doesn’t allow pressure applied by other teams to bother them. It used to be a team would press us and get up by 20 quick, but this team has found a way to handle pressure and they understand their individual roles and understand what needs to be done both in practice and with game preparation for our opponents.”

Yough was allowing the third-fewest points in the section at 43.3. But the Cougars were only scoring 35.8 a game.

“The coaching staff feels the program has taken huge strides in the right direction,” Gerdich said. “Our young ladies have bought into team basketball and believing in each other.”

Yough isn’t a WPIAL title contender, just yet. Baby steps.

“Don’t get me wrong, we have had a few games this year where we didn’t show up to play,” Gerdich said. “However, overall the games have been exciting and competitive.” One player who has helped with Yough’s furtherance is Autumn Matthews, a center who also plays volleyball.

The team’s only sophomore, Matthews had 20 points in a win over Ligonier Valley.

“Autumn Matthews is a very important part of our team,” Gerdich said. “She has been playing well and making consistent positive contributions nightly on offense, as well as defense.”

Charitable Cougars

Yough recently put together a “Hoopin for a Cure Night” to raise money for Mike Pils, a former Yough student who died in 2019 after a battle with brain cancer.

Through concessions, 50/50 raffles and “6th Man” T-shirt sales, Yough raised $221 to donate to the Michael Pils Foundation to help with childhood cancer research.

“Michael knew many of the Yough students, and he had a passion for basketball,” Gerdich said.


It was a head-scratching score to say the least when Norwin hosted Penn-Trafford on Tuesday night in Section 1-6A.

Neither team managed double digits in any quarter. Each team made six two-pointers, but Norwin hit four 3-pointers while the Warriors went 0 for 8 from 3-point range.

Final score: Norwin 29, Penn-Trafford 14. (Adjusts eyes).

“If you told me before the game Norwin will only score 29 points, I’d say I would like our chances,” Penn-Trafford coach John Giannikas said. “I think both teams defended each other very well but also missed some looks that they would like to have back. Their length on defense was definitely difficult for us to deal with. It’s very difficult to simulate that in practice. I have never coached in a game like that before. I couldn’t be prouder of our defensive effort.

“I have to do a better job of getting the players in different spots on the court to score.”

Norwin coach Brian Brozeski called the game “One of a kind.”

“Those types of games happen when you play your rival, you just never know how either team is going to react,” he said. “We need to learn from the experience and find a way to normalize situations. Sometimes it looks as though we try too hard to make a play or make a difference, rather than making the simple play that presents itself naturally in the game.”

Make-up games

The snowstorm Sunday and Monday forced a number of girls basketball postponements Monday night.

Latrobe at Greensburg Salem, a Section 4-5A game, will now be played next Friday night.

A matchup of the top two teams in Section 3-4A, meantime, will now be played Saturday as Belle Vernon will visit Elizabeth Forward at 12:30 p.m.

Another intriguing makeup game will be 1 p.m. Saturday when Southmoreland hosts Mt. Pleasant in Section 3-4A.

Moracco hits milestone

Derry senior guard Tiana Moracco not only eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for her career in Tuesday’s 44-37 loss to Mt. Pleasant, but she moved closer to the school scoring record.

She needs just 23 points to break Lindsay Dixon’s mark of 1,047 points.

Derry (6-6, 3-3) plays at Valley (1-9, 0-4) Thursday night.

Flying solo

Watch a Derry game, and coach Gene Brisbane sometimes looks like he is alone on an island.

That is because he does not have any assistant coaches. Brisbane, in his third year coaching the Trojans, coaches alone.

Brisbane said he had two assistants, but they left the district for employment reasons.

“I wanted to do it,” he said of coaching solo. “We’re making it work.”

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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