Westmoreland high school girls basketball notebook: Yough revels in snapped streak

Wednesday, January 27, 2021 | 6:58 PM

Yough is showing steady improvement and the proof is in the numbers.

Especially one gigantic, glaring number: 99.

That was how many section games the Cougars had lost in a row before they finally broke through last week.

Yes, they almost lost 100 consecutive section games dating to 2013.

Coach Mike Gerdich’s team broke a less daunting 15-game overall losing streak with a 52-14 win over Jeannette last Friday. But they followed it up with the big one — a 48-38 victory over WPIAL newcomer Ligonier Valley that wiped away the streak. The eyesore. The bruise that wouldn’t heal.

“Thank God that’s over,” Gerdich said.

The Cougars had not won two games in a row since 2015. This is a program that was 1-19 in 2016-17 and 0-21 in 2017-18.

“Our young ladies fight hard night in and night out so it’s really nice to see positive things happening for them,” Gerdich said. “We are playing more competitively, and that’s a huge step in the right direction for our program. Hopefully we’ll get a few more W’s before this crazy season is over.”

Momentum can do wonders for fledgling teams, and that was evident Monday when Yough pushed Belle Vernon to the brink before falling 44-33.

Last year, Belle Vernon beat Yough by scores of 68-25 and 58-15.

In the teams’ latest meeting, Belle Vernon led 33-28 heading to the fourth quarter.

“It has been exciting these last three games,” sophomore forward Laney Gerdich said. “We are starting to come together as a team and are really starting to become more competitive.

“I’m excited to see how the rest of the season goes. I’m keeping my fingers crossed everyone stays healthy.”

With all teams eligible for the playoffs this season, Yough could take an improved group into the Class 4A bracket with a new concept around the program: confidence.

Returning to action

Two programs are shaking off the effects of a covid-19 shutdown.

Franklin Regional got back to practicing Tuesday after a 10-day pause, and Hempfield is set to return Saturday after its own stoppage.

Contact tracing has sidelined a number of county teams.

Franklin Regional and Hempfield were scheduled to play one another Saturday, but that game was postponed. It would have matched Hempfield coach Tom Brush against his daughter, Maria, a senior guard at Franklin Regional.

Hempfield only has played once, which means it will go about a month between games.

“It’s brutal,” Tom Brush said.

Franklin Regional is scheduled to host Latrobe Monday.

Coaching chain

Gene Brisbane was rarely short on talented athletes when he coached Hempfield for 20 years. The current Derry coach produced dozens of college-level players, but many of his prized pupils went into coaching as well.

A lengthy list of alumni who turned to the bench include Jill Cupples Sweeney, who was Brisbane’s former assistant who also coached at Seton Hill; Wendy Whitehead Martelle was another assistant at Hempfield; Monica Borkovich Cox coached middle school hoops at Hempfield; Kara Waltenbaugh coached the middle school team and was a Hempfield assistant; Katrina Kenney Lucas coached at a high school on the eastern side of the state; Melissa Lupinacci and Lindsay Sullenberger coached at the middle school level at Obama Academy; Nikki Plassio Shannon was an assistant at Latrobe; Nicole Angelopolis coached middle school at Hempfield; and Taylor Lubinsky Waltenbaugh was a Hempfield assistant and now serves as an assistant at Belle Vernon.

Big week for Scotties

Class 4A No. 4 Southmoreland (5-2) wants to repeat as a section champion, but the Scotties likely will have to navigate a tough, three-game stretch to get there.

It starts Thursday night at Belle Vernon, a team that gave them some trouble last season. It will complete the first rotation of section games, which resets when Southmoreland hosts West Mifflin on Monday night. West Mifflin clipped the Scotties earlier in the season 36-35.

The third leg of the test will be next Thursday at Elizabeth Forward, traditionally a tough place to play. Southmoreland won the first meeting 53-40.

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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