With experienced lineup, new coach, Yough girls hoping for another playoff season

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Monday, November 27, 2023 | 2:50 PM


Excuse Brian Znavor as he navigates a return to high school basketball. He’s been out of the loop for a bit.

“Probably 12 or 13 years,” the first-year Yough girls coach said. “I think cellphones were just getting popular around my last year. I still remember when we had phone trees with the players.”

Znavor, who coached the Yough boys for five years during the program’s high point when all-timer Ben McCauley played for the Cougars, is set to guide the girls for the first time.

A Norwin graduate, he also led the Elizabeth Forward boys for two years.

“It’s different, but I am adjusting,” Znavor said. “I coached my stepdaughter (Lia) for 10 years, since she was in third grade (in Norwin travel ball), so it’s not all foreign to me. I am welcoming it and enjoying it.”

Znavor, a middle school teacher at Yough, took over after Mike Gerdich resigned following his sixth season as coach.

Gerdich was an assistant with Znavor on the boys’ side.

“He built the foundation,” Znavor said. “Now we want to expand upon it.”

Yough made the playoffs last year for the first time in a decade, falling to Beaver Falls in the first round at home.

Four starters are back in senior 5-foot-9 swing-forward Autumn Matthews, 5-10 junior forward Hailey Bock, sophomore guard/forward Kadie Roebuck and junior guard Brooke Wieland.

Matthews could make a move to point guard.

“We want to get the ball in Autumn’s hands a lot,” Znavor said. “Bock is going to be a good post player for us. I’d love for us to pressure the ball.

“The girls have a willingness to learn and apply what they learn. They will come to compete.”

Yough is looking to increase its scoring output after averaging just 38 points last season. The Cougars, though, allowed only 37.7.

The season tips off Dec. 1 for Yough against Valley at the Deer Lakes tournament.

Sophomore guard Carly Fitzgibbons saw valuable time last year and will be another key player. Znavor also will look to sophomores Leah Boris and Kylee Odelli to boost the backcourt.

Also watch freshman Brooke Kowalski.

Football coach Ben Hoffer is an assistant and junior varsity coach for the Cougars.

Znavor’s other assistants are Steve Mlinarich and Gina Dansak.

Yough girls at a glance

Last year’s record: 10-12, 5-5 Section 4-3A

Returning starters: Hailey Bock (Jr., F), Autumn Matthews (Sr., G/F), Kadie Roebuck (So., G/F), Brooke Wieland (Jr., G)

Top newcomers: Leah Boris (So., F), Carly Fitzgibbons (So., G), Kylee Odelli (So., G)

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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