WPIAL Girls Basketball Player of the Week — Week ending Feb. 15

Sunday, February 16, 2020 | 9:35 PM

There were only 34 WPIAL girls basketball games played last week: 30 on the final night of the regular season and four playoff games Friday.

In two of those games, Ellis School junior Natalie Jasper was a dominant force.

“Natalie has been one of our leaders this season both on and off the floor,” Ellis School coach Dan LaGamba said. “Towards the end of last season, Natalie stated to take on more of a leadership role. She was our field general on the floor. At the end of last season, it was apparent with her leadership on the floor that she be named one of the captains for this season.”

In the regular season finale, Jasper scored 27 points in a win over Northgate for the Tigers (16-6).

“The key for her was she took what Northgate gave her,” LaGamba said. “She did not try to force plays. I always tell her to stay within herself and take what the defense gives her, and she did that on Monday.”

As runner-up to top-seed Serra Catholic in Section 2, Ellis School was seeded No. 6 when the WPIAL Class 2A brackets were released Tuesday.

On Friday, the Tigers opened the postseason with a 59-39 victory over Shenango. Ellis School jumped out to an 11-point lead by halftime and cruised from there.

“Natalie’s ability to score is truly fun to watch,” LaGamba said. “What stood out to me on Friday was her calm and cool demeanor. The stage was not too big for her. She knows when to push the ball and when to pull back and run the offense to get quality shots for her and her teammates.”

Jasper scored 31 points in the playoff victory.

“Most people see the points just the points that she scores,” LaGamba said. “One of her strengths is her ability to handle the ball under pressure and get to the basket. Another strength that she has is her speed both on the offensive end and the defensive end.

“Another one of Natalie’s strengths is her defensive ability night in and night out. We are always asking her to watch the other team’s top offensive player.”

LaGamba believes Jasper has become one of the elite players in the WPIAL because of her work ethic.

“Natalie is the type of player that always has a basketball in her hand,” he said. “She is always in the gym working on her craft. One thing that has stood out to me that has really improved is her shooting ability from the outside.”

Ellis School advanced to the quarterfinals for a second straight year and will face defending champion Our Lady of the Sacred Heart on Thursday.

“It is going to a great challenge for our team and our program,” LaGamba said. “OLSH has been in this spot before, and they are the defending champions. We are really excited to be in this position, and I think it is going to be a really good game.”

Honorable mention

Maya Roberts, Winchester Thurston

The sophomore has picked up her game with key injuries to Winchester Thurston. Roberts scored 21 points in a season-ending loss to Clairton on Monday and then scored 17 of her team’s 30 points in a 30-24 victory over Chartiers-Houston in a Class 2A first-round game.

Sydney Payne, South Side

Senior Sydney Payne scored 27 points, including seven free throws in the fourth quarter, of Friday’s 61-47 win for South Side over Frazier in the first round of the WPIAL Class 2a playoffs.

Sydney McDonough, Riverview

Riverview trailed Burgettstown by 10 points heading into the fourth quarter before things turned around thanks in part to the play of senior Sydney McDonough,. McDonough scored a game-high 15 points, including two free throws with 23 seconds left as Riverview edged Burgettstown, 32-28, for the Raiders’ first playoff win since 2016.

Previous Trib HSSN Players of the Week:

Week Eight – Maggie Dziezgowski, Bethel Park

Week Seven – Bella Skobel, Charleroi

Week Six – Sydney Cook, New Brighton

Week Five – Reilly Sunday, Moon

Week Four – Ashleigh Connor, Mt. Lebanon

Week Three – Alyssa Pollice, Bishop Canevin

Week Two – Jhayla Bray, McKeesport

Week One – Kennedie Montue, Plum

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