WPIAL Girls Basketball Team of the Week: Week ending Feb. 1
Sunday, February 2, 2020 | 8:13 PM
For most of this season, the chase for the top spot in Section 3-3A has involved four teams.
But a strong week by Carlynton has given the Cougars the edge heading into the final week of the regular season.
The Cougars are 10-2 in the section and have a one-game lead over Derry and a two-game advantage over Deer Lakes and East Allegheny.
“Our whole idea from preseason was to be able to be in position at the end of the season and playing our best ball,” second-year coach Darian Robbins said. “We had some setbacks with overall health of some key members of the team, but our goal never changed.
“In fact, the early injuries were a blessing in disguise as it made some of our younger members step in quicker than expected and grow in their roles. We knew once we were back to full strength we would be OK, and that is being proven right now.”
Carlynton has won eight straight games, including seven section victories in a row to take over sole possession of first place.
Robbins believes defense has been a big part of his team’s success. The Cougars allow only 40 points per game, the third-best average in all of Class 3A.
“Having the mindset to stop teams from doing what they do best dictates much of our success this season,” Robbins said.
Robbins also likes the mix of his team, from seniors hwo have enjoyed success in the past to young players contributing for the first time.
“We have the Class 3A preseason player of the year in Jada Lee playing at a high level along with (Angelica) Diallo, Haley Williams and Jaelyn Melko, who is back for the first time after being injured. When you have a mix of experienced upperclassmen mixed with eager-to-learn underclassmen, you always stand a chance to be successful.”
Niama Turner and Chloe Williams are freshmen who have received a chance to play more because of injuries, and their effort on both sides of the ball have added to the Cougars’ depth.
This past week, the latest Carlynton wins came in wins at home over South Allegheny and at Shady Side Academy.
“Coming into this week, I challenged the team with the word ‘redemption,’ ” Robbins said. “Both South Allegheny and Shady Side were our only two section losses, and playing them both in the same week was something of an opportunity for us to really show what we can do when we are healthy.
“Since practice on Saturday morning, our staff called this week ‘Redemption Week,’ ” our chance to show ourselves what we are made of. We really locked in on the defensive end and tried to create offense from that, tried to create havoc on them from jump ball to end horn.”
The Cougars outscored the Gladiators and Indians by a combined 137-70.
With five strong teams in the hunt in Section 1 beating each other, with Section 2 leader Seton LaSalle losing at home to third place Charleroi last week and Section 3 being tight all season, Robbins was asked if Class 3A is going to be one of the deepest and hardest tournaments come WPIAL playoff time in a few weeks.
“There are so many great teams out there,” he said, “and they all battle every day to be better. As a coach, I love to see that. It’s been great competition.
“We control if we win or lose based on how we execute. How and why we get placed is for someone else to deal with. I do not envy that position — because this class is so deep — that really good teams are going to be left out.”
Previous Trib HSSN Teams of the Week:
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