WPIAL Girls Basketball Team of the Week: Week ending Feb. 8

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Sunday, February 9, 2020 | 8:48 PM


When the regular season’s stretch run began two weeks ago, Penn Hills was below .500 and in the middle of the Section 3-5A hunt.

Four sections win later, including victories last week over the top two teams in the section, and suddenly the Indians have a ton of momentum on their side as they prepare for the postseason.

“We were never really playing bad basketball. We just couldn’t finish games,” Penn Hills fourth-year coach Robert Cash said. “We looked at ourselves in the mirror at practice and began to work on ourselves.

“We knew that if we worked harder and focused a little bit longer we could’ve won some of those games. The Uniontown loss was a smack in the face to us, and we turned it up after that game.”

That loss came Jan. 27, and Penn Hills hasn’t lost since.

The Indians’ strong finish began with a 15-point victory on the road at Oakland Catholic.

“The focus we came out with and the intensity level we played at was the key,” Cash said. “We didn’t let up, and we didn’t allow them to make a run. We were really upset about the loss to them at our place a few weeks earlier.”

The Indians concluded section play Friday by crushing section champion Woodland Hills, 55-28.

“Woodland Hills was a great win for us,” Cash said. “They are a great team with 18 wins. We just wanted to make sure we played a complete game and see what the score look like after that. I am proud of how they played (Friday) against Woodland Hills.”

Junior Amoni Blackhawk led the way in both wins, scoring 23 points against the Eagles and 22 in the upset of the Wolverines.

But Cash likes the contributions from many players who have led to the team’s recent success.

“We just asked everybody to do a little bit more,” Cash said. “Give it your all like it is your last game. We knew we had the talent to play with anybody, but we lacked the mental toughness and the focus it took to put teams away. We have some new-found energy, and we just have to stay focused on us.”

So what has been the key to this surge?

“Learning how to focus, execute, have confidence in each other and play with intensity for 32 minutes,” Cash said. “And that goes for everybody: Coaches, players on the bench and players on the floor.”

With wins over two of the top teams in Class 5A, how does Cash feel about his team as they prepare for the postseason?

“We’ve been in the playoffs eight years in a row now. We have been to the semifinals five of the last six years. We have what it takes to make a run, but we also know what it takes to make a run.

“Now it is time to just execute and let the chips fall wherever they may fall. Now it is one game at a time and anybody can steal one. We just want to be the ‘best us’ and see how things go.”

Previous Trib HSSN Teams of the Week:

Week 7 – Carlynton Cougars

Week 6 – Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Chargers

Week 5 – Woodland Hills Wolverines

Week 4 – West Greene Pioneers

Week 3 – Southmoreland Scotties

Week 2 – Bethel Park Black Hawks

Week 1 – Hopewell Vikings

Don Rebel hosts the Rebel Yell podcasts for HSSN.

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