WPIAL Girls Basketball Team of the Week: Week ending Jan. 26
Sunday, January 26, 2020 | 10:19 PM
A year ago, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart was not the favorite in Class 2A, yet the Chargers raised eyebrows by beating Burgettstown, Serra Catholic, Bishop Canevin and Brentwood to win the school’s first WPIAL girls basketball crown.
Now, they are trying to be the team to beat as they head into the final two weeks of the regular season.
After two more wins last week, the Chargers have won 10 straight and are alone in first place in Section 1-2A.
“We have had 10 different starting line-ups, and we have 9 to 10 players who have the ability to be a gameday contributor,” coach Don Eckerle said. “Our role players from last year are now starters. The best part is the players have embraced this team-first concept.”
This year’s Chargers team is unlike the team that raised gold a year ago. Last year, OLSH relied on a the scoring of Ashley Norling and Maddie Hoff. This year, it’s all hands and scoring on deck. Juniors Grace Bradley, Abby Aiello and Addy Valdez and sophomores Emily Schuck, Kaleigh Costantino, Kennedy Walsh, Katie Hoff and freshman Kylie Nagy have pitched in.
“Last season, we knew where the points would come from,” Eckerle said. “This team is like many of our good teams from the past who shared the ball. We never know who will be the scoring leader, but we put emphasis on steals, defense tips and assists.”
Eckerle feels the 10 wins in a row have given his team momentum as it gets closer to the postseason. While his team has plenty of young talent, Eckerle feels his two seniors are a big part of their success.
“We are led by seniors Haley Hamilton and Hannah Valenty,” he said. “Haley was the WPIAL and PIAA cross country champion and is a four-year starter at point guard. Hannah started last year and is a really good defensive player.”
Last week, OLSH remained perfect in section play with home wins over New Brighton and Shenango.
“Both were different types of games, but defense was the key in both wins,” Eckerle said. “Again, 10 different players saw action in those games with different high scorers in both games.”
Last season, OLSH finished as co-champion with Laurel in Section 1. Heading into the final two weeks of the regular season, the Chargers are 10-0, and the Spartans are 9-1.
On Monday, the two teams battle for first place at Laurel.
“The Spartans are a very well-coached team with really good players,” Eckerle said. “We need to bring our A-game and play much better than the first game. It is always difficult to win on the road, but having a defensive mindset will be the key.”
OLSH is 14-2 overall with both losses coming to teams in higher classifications: Trinity on opening night and Mars in a holiday tournament. Eckerle believes playing in a tough section combined with a challenging nonsection schedule will have his Chargers ready to defend in late February.
“Our section has really good teams again this year,” he said. “We embrace playing a good nonsection schedule. Our players like to play the best competition that will play us.”
Previous Trib HSSN Teams of the Week:
More Basketball• Cheswick Christian Academy pastor and ex-basketball coach ‘doing well’ after heart transplant
• Quaker Valley’s Bailey Garbee commits to American, turns teammates into rivals
• Trib HSSN June Madness quarterfinals: Lauryn Williams, Rochester vs. Christa Harmotto, Hopewell
• Trib HSSN June Madness quarterfinals: Terrelle Pryor, Jeannette vs. A.Q. Shipley, Moon
• Trib HSSN May Madness: Hunter Robinson, Avonworth vs. Rachel Martindale, North Allegheny