Yough girls basketball program continues to gain steam as new section awaits

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Monday, November 28, 2022 | 3:51 PM


The gymnasium at Yough is squeaking with basketball shoes, and there is energy in the air as girls run laps to open a practice.

Their giddy chatter echoes off the bleachers.

“Our numbers are up this year across the board,” sixth-year coach Mike Gerdich said.

Yough will have 17 players across its varsity and junior varsity rosters, a nice total for a program that has made gradual improvements in recent years. Case in point: The Cougars have 10 wins in the last two years after winning 11 games combined from 2013-20.

Interest is the genesis of any competitive program, especially one trying to turn a corner. Gerdich has seen a spike in participation at the lower levels, too, with 20 players at the seventh- and eighth-grade level, while the elementary program has more than 50 girls (kindergarten through sixth grade).

The best programs rarely take time off nowadays, and Gerdich said that concept is coming in loud and clear at Yough. Basketball doesn’t start in November and end in February.

“Our teams are getting better and moving in a forward direction because I think our young ladies are starting to understand that you have to constantly work at your craft if you want to get better and be better,” Gerdich said. “We understand that it’s the offseason where work needs to be done. Our young ladies have responded with a number of them attending summer open gyms, participating in AAU and showing up for our summer league games or shootouts.”

An solid core, one that is more experienced and free of the wide-eyed wonder of varsity ball, has made roll call in senior returning starters Laney Gerdich and Mikayla Chewning and junior Autumn Matthews.

Laney Gerdich, a 6-foot center, averaged 10 points and 11 rebounds last season when the Cougars finished 6-14. She will play with her back the basket like her father did when he played at McKeesport and Saint Vincent.

Yough will drop to Class 3A and retrace its tire tracks on Route 70 with Section 4 games against Brownsville, Charleroi, McGuffey, South Park and Waynesburg.

Matthews scored 11 points and pulled down nine rebounds a game, and Chewning went for an eight-point average.

Senior Alexis Wieland and sophomore Hailey Bock, coach Gerdich said, are looking to contribute.

The Cougars want to adapt to their opponents.

“We’ll play uptempo when we can,” coach Gerdich said, “and slow it down when we have to.”

Yough has not made the WPIAL playoffs since 2009-10, which also was the last year it had a winning record (11-8).

The new section will keep the Cougars on their toes as they learn about new opponents.

“Admittedly, I don’t know enough about our new section,” coach Gerdich said. “I’m sure on any given night we are going to have our hands full and will need to play complete games if we want to have any success in the section. If we do what we know we are capable of, then we should be able to be right in the fight for a playoff spot.”

Yough girls at a glance

Coach: Mike Gerdich

Last year’s record: 6-14 (4-8 Section 3-4A)

Returning starters: Mikayla Chewning (Sr. G), Laney Gerdich (Sr., F/C), Autumn Matthews (Jr., G/F)

Top newcomers: Hailey Bock (So., G), Alexis Wielad (So., G)

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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