COVID-19 interfered with the Chartiers Valley girls basketball team’s plans to repeat as state champions in the spring.
Now, in December, despite the disease’s recent surge, the Colts hope their 2020 agenda is not derailed again.
So far, so good.
CV has not skipped a beat since teams have been allowed to begin practices for winter sports Nov. 20.
“Fingers crossed,” said Colts head coach Tim McConnell. “We have been able to practice and we plan on starting on time.”
CV is scheduled to tip off its season at 12:30 p.m. Dec. 12 at Elizabeth-Forward. However, the Colts do not commence Section 1, Class 5A play until Jan. 4 when they visit Oakland Catholic. McConnell expects the Eagles along with Moon on Jan. 15 to be CV’s toughest opponents.
McConnell said the Colts’ goals are the same every year.
“Win the section, win the WPIAL and win the state championship,” he said.
McConnell is the mastermind behind championship construction. Entering his 28th season as a high school basketball coach, McConnell has compiled a 613-146 career record, complete with 17 section titles, seven WPIAL championships and one state title.
While most of those championships, including 21 PIAA appearances and two state runner-up trophies, occurred during his reign as boys coach, McConnell is unbeaten in the girls’ ranks. After going 30-0 in 2019, the Colts broke the WPIAL record for consecutive victories before the coronavirus ended their season on March 14. CV was 27-0 and a game away from defending its state title.
Because they are taking preventative measures, the Colts have done their part to date to see that they extend their reign in the district as well as the state.
“So far, (COVID-19) has not had any impact on us,” McConnell said. “We are wearing masks in practice and distancing as much as possible.”
CV returns four starters from last year’s undefeated squad, and will look to continue its dominance.
Aislin Malcolm leads the list of returning upperclassmen. Max Preps rated her the best player in the state. The junior has the credentials to back that boast.
She already has major Division I scholarship offers from Penn State, Duke, WVU, Pitt, Duquesne, Davidson, Northeastern, Lafayette, Yale and Princeton.
Malcolm was also invited to the Coach Wootten Basketball Camp held Oct. 24-25 in Texas. The event featured the top 100 seniors and top 50 juniors in the country.
A two-year starter, Malcolm led the Colts in scoring with 16.7 points per game. The 5-10 guard also averaged 4.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.
Malcolm exploded for 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds in CV’s 58-40 WPIAL Class 5A championship win over Trinity. She was 7 of 10 from the field, including 3 of 6 from 3-point range and 6 of 7 from the free-throw line.
“Aislin’s a big-time player,” McConnell said. “She can really shoot the ball.”
Perri Page follows Malcolm’s lead. The 5-11 junior averaged 12.7 points. She led the team in rebounding, pulling down 6.5 boards a game.
“Perri is just an unbelievable athlete,” said McConnell.
Page comes from solid basketball bloodlines. Her father, Julius, was a standout at the University of Pittsburgh before playing professionally in the Continental Basketball Association for the Idaho Stampede. He also played abroad until retiring in 2009.
Page has a scholarship offer from Duquesne University, where her former teammate Megan McConnell is now a freshman.
“Shooting and speed are going to be our team’s strengths,” said McConnell, “but our rebounding and transition defense needs to improve.
“We need to keep working hard to improve every day, if we intend to achieve our goals. That and keep playing unselfishly.”
The Colts’ roster also boast four additional juniors, two of them also returning starters.
Twins Hallie and Helene Cowan have contributed to that success. Hallie averaged 12.5 points and contributed 3.1 rebounds per game. Helene pitched in 5.8 points and pulled down 5.5 rebounds.
Helene likely will make a bigger impact this season as she will be one of four players, including Marian Turnbull and Ella Cupka, expected to fill the void created by McConnell’s graduation.
While Malcolm may play the point position, Helene looks to be the heir apparent as she is a pure playmaker. She dished up 2.8 assists and provided 2.4 steals a game last season.
CV will also rely upon juniors Abby Vaites and Caleigh Bogats
Zoe Fries, Mia Colbert, Rebecca Zemaitis, Olivia Alauzen, Payton O’Malley, Grace Giles and Elena Molinaro represent McConnell’s young talent. All but Alauzen, a sophomore, are freshmen.