Ava Keating, Brooke Collins

Brooke Collins (13) of Mt. Lebanon protects the ball from Ava Keating during previous section action against Upper St. Clair.

Discipline and teamwork have been the hallmarks of Dori Oldaker’s basketball teams.

The 2020 edition of Mt. Lebanon’s girls team is no different.

“We are playing disciplined team basketball with our defense and our offense,” said Oldaker, who guided the Blue Devils to three PIAA titles and has amassed more than 400 career victories. “We have won some really tough games at home and on the road.”

The Blue Devils have compiled a 14-3 overall record and 9-1 league mark after handing Bethel Park its first loss of the season, 52-51, in their Section 2, 6A showdown Jan. 23.

Ashleigh Connor led the Mt. Lebanon attack with 25 points, including the decisive basket at the buzzer. Morgan Palmer followed with 13 points and Reagan Murdoch supplied eight. Maddie Dziezgowski and Olivia Westphal both pitched in 17 points for the Black Hawks.

While Connor is the team’s leader, producing 22.8 points per game, Lebo has plenty of players who can take over a game.

In a 74-55 win against Hempfield Jan. 20, Connor scored a team-high 17 points, while Patrice Smith scored 16, Murdoch had 16 and Palmer added 13.

In a narrow loss, 50-48, to Imhotep Charter during the MLK Showcase at Woodland Hills, Brooke Collins scored a team-high 12 points, as Smith added 11 and Connor scored 10.

Connor exploded for 30 points in a 62-44 victory over Connellsville, and her 18 points in a 47-42 win against Upper St. Clair were complemented by 12 from Palmer and 10 from Murdoch.

“Patrice is lightning quick,” Oldaker said. “She has really improved her game with her change of speed. Her hands and feet on defense never stop moving. She’s like the Energizer bunny, she just keeps going.”

Being the only senior on the club, she also supplies a quiet leadership.

“She is not very vocal, but when she speaks, everyone stops and listens,” Oldaker said.

Murdoch and Palmer, however, are the most vocal members of the team and lead on both ends of the court, Oldaker said.

“They lead by example and they back up what they say by their hustle, heart and desire to make our team the best that we can be,” she said.

Collins provides a cerebral approach to the game that is beneficial, Oldaker said.

“Brooke probably has one of the best basketball I.Q.s on the team,” Oldaker said. “She does so many of the little things that don’t show up in the paper. But our team realizes how important she is to our team and us winning games.”

Reserves are also vital to Lebo’s success. Junior Bridget Bruni and freshman Anna Streiff have been big contributors off the bench.

“Bridget and Anna bring a spark that we definitely need,” Oldaker said. “Anna is a playmaker that really works well with her teammates and Bridget also has a great basketball I.Q. Her leadership qualities are immeasurable. She has a calming sense and keeps her composure under pressure situations.”

The pressure was pronounced as the Blue Devils toppled Bethel Park. They led, 17-7, after the first quarter and 28-21 at halftime. The Black Hawks knocked down six, 3-pointers in the second half, including a pair each by Riley Miller and Lauren Miller, to erase Lebo’s 48-41 advantage with 2:45 to play. And, with 7.3 seconds to play, Dziezgowski gave BP a brief lead before Connor’s heroics.

Almanac Sports Editor

An award-winning journalist, Eleanor Bailey has been employed by Observer Publishing Company since 1982. She is the sports editor at The Almanac and a contributor for the Observer-Reporter.

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