Ashleigh Connor

Eleanor Bailey/The Almanac

Ashleigh Connor splits the defense of Avana Sayles, left, and Journey Thompson as she drives for a basket in Mt. Lebanon’s 58-51 victory against Peters Township.

Mt. Lebanon girls basketball coach Dori Oldaker and her staff planned all along for the Blue Devils to participate in the WPIAL and PIAA playoffs. She just needed a little cooperation from the district’s school board.

Oldaker received that assistance Jan. 25 when the administration approved postseason action for all of its winters sports team.

“We are thrilled and thankful for being given this opportunity,” Oldaker said.

There is, however, one stipulation. The Blue Devils will continue to wear face masks while practicing and playing.

By the way the Blue Devils are doing both, it appears they are prepared for competition deep into March.

The WPIAL open tournament is scheduled to begin Feb. 18. The championships will be held March 12-13 at sites and times to be determined. The PIAA finals are scheduled for March 25-27 at the Giant Center in Hershey.

Lebo was 7-1 overall and 1-0 in Section 2 heading into its Jan. 28 game against Baldwin.

The Blue Devils started the 2021 campaign rolling up six straight victories before suffering their only loss Jan. 25 against Erie’s Villa Maria Academy.

Lebo then rebounded to knock off Quaker Valley, 40-37.

“Our team is buying what our coaching staff is selling,” Oldaker said. “We are improving daily. We have a brutal game schedule, so that we are prepared to the best of our abilities for playoffs.”

Morgan Palmer has been given it her best. The team’s lone senior fired in a game-high 14 points in the loss to Villa Maria. Palmer scored 11 points in a win over Thomas Jefferson and 10 to help Lebo defeat Peters Township.

“Morgan is locked in for our team. She is a warrior and leaves everything on the floor,” Oldaker said. “She always puts the team first and herself second.

“Morgan was born to lead,” Oldaker continued. “She is definitely an emotional leader and wears her passion on her sleeve.”

According to Oldaker, Palmer’s leadership skills were tested as she responded with “brilliant expertise” in Ashleigh Connor’s absence.

Connor did not play in the loss against Villa Maria because of a “slight injury,” Oldaker said.

Connor is Lebo’s leading scorer.

The junior tossed in 22 points in a 56-40 win against Moon; 24 more against TJ; 29 against PT and 20 in a 68-52 victory against North Catholic, which is considered one of the top teams in Class AAA.

Connor had a double-double, 18 points and 14 rebounds, in a 53-33 win against Woodland Hills. In her return to the starting line-up, Connor pumped in 23 points against QV.

Oldaker said the Blue Devils used to the loss to Villa Maris as a chance to gain some confidence and resilience.

“Our players stepped up to the challenge. Our upperclassmen were phenomenal leaders on the court and our younger players persevered on the floor with this opportunity,” Oldaker said. “We are really proud of our girls. This one loss may pay off in the long run.”

Oldaker learned she could rely on Connor.

“Ashleigh was an amazing teammate,” the coach said. “She directed traffic from the bench. She responded as another helpful coach for her teammates.”

Reagan Murdoch, who tossed in 15 points against Woodland Hills, and Brooke Collins also have been productive. They provide “excellent support” on the floor, Oldaker said.

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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