With Peters Township and Chartiers Valley rolling up undefeated seasons and capturing district and state titles, there is no doubt which area teams had the most talent. Thus, it should come as no surprise which local girls’ basketball players highlight this year’s Almanac Elite Eleven List.
With four selections, including the Player of the Year honors (Makenna Marisa), the Lady Indians lead the list of honorees followed by Colts with three picks. Also, the skippers from both clubs share Coach of the Year award. (See related stories.) Bethel Park and Mt. Lebanon with two choices each complete the list, which includes the Rookie of the Year distinction.
The Almanac Elite Eleven was selected with the help of the area coaches. Each was asked to nominate players from their team for recognition as well as provide season stats and input regarding players from other teams that they had faced. That information, along with games watched during the season, the annual all-star list was compiled.
Three join Marisa
Joining Marisa on the all-star roster are teammates: Isabella Mills, Journey Thompson and MacKenzie Lehman.
A first-team selection, Mills averaged 13.8 points, dished up five assists and pulled down 5.8 rebounds a game. The Case-Western recruit ranked second behind Marissa in two- and three-point field goals made as well as percentages. She managed 1.5 steals and had 38 deflections on the year. Mills finished with 958 career points.
“Isabella was a leader on and off the floor,” head coach Bert Kendall said. “This season, she became a complete ball player. Outside shooting, driving to the basket, rebounding and defense all made her an asset to our team.”
Newcomers to the line-up, Thompson and Lehman also proved beneficial to the team’s march to a state championship.
A 6-1 freshman, Thompson averaged 12.9 points and grabbed 7.7 rebounds a game. The first-team all-section selection also led the team with 51 blocked shots and managed 1.3 steals and 1.1 assists a game.
“Journey made a huge impact,” Kendall said. “She bolstered our inside game and made us a complete team. Her ability to run the floor was a big advantage for us. She often finished our fast break. That’s something rarely seen from a post player.”
Rarely does a lacrosse player make the jump back into the basketball scene but Lehman did just that. The Liberty University lacrosse recruit returned to the hard courts and joined with Thompson to dominate the inside for the Indians. In fact, she virtually tied Thompson in the rebounding category, managing 7.6 boards a game.
Lehman, who pushed the WPIAL championship contest into overtime with her tying basket and scored the only hoop in the extra period to lead the Indians to a 43-40 win over North Allegheny, averaged 8.4 points, 2.1 steals and 1.7 assists per game.
“Sometimes Mackenzie goes unnoticed,” said Kendall. “She quietly leads the way with rebounding, makes a shot to put us into overtime, has key steals or leads us on the boards in the state finals.”
Just as at Peters Township, leaders were abundant at Chartiers Valley, too. Mackenzie Wagner, Megan McConnell and Aislin Malcolm led the way and they also headline the Almanac Elite Eleven list.
Wagner and McConnell are repeat performers. They also are repeat all-section, first-team selections and 1,000-point scorers in their careers.
McConnell, who ranked as one of the WPIAL’s scoring leaders while averaging 20 points per game last season, assumed more of a field general approach for the Colts this season. While she averaged 10.9 point, the 5-7 junior dished up 4.3 assists per game. She also grabbed 4.4 rebounds and contributed 2.8 steals a game.
“People think she didn’t have a great year because she didn’t average as many points as she did last year but let me tell you how important Megan was to our team,” said CV coach Tim McConnell. “Her ball handling and the way she ran our offense were the reasons why we were so good this year. Megan didn’t need to score for us like she did last year.”
Wagner and Malcolm took care of those duties.
A Loyola University (Maryland) recruit, Wagner led CV in scoring with 16 a game while Malcolm followed with an 11.6 average. Wagner scored a game-high 24 points in CV’s state championship win against Archbishop Carroll, 53-40. Malcolm tossed in 13 tallies in the PIAA final.
Wagner connected on 37 percent of her 3-point shots and 50 percent of her 2-point field goals. She also grabbed 5.7 rebounds an outing and supplied 1.5 steals and 1.8 assists a game.
A freshman, Malcolm converted 58 percent of her 2-point field goals and 44 percent of her 3-point attempts. She also managed 3.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists and a steal a game.
“Mackenzie and Aislin were great scorers for us. They both had great years in that department and they defended and rebounded well for our team,” McConnell said.
Two tops at BP
Olivia Westphal and Maddie Dziezgowski proved a potent 1-2 punch at Bethel Park, which only lost to Peters Township this season. In helping the Hawks post a 24-4 record, Westphal pumped in 15.8 points per game while Dziezgowski provided 14.2 tallies.
The juniors both were first-team, all-section performers and forces as well on the boards. While Dziezgowski, a St. Bonaventure recruit, grabbed 7.4 rebounds a game, Westphal managed 4.8. Westphal also provided 2.5 steals a game.
Jamey Napoleon also had a knack for dominating the boards. The Mt. Lebanon senior managed 8.8 rebounds a game. The 6-foot-1 center also supplied 7.1 points, dished up 2.6 assists and blocked 113 shots. In addition to earning Elite Eleven acclaim, the Central Connecticut recruit netted second-team, all-section laurels.
“Jamey’s defensive ability to block shots and rebound for us was uncanny,” said Lebo skipper Dori Oldaker.
During a season dominated by youth, Ashleigh Connor earned Rookie of the Year honors. The freshman led Mt. Lebanon in scoring with a 10.6 average. She also managed 3.1 steals per game. In the process, she earned all-section, second-team notoriety.
“She started every game for us this year and as a freshman, Ashleigh did a great job,” said Lebo skipper Dori Oldaker.