The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

April 5, 2014

Hickory's Arbanas 1st team All-State; KC's Hood 3rd team


Associated Press

- — ALTOONA, Pa. (AP) — Teams from the WPIAL won three of the four PIAA girls basketball championships this year, and southwestern Pennsylvania is turning out to be just as dominant when it comes to postseason honors.

Pittsburgh-area programs produced seven of the eight major award winners on this season’s Sports Writers Pennsylvania High School Girls Basketball All-State Team, including all four players of the year.

The teams and award winners were selected through a poll of statewide media.

Locally, Hickory’s Nikki Arbanas was named first team in Class AAA while Kennedy Catholic’s Taylor Hood was a third team selection in Class A.

ä Arbanas annexed an area-best 529 points, averaging 18.8 points per game. The Youngstown State University-bound Arbanas scored in double figures in every game

“The work she put into it in the offseason, the dedication and leadership that she carried on during the season, it’s just a great honor and reflection on all the hard work she put into it,” summarized veteran Hickory Head Coach Jeanette Whitehead.

“To be led by such a great player as Nikki Arbanas, I can’t say enough about her determination,” Whitehead continued, emphasizing,

“I thought she was an all-stater from the ‘get-go.’ But,” Whitehead noted, “she couldn’t have done it without the support of her teammates.”

Illustrating Whitehead’s team-oriented philosophy, arguably Arbanas’ shining moment occurred in the final 1.5 seconds of overtime in Hickory’s PIAA playoff 2nd-round win over South Park.

Following Whitehead’s timeout, Arbanas accepted teammate Megan Chess’ cross-court, lobbed pass, set her feet just beyond the 3-point line on the right wing, and let fly the game-winner as the buzzer droned. Hickory’s 55-54 victory snapped South Park’s 2-year hex over the Lady Hornets.

“At the beginning of the season, if anyone would have written a script and told me that we would end up District 10 champions, Region (5-AAA) champions and have an undefeated season up to our loss (in the state quarterfinals to eventual PIAA champion Blackhawk), I would’ve said, ‘Deal.’” Whitehead admitted. “But at the same time, to get as far as we did, it just seemed like we were so close. It was such a bitter ending to have (the season) end so suddenly.

“The goals the seniors set from the very beginning of the season, that was a goal,” Whitehead whimsically said regarding a state championship. “You know, ‘Reach for the moon, and even if you fall short you’ll be among the stars.’

“But this is indicative of our season and indicative of our players. For her to be named all-state, for us, today, we have our shining star.” Whitehead concluded.

ä As the program’s lone senior in 2014, Hood had a mother hen-type role in keying Kennedy Catholic

“She gave us the leadership we needed with such a young team,” 1st-year Kennedy Head Coach Chris Mele noted. “From the start she  took control and led by example. She’s a hard worker and expected a lot out of herself and her teammates.

“Having her there to lead was a big part of our success (23-3, and a 3rd consecutive PIAA quarterfinal berth),” Mele added, continuing,

“Her other attribute that went unnoticed was her defense. She played great defense. She’s very (physically) strong, and we’re gonna miss that in her. She was the key to our press, forcing a lot of  turnovers. And you could put her on (opponents’) best guard or on one of their big players.

“I guess you could say, her strength was her strength,” Mele added.

Hood has not as yet finalized her future plans, but Mele said she is researching several schools.

“This is awesome stuff!” Mele admitted. “I couldn’t be happier for her! She’s a well-deserving, great kid. Basketball means a lot to her. She’s gonna be excited about (being named All-State), as we all are for her.”

Ironically, Arbanas’ and Hood’s scholastic careers concluded on the exact same day in the exact same venue, as Hickory and Kennedy Catholic were elminated by Blackhawk and Vincentian Academy, respectively, at Butler High.

“This is very humbling, to be honest,” Mele admitted. “You know, it’s always good to take time to reflect. In the moment, you don’t appreciate it as much because when you lose you take it so hard. But after you’ve taken a few weeks to reflect, what those girls accomplished, they came together to work for a common goal, and that makes you proud.

“It’s one of the big reasons why I coach — to see the development of those kids,” Mele concluded.

ä Fox Chapel’s Erin Mathias was voted player of the year in Class AAAA in a tight race with Cardinal O’Hara’s Aminah “Mia” Farmer and Spring-Ford’s Sammy Stipa, while Blackhawk junior Chassidy Omogrosso received the honor in Class AAA over fellow underclassmen Kalista Walters of Bethlehem Catholic and Alexis Lewis of Holy Redeemer. Seton-LaSalle’s Naje Gibson and Vincentian’s Brenna Wise had a much more comfortable margin of victory in Class AA and Class A, respectively.

Cumberland Valley’s Bill Wolf (Class AAAA), Blackhawk’s Steve Lodovico (Class AAA), Seton LaSalle’s Spencer Stefko (Class AA) and Vincentian’s Ron Moncrief (Class A) were chosen as the respective coaches of the year in runaway votes. All four guided their teams to state titles.

Although Class AA is the second smallest in the state, a case could be made that the two best teams in the commonwealth were the PIAA finalists in that classification. Competing against Class AAAA and AAA powers in the Philadelphia Catholic League, Neumann-Goretti went unbeaten until it ran into Seton-LaSalle in the state championship game. Seton-LaSalle defeated Class AAA champion Blackhawk and Class A champ Vincentian head-to-head and three of its four losses came to out-of-state opponents.

Those two teams were heavily represented on the all-state team, garnering three selections apiece. Gibson, who is making her fourth straight appearance on the Class AA team, is joined by high school teammate and fellow Pitt recruit Cassidy Walsh this time as she makes the first team for the third year in a row. Yacine Diop, who pulled down 23 rebounds in the Lady Rebels’ 58-50 state championship game victory, made the second team.

Neumann-Goretti placed junior guards Ciana Cryor and Sianna Martin on the first team and senior forward Ella Awojobo on the second.

Six of the seven Class AA first-team picks are juniors. The group is rounded out by Pepperdine recruit Sydney Bordonaro of WPIAL runner-up and PIAA semifinalist Burrell and two elite scorers: McGuffey guard Sammie Weiss averaged 23.4 points per game, while Salisbury Township forward Meagan Eripret, who has committed to Lehigh, scored at a 22.5 clip.

The quality was so strong in the classification that 2013 first-teamer Becky Evans of Pine Grove was pushed to the second team despite netting 21.6 points per game. Cranberry’s Emily Merryman, who averaged 26.7 points, also made the second team.

Mathias and Stipa both are repeat selections to the Class AAAA first team. A Duke recruit, Mathias led Fox Chapel to the second round of the state tournament and recently was named Gatorade Player of the Year for the state. Stipa is a three-team all-state selection who powered Spring-Ford to state final appearances as a junior and a senior.

Mount St. Joseph’s Alex Louin, a Villanova signee, moves from the second team last year up to the first team, while Farmer, the Philadelphia Catholic League MVP who is on her way to George Washington, takes two steps up from the 2013 Class AAAA third team. Three underclassmen join them to round out the first team: Central Bucks West junior Nicole Munger, Cumberland Valley sophomore Kelly Jekot and Pocono Mountain West junior Jackie Benitez. Munger already has committed to Michigan.

Cumberland Valley also placed senior forward Maddie Torresin on the second team after winning the state championship. The Class AAAA second team includes Bayard Rustin’s Adashia Franklyn, Dover’s Alayah Hall, Mechanicsburg’s Cecily Carl, Penn-Trafford’s Maria Palarino and State College’s Kyla Irwin, as well. Hall made the third team last year.

Returning members Avery Marz of Wilson (West Lawn) and Darby Lee of Altoona highlight the third team.

Omogrosso spearheaded Blackhawk’s run to 28-2 season by averaging 21.6 points per game. Her offensive potential typifies an explosive Class AAA first team. Lewis poured in 27.0 points, while Walters already has more than 1,600 points in her career and scored 42 to help beat Allentown Central Catholic in the District 11 championship game, and West Perry’s Megan Smith tallied more than 24 points per outing in the playoffs.

Arbanas, who powered District 10 champion Hickory to a 27-1 record, just missed averaging 20 points per game.

Tricia Byrne of PIAA quarterfinalist Scranton Prep and Alyssa Monaghan of Bonner-Prendergast complete the Class AAA first team — Monaghan was on the second team last year and Byrne the third. This year’s second team includes all-state returnees Cami Boehner of Gettysburg, Carly Richardson of Palmyra and Angelina Starr of Franklin.

This is the third time for Wise, a junior, to make the Class A team and is her second time on the first team. Wise collected 59 points and 21 rebounds in the PIAA semifinals and championship game.

Wise is the only Class A first-team returnee, but the other five members were on the all-state team last year, too. Fairfield recruit Macey Hollenshead of Southern Fulton and Meghan Trenholm of St. John Neumann move up from the second team. St. John’s recruit Tamesha “Sox” Alexander of Independent Schools state champion Shipley, along with Old Forge’s Lauren Carey and Bucktail’s Maria Morgan were 2013 third team honorees.

———

CLASS AAAA


1ST TEAM

Jackie Benitez, Pocono Mountain West, 5-9, Jr., 23.3

Aminah “Mia” Farmer, Cardinal O’Hara, 5-9, Sr., 17.0

Kelly Jekot, Cumberland Valley, 5-11, So., 14.4

Alex Louin, Mount St. Joseph’s, 6-0, Sr., 17.0

Erin Mathias, Fox Chapel, 6-3, Sr., 16.5

Nicole Munger, Central Bucks West, 5-9, Jr., 15.5

Sammy Stipa, Spring-Ford, 5-5, Sr., 13.6

2ND TEAM

Cecily Carl, Mechanicsburg, 6-3, Jr., 16.3

Adashia Franklyn, Bayard Rustin, 6-1, Sr., 14.8

Alayah Hall, Dover, 5-7, Sr., 17.7

Kyla Irwin, State College, 6-1, So., 19.8

Maria Palarino, Penn-Trafford, 5-10, Jr., 18.3

Maddie Torresin, Cumberland Valley, 6-1, Sr., 15.4

3RD TEAM

Sajanna Bethea, Pennsbury, 6-0, Sr., 16.8

Carly Brew, Wilson (West Lawn), 5-11, Sr., 13.5

Sierra Fordham, Allderdice, 5-5, Sr., 22.9

Darby Lee, Altoona, 6-1, Sr., 16.2

Ashley Jones, Cheltenham, 5-7, Fr., 21.9

Avery Marz, Wilson (West Lawn), 5-7, Sr., 12.6

Vicky Tumasz, North Penn, 5-6, Sr., 15.0

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Erin Mathias, Fox Chapel

COACH OF THE YEAR: Bill Wolf, Cumberland Valley

CLASS AAA

1ST TEAM


Nikki Arbanas, Hickory, 5-7, Sr., 19.6

Tricia Byrne, Scranton Prep, 5-7, Sr., 15.8

Alexis Lewis, Holy Redeemer, 5-9, Jr., 27.0

Alyssa Monaghan, Bonner-Prendergast, 5-7, Jr., 17.5

Chassidy Omogrosso, Blackhawk, 5-5, Jr., 21.6

Megan Smith, West Perry, 6-0, Sr., 20.7

Kalista Walters, Bethlehem Catholic, 6-0, Jr., 21.2

2ND TEAM

Seairra Barrett, Central Valley, 6-0, Sr., 24.5

Cami Boehner, Gettysburg, 5-7, Sr., 21.9

Quieterriua Gross, Meyers, 5-11, Sr., 22.3

Amber Renz, Danville, 6-0, So., 21.5

Carly Richardson, Palmyra, 5-11, Sr., 10.0

Angelina Starr, Franklin, 5-9, Sr., 21.3

Halie Torris, South Park, 5-11, Sr., 16.4

3RD TEAM

Aubree Brown, Archbishop Wood, 6-0, Jr., 8.1

Bailey Greenberg, Archbishop Wood, 5-11, So., 10.0

Madeline McDonald, Southern Lehigh, 5-11, Sr., 16.7

Allison McGrath, South Park, 5-10, So., 17.2

Maddie Ritsick, Crestwood, 5-11, So., 18.7

Chelsea Woods, Freire Charter, 6-0, Sr., 32.6

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Chassidy Omogrosso, Blackhawk

COACH OF THE YEAR: Steve Lodovico, Blackhawk

CLASS AA

1ST TEAM


Sydney Bordonaro, Burrell, 5-7, Jr., 16.1

Ciana Cryor, Neumann-Goretti, 5-5, Jr., 12.5

Megan Eripret, Salisbury, 6-3, Jr., 22.5

Naje Gibson, Seton-LaSalle, 6-0, Sr., 11.1

Sianna Martin, Neumann-Goretti, 5-8, Jr., 12.2

Cassidy Walsh, Seton-LaSalle, 5-9, Jr., 11.1

Sammie Weiss, McGuffey, 5-11, Jr., 23.4

2ND TEAM

Ella Awojobo, Neumann-Goretti, 6-0, Sr., 7.9

Maddie Comly, Delone Catholic, 5-7, Jr., 18.5

Yacine Diop, Seton-LaSalle, 5-10, Sr., 14.0

Becky Evans, Pine Grove, 5-3, Sr., 21.6

Lori Horton, Williamson, 6-3, Sr., 16.5

Reighly Melochick, Minersville, 5-7, Sr., 19.8

Emily Merryman, Cranberry, 5-5, Sr., 26.7

3RD TEAM

Carolyn Appleby, Greensburg Central Catholic, 5-5, Jr., 20.7

LeAnn Gibson, Karns City, 5-9, So., 16.4

Brooke Hinderliter, Redbank Valley, 5-8, So., 19.8

Margaret Anne Hubbell, Germantown Academy, 5-10, Sr., 17.9

Chelsey Koren, Blairsville, 5-11, Jr., 20.8

Mariah Maciejewski, Dunmore, 5-10, Jr., 12.3

Steph Shamburg, Warrior Run, 6-0, Sr., 15.5

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Naje Gibson, Seton-LaSalle

COACH OF THE YEAR: Spencer Stefko, Seton-LaSalle

CLASS A

1ST TEAM


Tamesha “Sox” Alexander, Shipley, 5-6, Sr., 9.2

Lauren Carey, Old Forge, 5-7, Sr., 13.2

Macey Hollenshead, Southern Fulton, 5-6, Sr., 17.0

Maria Morgan, Bucktail, 5-7, Jr., 27.5

Megan Trenholm, St. John Neumann, 5-7, Sr., 17.4

Brenna Wise, Vincentian, 6-1, Jr., 19.5

2ND TEAM

Lili Benzel, Bishop Guilfoyle, 5-8, Fr., 18.6

Angelica Bertola, Notre Dame (East Stroudsburg), 5-4, Sr., 22.7

Madi Bower, Millville, 5-11, Jr., 25.4

Madison Johnson, Keystone, 5-9, Jr., 16.9

Becca Lathrop, Port Allegany, 5-9, Sr., 16.4

Emma Spinelli, Shade, 5-2, So., 22.4

3RD TEAM

Jana Goodman, Phil-Mont Christian, 6-1, Sr., 16.8

Keyen Green, Phil-Mont Christian, 6-1, So., 13.7

Mallory Heinle, St. Joseph’s (Pittsburgh), 6-1, Sr., 23.6

Taylor Hood, Kennedy Catholic, 5-5, Sr., 12.2

Olivia McCabe, Portage, 6-1, Sr., 14.5

Bronwyne Mellott, McConnellsburg, 5-10, Fr., 22.2

Maci Thornton, Clarion, 5-5, Jr., 15.6

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Brenna Wise, Vincentian

COACH OF THE YEAR: Ron Moncrief, Vincentian