YATESVILLE — Pittston Area coach Kathy Healey loves her 1,000-point duo of Allie Barber and Liz Waleski from a year ago. Things have changed, however, and it’s time to move on.
The Patriots head into the 2015-16 girls basketball season after losing two of the most athletic players in the Wyoming Valley Conference. However, the Patriots have a trio of returning starters that played key roles in last season’s Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association District 2 Class AAA championship.
Returning to the lineup this season are seniors Marley O’Brien and Jamie Chisdock, as well as junior sharpshooter Taryn Ashby. It’s time to quit worrying about what the team lost, Healey said, and get ready to fight for another district title.
“I think it’s all about team,” Healey said. “I know Allie and Liz scored a lot of points. It’s about somebody stepping up. They don’t necessarily have to score 20 points per game, but we can make up those points.”
The Patriots feature four seniors: O’Brien, Chisdock, Megan Cummings and Rachel Ferrance. Healey said those players have taken the reins this year and have turned into leaders.
“They are really amazing leaders,” Healey said. “Last year, I really didn’t make them be leaders. They are learning the most this year and they did a good job in the summer.”
During the offseason, the Patriots traveled to the University of North Carolina for a camp. There, Healey used a nine-player rotation. Teams in the WVC can expect much of the same this year.
Sophomore Alexa Noone and junior Kirsten Durling each logged significant minutes last season. Healey said senior forward Cummings had a great offseason and is ready to step into a significant role. Sophomores Andrea Ruby and Mary Silinskie will also contribute this season.
Depth will be one of the strengths of this Pittston Area squad, with different lineups possible.
“We have a good mix and we played a lot of basketball in the summer,” Healey said. “Every position is interchangeable and I think it’s about being a team.”
The Patriots, after losing Barber and Waleski, will have to continue to play a dominant defensive game like they did last season. According to Healey, the defense the Patriots show will also be a strength and something Pittston Area can lean on when need be.
Anyone can play defense, Healey said. Defense could be a strength this season for the Patriots. However, Pittston Area may be faced with some confidence issues on the offensive side of the court.
“Everyone keeps talking about Allie and Liz and I love them to death and they were incredible players for our program,” Healey said. “But people keep talking about losing them and not about our team this year.”
Hazleton Area is always a tough out in the Wyoming Valley Conference Division 1. This year, Crestwood has leading scorer Maddie Ritsick returning. Wyoming Valley West and Berwick have a number of returning starters back as well, Healey said.
“I think everyone should have the same goals every year,” Healey said. “If you don’t want to win every game then you shouldn’t be coaching.”
Pittston Area will open its season at 7:15 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 12 at Northwest.