With two words and a hand signal, Denaya Poston-Cooper lets her St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy teammate know it’s time to take over.
Poston-Cooper instructs Lady Wolves forward Selena Mann by shouting “Every time!” on trips down the court and waves her hand in a circular motion to encourage Mann to continue to look to score. Mann knows she needs to score when she hears those two words from Poston-Cooper.
“She has confidence in me,” Mann said. “The whole team has confidence, so I just got to have confidence in myself.”
Added Poston-Cooper: “She can score whenever she wants to. She just has to know she can do it.”
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The Lady Wolves teammates complement each other on the court. Mann is a 6-foot-3 forward who can dominate in the post and step outside to knock down jump shots, while Poston-Cooper plays multiple positions and scores in a variety of ways. Mann and Poston-Cooper have made a difference in their first season for SJCA after transferring from State College — the Lady Wolves own an 18-3 record after going 7-15 last year.
“With them joining our program this year, it’s been seamless,” SJCA coach Katie Sosnoskie said. “They’re fantastic basketball players as well as people, and they’ve just raised the level of this program into reaching where we want to be.”
It didn’t take long for Mann and Poston-Cooper to find their comfort zone with their new teammates. They immediately developed chemistry in the locker room, dancing and blasting music, including the theme songs to old television shows like “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and Disney’s “Phineas and Ferb.” And Poston-Cooper and Mann immediately showed what they could do on the court.
They’ve led the Lady Wolves offensively during their breakout season.
If an opposing team doesn’t have an answer for Mann, Poston-Cooper makes sure the Lady Wolves find her inside. In the team’s season opener against Grace Prep, when Mann scored about 10 points in a row, Poston-Cooper started telling her ,“Every time!”
“I was like, ‘Keep going. Don’t stop. It’s not selfish. You’re helping this team if anything,’” Poston-Cooper said.
Poston-Cooper relies on Mann for words of encouragement, too.
The Lady Wolves guard admits she dwells on missed shots too much at times. She’s even stopped shooting for stretches. When Mann sees her teammate doubting herself after a miss, she tells her to keep shooting.
“A lot of times I’ve said you missed the last one, that means you’re going to come down, you’re going to shoot three more, and you’re going to make all of them,” Mann said. “The moment you stop shooting is the moment that you’re limiting yourself and your abilities because you have the abilities to do whatever you want. You just got to be able to have confidence in yourself to know that you can do it.”
They’ve both proven to be confident and capable scorers this year. Poston-Cooper can drive to the rim, knock down 3-pointers and operate in the post. Mann utilizes multiple post moves — she likes spinning to the middle of the paint or to the baseline for an easy bucket — to go with an effective mid-range jumper and 3-point shot.
Their coach said they’re consistently improving this season as they helped SJCA to its first-ever winning season. That growth was on display this past Monday, when Poston-Cooper scored 29 points and Mann added 21 to lead the Lady Wolves to a 66-48 win over Philipsburg-Osceola, a team they had lost to by one point earlier this season.
Poston-Cooper and Mann are looking to lead their team on a postseason run, and they’ll be leaning on each other to make plays along the way.
“They definitely have a connection,” Sosnoskie said. “They play hard. They play together, and they’re unselfish. Their objective out there is to win basketball games, and it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.”