High School Sports

High school girls’ basketball: Previewing Centre County’s teams

Changes big and small fill the landscape for Centre County girls’ basketball teams as the 2013-14 season gets underway.

For the Bald Eagle Area and State College teams, the starting lineup looks strikingly different from a year ago, while Bellefonte has a new coach at the helm.

The Penns Valley and Philipsburg-Osceola lineups look pretty similar to last season, however, as both expect to improve in the new season.

After a little winter blast caused some opening games to get wiped out, a handful of games have tipped off so far.

The Lady Red Raiders have a new chief with Brett Leister taking over the program. Bellefonte struggled mightily the last two seasons under previous coach Roger Herto, combining for a 7-37 record. The Lady Raiders were 3-19 last year.

However, for the second straight season, Bellefonte has lost just one player to graduation, giving the team plenty of experience.

“We return many players who were able to gain valuable playing experience last season,” said Leister, the program’s sixth coach in the last dozen years. “The girls have had to grasp hold of a new system in a very short amount of time with the coaching turnover.”

For the Lady Little Lions and Lady Eagles, the new faces are on the court. BEA saw its entire starting five, plus a key reserve, graduate while State College lost three starters and most of its top reserves.

Both teams are coming off strong campaigns, with the Lady Eagles flying to a 22-3 record with a Mountain League title and a fourth-place finish in the District 6 Class AA playoffs. State College put together a 14-9 season, with a 9-5 mark in the Mid Penn Conference’s Commonwealth Division.

Despite so much turnover, the coaches of the two teams still figure to do pretty well.

Leading the Lady Little Lions is Kyla Irwin, a 6-foot-1 sophomore post player who averaged 19 points and 11 rebounds in her first varsity season and has already drawn interest from major Division I programs.

“This year’s team has a lot of potential,” coach Bethany Irwin said. “It will all depend if we can put our inside and our outside games together.”

While BEA’s lineup will look different, the Eagles have the foundation laid with the success last year by the junior varsity, who were 18-3 last season with most of those starters now with the varsity.

Penns Valley lost just one senior starter from last season’s team that finished 7-14, and also has a solid foundation to lift the team up this season. With just three seniors, the Lady Rams still will be fairly young.

P-O also saw just one player graduate from last season’s team in Briana Rusnak — who is working with the team this season as a volunteer assistant coach — and also remains fairly young with just two seniors. The Lady Mounties are coming off a team that closed at 10-13, 7-7 in the Mountain League and a District 6 Class AA tournament appearance.