Sunday January 16, 2022 | 7:10 p.m.
Jenn O’Shea moved from Fox Chapel to Montour three years ago, taking over a women’s basketball team that won just five games in 2019.
Montour won seven games two years ago, then improved to 13-10 last year while earning a spot in the WPIAL 5A class quarter-finals.
After improving and competing a year ago, the Spartans are proving they are ready to fight in 2022.
“When we got to Montour, we knew it would take some time to turn things around,” O’Shea said. “Our motto from the very beginning was to improve every day in training, to participate in matches and to trust the process. Winning will happen by itself. In addition, we have a very well managed youth program and an administration very supportive. It makes a difference.
“When it comes to wrestling, 4A has a lot of tough teams: Blackhawk, Southmoreland, Knoch and Beaver to name a few. When we play like we are able to play, we feel like we can compete with anyone.
Last week started for Montour with a Section 2 showdown with defending champion Beaver.
“Monday was a total team effort,” O’Shea said. “Our top 7 players all played well and contributed. Believing that we could win after losing to them twice last year was also a contributing factor. Beaver are one of the best coached teams in the WPIAL with a talented roster. It was a fun game to participate in.
The Spartans outscored the Bobcats 15-6 in the fourth quarter to win at home, 64-58. Junior Olivia Persinger was the big difference in the fourth quarter with eight points for the Spartans.
Wednesday was another sectional home game. Montour took a 36-13 halftime lead and earned a 27-point victory over Quaker Valley.
“Our team is very selfless. They just want to win, which I love about them,” O’Shea said. “They are a special group that gets along on and off the pitch. It makes a difference. They’re all focused on their job, whether it’s rebounding, getting deflections, setting up screens or defending the other team’s best player. You don’t get your name in the paper for doing these things, but they’re just as important.
The following evening, the Spartans hit the road for their third section game of the week against New Castle.
“It wasn’t one of our best games, but the fact that we played our third game in four nights and still won by 15 points on the road says a lot about how far we’ve come. “, O’Shea said. “New Castle played a great game. Although we led the whole game, we couldn’t put the game away, but the players persevered and won. Over the past few years, I’m not sure we had the mental toughness to overcome the things that weren’t going our way.
The combo of senior Olivia Lyscik, junior Raegan Kadlecik and sophomore Jordyn Wolf combined for 176 points in the three wins.
“It was the first time all season that we had three double-digit players three games in a row,” O’Shea said. “Before the break, Olivia Persinger also scored in double figures. I think the fact that we have so many players capable of scoring this year has definitely made us better. Again, I also like the fact that there is no competition for points with this group. Olivia Lyscik only had 10 points but was just as happy after the game when we won.
This week marks the midpoint of the section calendar. Montour is in second place in the 2-4A section, one game behind the undefeated Blackhawk.
“We told the girls early on that we’re not just trying to have a winning season or make the playoffs, we want to win championships,” O’Shea said. “The focus has been on more intense practice so that we can prepare to face tough competition from our section and not be intimidated by anyone. A lot of our girls play fall sports and they’ve gone far in the playoffs. We started late to prepare for the season. Everything is starting to fall into place now.
The Spartans host the Cougars on Thursday.
“Blackhawk is the gold standard for women’s basketball in the WPIAL,” O’Shea said. “We try to get to where they are.”
2022 Trib HSSN Women’s Basketball Teams of the Week
Week 3 – Trinity Hillers
Week 2 – Union Scotties
Week 1 – Blackhawk Cougars