There were some good times for the Tyrone girls basketball team in 2017-2018.
Just 3-6 soon after the Christmas break, the Lady Eagles went on a tear, winning 11 of 13 at one point to enter the District 6 3A playoffs with a home game. They lost in the semifinals but still moved on to the PIAA playoffs.
It wasn’t bad for a team trying to find itself after losing Kasey Engle and Alexis Cannistraci to graduation, but the intensity of the playoffs revealed some shortcomings. Above all, it was scoring.
In five postseason games, the Lady Eagles failed to reach 50 points three times, and in their semifinal loss to Penns Valley they fell 55-50.
That has meant some major changes for the Lady Eagles in 2018-2019. The offense remains one that has the capability to put points on the board, but coach Luke Rhoades is no longer content with getting it done in the half court. Instead, he is planning to deploy a look that relies on aggressiveness and pressure hoping to get more looks out of transition offense.
It’s a work in progress, and it’s made more challenging by the number of freshmen and underclassmen Rhoades will rely upon to execute it.
“We’re trying to get them to realize the importance of pressure,” he said. “Even if you make a mistake, if you do it hard and aggressive it’s okay.”
That’s not an easy message to convey to seniors, let alone freshmen and sophomores just trying not to get in the way. But it’s one Tyrone will have to come to grips with if it’s going to get back to the top of the Mountain League.
With just three seniors — only two of whom were on the active roster last season — the Lady Eagles will lean heavily on underclassmen, but the group as a whole has respectable varsity experience.
Sydney Shaw leads the way, heading into her senior season with 1,000 career points within her reach. A major factor in the Lady Eagles’ offense since her freshman season, Shaw has 758 total points to her credit and returns as Tyrone’s top deep threat after averaging 17.2 points per game as a junior.
Others returning with starting experience includes junior guards Lindsey Fusco and Kelsey Johnson and senior post Riley Ronan.
Outside of that group of four, Tyrone will be looking to underclassmen with little to no varsity experience. For Rhoades, that’s no problem, providing the effort is there from every player.
“We really need every girl to maximize their energy every second they are on the floor,” he said.
There are players in that mix who can certainly help. After taking a season off senior Brooke Welsh is back in the post and she gives the Lady Eagles size and some experience after seeing some varsity time as a sophomore. She and Ronan are faced with the challenging of cleaning the glass effectively enough to mitigate the loss of Emily Lehman, last season’s top rebounder.
Sophomore Shannon Shaw returns after her season ended in the playoffs last year with a knee injury that kept her out of basketball until this fall. She was a true playmaker at point guard as a freshman who could create in the open court and drain the outside shot.
Sophomore Chesney Saltsgiver saw some varsity action midway through the year last year, adding further depth.
Beyond that, Rhoades will be looking to a strong freshman class that tore through its junior high season a year ago with just one loss. It’s a group that includes Jaida Parker and Stephanie Ramsey, a pair of guards who could make an immediate impact on the varsity level.
As a whole, the unit is young, but that’s not something Rhoades sees as an issue.
“We might be a little young, but that doesn’t impact playing hard,” he said. “We need girls to step up and be leaders, even though it’s not their personality.”
Seniors: Reilly Ronan, Sydney Shaw, Brooke Welsh. Juniors: Lindsay Fusco, Taylor Greene, Kelsey Johnson. Sophomores: Laura Kohler, Chesney Saltsgiver, Shannon Shaw. Freshmen: Maci Brodzina, Drue Chrstine, Jaida Parker, Stephanie Ramsey.
12/8 at Bellwood-Antis, 3 p.m.
12/11 at Bellefonte
12/14 at Penns Valley
12/19 vs. Huntingdon
12/21 vs. Clearfield
12/27 Kiwanis Tournament, 6 p.m.
12/29 Kiwanis Tournament, TBA
1/7 at Central Mountain
1/8vs. Bald Eagle Area
1/11 at Philipsburg-Osceola
1/16 vs. Central
1/18 vs. Bellefonte
1/22 vs. Penns Valley
1/25 at Huntingdon
1/26 vs. Juniata Valley, 4:30 p.m.
1/30 at Clearfield
2/1 at Bald Eagle Area
2/2 at Tussey Mountain, 3:30 p.m.
2/5 vs. Philipsburg-Osceola
2/8 at Central
2/9 vs. St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy, 4 p.m.
2/11 vs. Hollidaysburg
All games begin at 7:30 p.m. unless noted.