Two of the things Patrick Cassidy sees as being a big strength for his Huntingdon girls basketball team this season is both the squads basketball IQ and the team quickness. Despite the lack of size for this winter’s team, Cassidy feels certain the squad can more than make up for that with their ability to get up and down the floor quick.
“This groups basketball IQ is strong and they understand the concepts we are trying to teach,” noted Cassidy who returns five letter winners from last year’s 11-12 playoff squad as he begins his fourth year at the helm with a 26-41 benchmark. “We have a lot of athletes and a lot of speed and team quickness, which should allow us to play at a faster tempo. We also like to get after it defensively every day and our athleticism and speed will take us a long way to that goal. But, we also need to be careful of our aggressiveness and not get ourselves in trouble. We need to play smart.”
Huntingdon lost five seniors to graduation in June and along with them most of the height from last year in Maddie Gearhart, Timani Easter and Catherine Miller. Gearhart led the Bearcats last winter with 210 points (9.1 points per game), while Easter added 4.4 ppg. and Miller 2.6. Gearhart finished her career with 663 points.
“We lost our height with those seniors, but I see us a being a helping team this year and relying more on our teammates while playing at a faster pace,” added Cassidy.
The returning letter winners include starters Allie Troup and Kynnedy Miller, a pair of 5-4 junior guards, and 5-6 senior forward Emily Kurtz. Miller is the team’s top returning point producer from last winter when she posted 8.7 ppg. and was the squad’s leading threat from the perimeter with 22 trifectas. Troup finished with 5.8 ppg. and Kurtz 4.9.
Rounding out the letter winners are 5-7 junior guard Kaitlyn McElroy and 5-6 junior forward Corinne Reamer. McElroy was third on the team a year ago with 6.9 ppg, while Reamer added 2.0 per outing.
“We were actually expecting to see 26 or 27 come out for the team, but the 19 we have on the roster is a good number to work with,” continued Cassidy. “The tricky part is that we have some girls back who played over the summer and are ready to go right now. So, we want to move them at a quicker pace, while also going back over things for some of the younger players.”
Also back after seeing some limited varsity action last winter, but not lettering are senior 5-8 forward Reagan Querry, junior 5-8 guard Rachel Kyle and junior 5-7 forward Maddie DeForrest.
Last year, the Bearcats finished 8-6 in the Mountain League, collecting wins over Bald Eagle, Clearfield Bellefonte and Philipsburg.
“I don’t really see why we can’t win the Mountain League,” stated Cassidy. “We have a lot of the girls back who got a lot of playing time last year, so the experience is there. The league is always tough year after year and a lot of people would probably favor Penns Valley, who has a lot of good players back. Tyrone and Central always seem to be tough games for us as well. But, if we can stay focused, trust each other and compete, I feel we can win the league this season.”
Over the last two seasons, Huntingdon’s postseason has ended just as it began with losses to Bedford in the opening semifinal round of the Class4A field. Cassidy sees the Bearcats path to a district title as the same it has been since the PIAA went to the six classification format.
“Forest Hills and Bedford are very good teams and well coached,” remarked Cassidy. “But, I also think our strength of schedule this year is the toughest Huntingdon has ever had. The program has just three district titles but, if we focus on the process and not the destination, I think we could find ourselves competing for a district title. We want to focus on one game at a time. Think about what we need to work on and then achieve those goals.”
Anne Millar returns as Cassidy’s varsity assistant and junior varsity head coach, while Eric Troup is back to coach the junior high team.
Huntingdon opens the 2018-19 schedule tomorrow with a girls/boys doubleheader at Tussey Mountain. The girls junior varsity gets things started at 12:30 p.m. followed by the girls varsity at 2 p.m. The boys junior varsity is set for a 3:30 p.m. start with the boys varsity to follow. The Bearcats are also scheduled to face non-league opponents Mount Union, Bishop Guilfoyle, Hollidaysburg, Central Mountain and Allegheny, Maryland this season.