Shade sophomore Emma Spinelli got plenty of attention playing in the WestPAC and in District 5 Class A, but she really earned state-wide recognition when the Panthers played in the eastern bracket in the PIAA basketball playoffs.
The 5-foot-2 point guard averaged an impressive 22.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.2 steals and five assists per game as the Panthers finished with a 22-6 mark. She topped the 1,000-point scoring mark in February.
Spinelli, who was selected to the second team in Class A by the panel of Pennsylvania Sports Writers, has been chosen as The Tribune-Democrat girls Player of the Year.
“I talked to her about the fact that she is not going to be able to sneak up on anyone now,” Shade coach Andy Muha said. “Everyone is going to know who she is.”
Muha said that she was instrumental in helping Shade play in the WestPAC title game as well as the District 5 championship and then advance to the second round of the PIAA championships before losing to Halifax.
“Our other four starters, Destiny Pruss, Lexi Meck, Lexie Rapsky and Brittany Berkey had started together for over 70 games and when Emma came in, she was able to bond with the others,” Muha said. “She was the spark plug that helped to elevate us. She knows that next year her role is going to increase and she will be taking on more of a leadership role.”
Spinelli, who began playing basketball in kindergarten, is also a catcher on the softball team and plays volleyball, but it is basketball that holds a special place in her heart.
“I like the competitiveness of the game,” said Spinelli, the lone underclassman among this year’s top players. “It is fast-paced and you are always doing something, whether its shooting or passing the ball to a teammate, or getting a steal or a rebound. I don’t like to lose and I push to be better all the time and give it 110 percent.
“I can’t get enough of it,” said Spinelli, who is also on the Pa. Blue Thunder travel team which is on the road this weekend.
The other members of the Fab Five are Portage’s Olivia McCabe, Berlin Brothersvalley’s Shelby Coughenour, United’s Eden Bloom and Westmont Hilltop’s Alyssa Miller. Other players who received consideration included Kayla Luprek and Megan Boyer of Conemaugh Township; Emily Chobany of Portage; Caitlyn Gallaher of Forest Hills; and Penn Cambria’s Kaitlyn Krug.
n McCabe, a 6-1 senior center for the Mustangs, averaged a team-high 14.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.8 blocks per game and was chosen to the Class A third team by the panel of Pennsylvania Sports Writers, the first Mustangs’ girl to receive the honor. She was a member of The Tribune-Democrat’s first Fab Five last season.
The Mustangs’ standout is both a 1,000-point scorer and rebounder for Portage, which finished 23-3, won its second straight WestPAC crown and lost to Bishop Guilfoyle in the District 6 Class A final for the second consecutive season before falling to Berlin Brothersvalley in the first round of the PIAA playoffs.
According to Portage coach Lance Hudak, McCabe was a great leader and played volleyball and track and field, but she committed herself to basketball and that was her thing.
“She is just such a special athlete and such an asset on both offense and defense,” Hudak said. “The skill set she has, definitely has made her that much better. She is quick and skilled for her size. She long jumps, triple jumps runs the 4-by-100 and the 200. There aren’t many 6-1 girls that do that.”
While the coaching staff appreciated her talent, McCabe was also a leader and role model for the younger players.
“Liv was a pleasure to be around, a fun, happy-go-lucky kid who was always joking,” Hudak said. “She has a great personality.”
McCabe played in the AmeriServ Senior Hoops Showcase and was selected as the game’s MVP on the winning North squad. The Mustangs’ standout, who will head to Pitt-Johnstown to continue her career, also played in the Mirror Classic.
n Coughenour, a 5-11 senior forward for the Mountaineers, averaged 13.9 points, 8.7 rebounds and a blocked shot per game. She topped the 1,000-point milestone in January and Berlin coach Rachel Prosser said that Coughenour, who had started since she was a freshman, was an excellent free-throw shooter and was above 75 percent for her career.
“Shelby plays inside and out and was a threat in different ways,” Prosser said. “On defense and offense, she knew where she had to be on the court and was very mature and patient when she had the ball.
“I think the time and effort that she put in really showed. She was a very coachable kid and did everything that was asked of her. I am very proud of her.”
Cougenour is headed to Clarion for volleyball and was a three-time coaches all-state selection in the sport, the first-ever for the Mountaineers
The Berlin standout, who is also a member of the school’s track and field squad, played in three postseason all-star basketball games including the AmeriServ Senior Hoops Showcase, the District 5 game and the Mirror Classic.
n Bloom, a 5-7 senior guard for the Lions, was the first area player this season to top the 1,000-point scoring mark, doing so in late December. She averaged a team-high 15.7 points per game. She also added 9.8 rebounds, 3.3 steals and two assists per game.
While Bloom, who is also a member of the track and cross country teams as well as a cheerleader, is listed as a guard, United coach Lee Ann Ault said that Bloom would play any position that the coaches asked her to.
“Eden said at one point, that she would give up every one of her 1,000 points for the team to be successful, that’s how unselfish she is,” Ault said. “She was one of those kids that when I first took over the team, she was upset every time we lost and she was a driving force even as a sophomore in helping us to be a better team. She is friends with a lot of the younger kids and has worked hard and done everything that we have asked of her. She puts her full effort into everything.”
Bloom, who is headed to St. Vincent in Latrobe, was a member of the South squad in the AmeriServ Senior Hoops Showcase and was chosen as the game MVP in the Mirror Classic. She was also the MVP in the Windber tip-off tournament and was a member of the all-tournament team at the Bishop Guilfoyle tournament.
n Miller, a 5-8 guard/forward for the Hilltoppers, led the team in both scoring and rebounds, averaging 12.6 and 7.1. respectively. She also added 2.1 steals and 1.8 assists per game.
Miller is an all-around athlete, who also played volleyball and softball at Westmont.
“She has earned 10 or 11 letters, a great athlete who is also a great kid, has a strong work ethic and gets along well with her peers,” Westmont coach Jodi Hillegass said. “She was the go-to player, the steady one who would play the whole game. We could count on her to rebound, score or whatever else we needed and to not make mistakes. She was the floor leader.”
Miller, who did not play basketball in her sophomore season, returned as a junior.
“She came back to play her junior season and was able to pick up where she left off,” said Hillegass, whose team won the Laurel Highlands Conference title and exited the District 6-AA playoffs in the quarterfinal round.
Miller played on the winning North squad in the AmeriServ Senior Hoops Showcase.
Cory Isenberg is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/CoryIsenbergTD.
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