DE­FEN­SIVE DEVILS

Shenan­doah Val­ley girls hope to ex­tend tra­di­tion

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - SPORTS - BY STEVE STAL­LONE AS­SIS­TANT SPORTS ED­I­TOR

Since Chris Con roy’ s ar­rival in 2007, the Shenan­doah Val­ley girls’ bas­ket­ball pro­gram has prided it­self on its de­fense.

In nine of his 10 years as head coach, the Lady Devils have held op­po­nents to less than 40 points per g ame over the course of an en­tire sea­son. The one time they didn’t: 2010-11, when the Lady Devils al­lowed 40.4 per game.

The re­sults of that de­fen­sive prow­ess are clear cut. All but the 2010-11 team ad­vanced to the post­sea­son, and the 2014-15 squad that al­lowed a scant 31.8 ppg went on to win the District 11 Class A cham­pi­onship.

Along the way, Shenan­doah Val­ley’s de­fense-minded teams have won 60 per­cent of their games over 10 sea­sons.

That no doubt ex­plains the un­easy feel­ing Con­roy has en­ter­ing his 11th sea­son at the helm.

“I think we might score more points this sea­son, but at the same time I think our de­fense, for now at least, is not any­where near what we’ ve been a cus­tomed to,” Con­roy said dur­ing the pre­sea­son. “Right now, we’re just try­ing to get bet­ter de­fen­sively day by day. We want to try to build bet­ter an­tic­i­pa­tion and be more tech­ni­cally sound as far as our po­si­tion­ing.”

The team took a huge hit when it lost its two de­fen­sive an­chors — Carly Teaschenko and Molly Micha­lik — to grad­u­a­tion. Their play spear­headed a de­fense that sur­ren­dered just 37.2 ppg last sea­son and led the Lady Devils to a 14-9 record.

“De­fense is a real con­cern. We’re just not as quick,” Con­roy said. “Los­ing Teaschenko and Micha­lik, they were re­ally good de­fend­ers for a few years for us. They took on the lead guard night in and night out.”

There­fore, the Lady Devils may have to rely more on their of­fense this sea­son as their de­fense catches up. And that means lean­ing heav­ily on re­turn­ing all-star for­ward Al­li­son Wargo.

“Al­li­son’s a great place to start,” Con­roy said of the 5-foot-9 se­nior, who av­er­aged a team-lead­ing 12.2 points and 9.8 re­bounds per game last sea­son. “She had one of the bet­ter years sta­tis­ti­cally for a player that I’ve coached. She gives us a lot of good op­tions.

“Last year she ended up 14-for-33 from 3-point range, and she’s got­ten bet­ter. She’s stretch­ing the floor,” Con­roy said. “She’s worked hard and is go­ing to have another real good year.”

Another starter re­turns in 5-5 ju­nior point guard Emily De­malis (5.3 ppg, 2.6 apg, 2.1 spg), giv­ing the Lady Devils an ex­pe­ri­enced ball han­dler. Con­roy is also hop­ing her scor­ing will in­crease this sea­son.

“I thought she got bet­ter as the year went on, cer­tainly with turnovers. She cut her turnovers tremen­dous ly. In the sec­ond half of the sea­son she took care of the ball re­ally well and in­creased her as­sists,” Con­roy said. “I def­i­nitely want her to think score a lit­tle bit more.

“She’s a real un­selfish player al­most to a fault. She’s ca­pa­ble of scor­ing more, and I see it in the drill work at prac­tice. It’s there, she’s just got to pull it out on game nights a lit­tle bit more.”

Those two will be joined in the start­ing lineup by last year’s sixth man, sopho­more guard-for­ward Vic­to­ria Dono­van. She av­er­aged 4.3 points per game as the team’s top re­serve dur­ing her fresh­man year. The only other player with any real var­sity ex­pe­ri­ence is re­turn­ing let­ter­win­ner Joie Mon­a­han, but an in­jury dur­ing vol­ley­ball sea­son has kept the se­nior guard/for­ward on the side­lines in the pre­sea­son.

“We’re hop­ing to get her back. She’ll def­i­nitely be in the mix as long as she’ s healthy,” Con­roy said. In the mean­time, the 3-guard po­si­tion is be­ing manned by 5-6 sopho­more Abby Con­roy, who has been run­ning with the first team dur­ing prac­tice.

The fifth start­ing spot is also up for gr abs be­tween se­nior guard Madisyn Kowal­ick and sopho­more Alyssa Buchanan.

In ad­di­tion to the pre­vi­ous- ly men­tioned play­ers, another who should see var­sity time is 5-5 se­nior sharp­shooter Ali Stevens.

Don’t look for Con­roy to scrap his tra­di­tional man-toman look this sea­son, but ex­pect a tweak here or there to help the de­fense along.

“We’re not go­ing to change much,” Con­roy said. “We’re still go­ing to be mostly a man-to-man team, but we might have to gam­ble a lit­tle bit, spring a few traps here and there and try to cre­ate some more tur novers. We might not be able to just sit back and play man up for long pe­ri­ods of time. We want to keep the other team off-bal­ance.”

That will be im­por tant, es­pe­cially with a sched­ule that in­cludes cur­rent state power Ma­hanoy Area and tra­di­tional power Mar­ian within their own Schuylkill League Di­vi­sion III ranks.

“Our di­vi­sion will be very strong, as most ex­pect Ma­hanoy Area to make a run at a state cham­pi­onship,” Con­roy said. “They have ex­cel­lent speed and depth that give them an edge over ev­ery team in the di­vi­sion. Mar­ian will be very good and has the most size in the di­vi­sion, and Emi­lyZo sc in will give Weatherly a chance to win on any given night,” he added. “And Na­tiv­ity will be much im­proved in Scott For ney’s sec­ond year.”

If the Lady Devils are to make a play­off push, they’ll have to step it up on both ends of the floor.

“It’s go­ing to be all about get­ting bet­ter de­fen­sive ly and try­ing tobe more ef­fi­cient on of­fense ,” Con­roy said. “We have to get our of­fense up into the 45 s or higher and hope that our de­fense im­proves as the sea­son goes on.”

ANDY MATSKO/ STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Shenan­doah Val­ley’s Al­li­son Wargo (15) looks to pass as Old Forge’s Maya Florovito de­fends dur­ing their game last sea­son in Shenan­doah. Wargo re­turns to lead the Lady Devils af­ter av­er­ag­ing 12.2 points and 9.8 re­bounds per game and help­ing Shenan­doah Val­ley reach the District 11 Class AA play­offs.

JAC­QUE­LINE DORMER / STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Shenan­doah Val­ley’s Emily De­malis (00) and Mar­ian’s Emily Shaud (4) bat­tle for pos­ses­sion of the ball dur­ing the District 11 Class AA play­off quar ter­fi­nals last sea­son at Mar tz Hall in Pottsville.

JAC­QUE­LINE DORMER / STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Shenan­doah Val­ley’s Vicki Dono­van pow­ers her way through the de­fense of Mar­ian’s Jill Cor re­alle, left, and Macy Alan­sky (22) dur­ing their District 11 Class AA quar ter­fi­nal play­off game last sea­son.

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