Shenandoah Valley girls hope to extend tradition
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.”
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.
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.
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.