HYDE — Three returning starters and a fourth letterwinner who was first off the bench last season have coach Joey Castagnolo looking forward to his 19th season in charge of the Clearfield Area High School girls basketball team.
“I’m upbeat about this team,” Castagnolo said. “It’s gonna be an interesting season.”
His optimism is based on having three of the top four pointmakers back from the 2016-17 Lady Bison who were poised for a winning record at 10-6 before tumbling to an 11-12 finish, falling under .500 with a tough 37-30 loss to Punxsutawney in the District 9 Class AAAA title game.
Seniors Brooke Cline and Nikki Brossard and junior Alayna Ryan comprise that trio that will be joined by sophomore Tesa Miller to form the nucleus for a team that will be counting heavily on sophomores and freshmen to progress quickly.
Two-year letterwinner Ryan, named to the All-Mountain League second unit for her all-around play at point guard, was the Lady Bison’s No. 1 scorer with 333 points (14.5 ppg) and regularly filled her stat line with 92 rebounds (4.0 rpg) and team-highs of 121 assists (5.3 apg) and 104 steals (4.5 spg).
Cline, a three-year letterwinner, also averaged in double figures with 267 points (11.6) while contributing 75 rebounds, 63 assists and 75 steals.
Brossard, who has earned two monograms, was the second leading rebounder with 159 (6.9 rpg) and tallied 118 points, while Miller chipped in 83 rebounds and 27 points.
Brossard and Miller will operate in the post with Cline and freshman Megan Durandetta on the wings for the opener against North Clarion Friday afternoon in the Brookville Tip-Off Tournament.
First off the bench will be freshman Paige Rhine or sophomore Alyssa Twigg in the post and senior Karlie Gisewhite or sophomore McClain Alt on the wings.
Sophomore Adrian Rowles also will help out in the paint, and freshman Kylie VanTassel will see some action at point guard.
“My biggest concern is getting the young kids a lot of playing time, because I think we’ll be better as the season goes on,” Castagnolo said. “I’m relying on Ryan, Cline and Brossard to carry us the first month. By that time, those sophomores and freshmen should be seasoned a little bit.”
The key to the Lady Bison offense will be how many points they can generate with their up-tempo style off defensive rebounds or opponents’ baskets.
“We still can run the floor with the best of my teams because our guards are so quick,” Castagnolo explained. “Durandetta is a freshman, but she knows how to run my fast-break.”
Defensive rebounds will be all-important to get the running game in motion, and Brossard and Miller give the Lady Bison one of their better inside combinations in years.
“I think we should be fine,” Castagnolo said. “Nikki is so athletic, and Tess is a year older and more mature. Brooke and Alayna will get their share of rebounds, too.
“And my bench with Rowles and Twigg and Rhine should make us a better rebounding team.”
Three-point scoring has been an issue for the Lady Bison in recent seasons, including 2016-17 when they managed only 22 including nine by Ryan and one by Gisewhite.
The Lady Bison will have to increase their outside production if they are to improve on last season’s
“We’ve really been working on that in practice to try to spread the floor out a little bit,” Castagnolo said. “I’m trying to make everybody at least a threat to shoot a three. Durandetta can shoot the three, and I want Alayna and Brooke and Karlie to shoot them, too.”
He is counting on good defense with a match-up zone and overall quickness to keep the Lady Bison competitive, especially in the Mountain League where he rates Central, Tyrone and Penns Valley as top contenders for the championship.
“And you can’t ever count out Philipsburg-Osceola with (Halle) Herrington,” Castagnolo said. “I think we can compete with any of those teams, but I don’t know if we can beat them.
“To be in the upper half of the league always is one of my goals.
“The other is to get to the District 9 championship game.
“I think we can have a winning season. The girls understand the system. They know the jobs they have to do.
“It will be fun to watch these young kids improve. The team should be better as they mature.”
The lone seniors last season were three-year letterwinner Ally Lindstrom (189 points and 106 rebounds) and two-year letterwinner Nikki Chew (70 points and team-high 187 rebounds).
Castagnolo’s record stands at 197-232.
Annie Janocko is the Lady Bison assistant coach, while Margo Castagnolo will be a volunteer coach.
The varsity and junior varsity rosters, with (*) denoting letterwinner:
Seniors – Nikki Brossard (*), 5-9; Brooke Cline (*), 5-6; Karlie Gisewhite, 5-6.
Junior – Alayna Ryan (*), 5-6.
Sophomores – McLain Alt, 5-6; Tesa Miller, 5-8; Adrian Rowles, 5-7; Alyssa Twigg, 5-7.
Freshmen – Megan Durandetta, 5-6; Paige Rhine, 5-10; Kylie Van Tassel, 5-3.
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The schedule, with (ML) designating Mountain League games and tip-offs at 7:15 p.m. for home games and 7:30 p.m. for road games unless noted:
8 – North Clarion (3 p.m.) at Brookville Tip-Off Tournament; 5 – Clarion-Limestone or Brookville at Brookville Tip-Off Tournament (consolation game at 2 p.m. and championship game at 5 p.m.); 13 – at Central (ML); 15 – HUNTINGDON (ML); 18 – at Brookville; 19 – BELLEFONTE (ML); 22 – DUBOIS; 28 – at Curwensville, 7:15 p.m.
3 -PUNXSUTAWNEY; 5 – at Tyrone (ML); 9 – BALD EAGLE AREA (ML); 12 – at Penns Valley (ML), 7:15 p.m.; 15 – at St. Marys; 17 – PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA (ML); 19 – CENTRAL (ML); 23 – at Huntingdon (ML); 26 – at Bellefonte (ML); 31 – TYRONE (ML).
2 – at Bald Eagle Area (ML); 6 – PENNS VALLEY (ML); 9 – at Philipsburg-Osceola (ML); 8 – CURWENSVILLE.