Albert Gallatin’s girls basketball team hadn’t reached the postseason since 2013 and hadn’t won a playoff game since 2003 as it entered the 2020-21 season.
Sharp-shooting guard Bryn Bezjak helped the Lady Colonials snap both of those streaks with a stellar senior season in which she surpassed the 1,000-point mark.
Bezjak was one of the WPIAL’s leading scorers, averaging 19 points per game, but was also an outstanding ballhandler, a solid defender and a team leader for coach Ellen Hildebrand’s squad, which posted a 14-7 overall record and an 8-4 mark in Section 3-AAAAA. That included a WPIAL playoff win over Greensburg Salem before AG fell to section foe Thomas Jefferson.
Bezjak is the Herald-Standard Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
With Bezjak leading the way, Albert Gallatin finished third in the section behind Trinity and TJ and thus would’ve made the playoffs even if the WPIAL had not held an open tournament.
The Coach of the Year is West Greene’s Jordan Watson, who guided the Lady Pioneers to a fourth consecutive appearance in the WPIAL Class A championship game. West Greene came up short in the final each time but that doesn’t dampen what the Lady Pioneers have done under Watson.
West Greene was 18-4 this season, including a 10-0 record in Section 2-A as the Lady Pioneers extended their section winning streak to 55. Watson’s squad has won five straight section titles, 40 consecutive home games and has qualified for the postseason in nine of the last 10 years.
West Greene 1,000-point scorer Jersey Wise is the Player of the Year runner-up. The senior point guard averaged 15.9 points, 3.2 rebounds, 4.6 steals and 4.2 assists in her final season.
Bezjak and Wise are both members of the H-S “Top 10” list.
Joining them are Southmoreland sophomore guard Olivia Cernuto and junior forward Gracie Spadaro, Waynesburg Central junior forward Clara Paige Miller and freshman guard Kaley Rohanna, Mount Pleasant sophomore forward Tiffany Zelmore, California senior guard Makayla Boda and junior guard Kendelle Weston, and Brownsville junior guard Emma Seto.
Waynesburg coach Dave Sarra is the Coach of the Year runner-up. One year after his team went 7-15 overall and 1-13 in section play, the Lady Raiders were 13-6 overall, including a WPIAL playoff victory, and had a 9-2 mark and second-place finish in Section 2-AAA.
In addition to the fine job Hildebrand did a AG, other noteworthy coaching performances this year were by Southmoreland’s Weimer Cernuto who guided the Lady Scotties to a 16-5 overall record, an 11-1 mark and first-place finish is Section 3-AAA and two playoff wins, and California’s Chris Niemiec, who led the Lady Trojans to an 11-4 overall record, a 7-1 mark and second-place finish in Section 2-AA and a playoff victory.
The complete Herald-Standard All-Area Girls Basketball Team follows:
Player of the Year: Bryn Bezjak, Albert Gallatin.
Coach of the Year: Jordan Watson, West Greene.
Albert Gallatin: Bryn Bezjak.
West Greene: Jersey Wise.
Waynesburg Central: Clara Paige Miller, Kaley Rohanna.
Brownsville: Emma Seto.
California: Makayla Boda, Kendelle Weston.
Southmoreland: Olivia Cernuto, Gracie Spadaro.
Mount Pleasant: Tiffany Zelmore.
Olivia Miller, Albert Gallatin; Taylor Rodriguez and Viva Kreis, Belle Vernon; Anna Sloan, Beth-Center; Sophia Zalar, Carmichaels; McKenna DeUnger, Charleroi; Madison Kinneer and Hillary Claycomb, Connellsville; Areanna Griffith and Essence Davis, Laurel Highlands; Sydney Caterino and Mercedes Majors, Monessen; Delaynie Morvosh and Maddie Moore, Southmoreland; Nina Sarra and Brenna Benke, Waynesburg Central; Elizabeth Brudnock and Anna Durbin, West Greene.
Gianna Michaux and Courtlyn Turner, Albert Gallatin; Julia Ogrodowski, Beth-Center; Aubri Hogsett, Brownsville; Jordyn Cruse and Ca’Mari Walden, California; Emma Holaren and Mia Ranieri, Carmichaels; Nevaeh Hamborsky, Connellsville; Anna Resnik, Elizabeth Forward; Delaney Warnick and Kaelyn Shaporka, Frazier; Taylor Dusenberry and Krista Wilson, Mapletown; Kirra Gerard, Ringgold; Nekea Lewis and A’Kira Dade, Uniontown; Katie Lampe and Brooke Barner, West Greene.
Noah Turner, Albert Gallatiin; Grace Henderson and Presleigh Colditz, Belle Vernon; Amber Sallee, Bentworth; Royana Lewis and Melanie Shumar, Brownsville; Emma Hyatt, Carmichaels; Leena Henderson, Bella Carroto and Riley Jones, Charleroi; Brooke Marklan, Joselyn Dawson and Bailie Brinson, Elizabeth Forward; Maia Stevenson and Morgan Sandzimier, Geibel Catholic; Savannah Clark and Kayla Larkin, Jefferson-Morgan; Alessandra Peccon, Laurel Highlands; Hailey Johnson, Monessen; Hannah Gesinski, Mount Pleasant; Riley Morehead and Josie Horne, Waynesburg Central; Kaytlynn Walls, West Greene; Kaylynn Odeli and Laney Gerdich, Yough.