Patty Columbia hopes to guide Brownsville’s girls basketball team back into the WPIAL playoffs after missing out on last year’s postseason.
The Lady Falcons reached the playoffs in each of Columbia’s first two seasons and she has plenty of experience returning from last year to try to make it three out of four.
Brownsville was 5-17 overall and 2-12 in section play.
“The good news for us is our top six girls when it comes to amount of playing time last year are all coming back,” Columbia said. “Out of those six girls, I haven’t decided who the starting five are yet but they will be our top players again.”
That group is led by senior shooting guard Alexis Carson, who is the Lady Falcons’ top returning scorer.
Junior Sai Waqanivalu is back at point guard and her sister senior Sala Waqanivalu will play small forward.
Senior Arielle Teeter is slotted in at center, while guard Aniya Tarpley and forward Chloe Wright, both juniors, fill out the top six in Columbia’s rotation.
“They all played a lot of varsity last year,” said Columbia, who is assisted by Leanna Wright and Kalie Davis. “I think speed is probably going to be our biggest asset, and to that end I have a sophomore guard, Amari Fowler, who should also see plenty of playing time this year.”
The seniors are very familiar with Columbia’s program.
“This group of seniors was my first group of freshmen,” Columbia said. “I’ve had them all four years.”
The 2018-19 Lady Falcons are not a gun-ho bunch, but that’s fine with Columbia.
“Sai is probably our most vocal leader, even though she’s a junior,” Columbia said. “They are more of a quiet group, a very nice group and a very coachable group of girls.”
The Lady Falcons will again play in Section 2-AAA although the teams have changed slightly.
Remaining from last year are Charleroi, Waynesburg Central and McGuffey. Last year’s first-place team East Allegheny, South Side Beaver and South Allegheny are no longer in the section. South Park, a Class AAAA playoff team last year, drops down into the section as does Class AAA playoff teams Seton LaSalle and Washington. Beth-Center has been bumped up from Class AA into the section as well.
“A couple of tough teams moved out of our section but then a couple of tough teams moved in,” Columbia said. “We’ve played Beth-Center a few times in the undergrads last year so we know they’re tough, we faced them in the championship game. I believe that Washington is going to tough. I don’t know a lot about Seton LaSalle and South Park, but they are traditionally strong programs.
“We’re hoping to be able to compete with everybody and fight for a playoff spot.”