A shift from Class AAA to Class AA will boost the McGuffey girls basketball team, along with the return of sophomore guard Sammie Weiss, who averaged 18.5 points per game last winter.
Weiss, who was a first team All-District selection, is one of three returning starters for the Highlanders.
Junior forward Abby Pattison (10 ppg, 8 rebounds per game) and sophomore point guard Rachel Czulewicz also are back, with Pattison playing the role of defensive stopper and Pattison a backcourt complement to Weiss.
“In Class AAA, we were playing teams like Chartiers Valley and South Fayette every day,” said head coach Amanda Burchett, whose team went 2-8 in Section 5-AAA, 9-3 in non-section games. “They’re phenomenal basketball teams, and they have double the amount of people that we do.
“I’m optimistic for this year. I think we’re going to fare a lot better.”
McGuffey will be in Section 5-AA along with Bentworth, Beth-Center, Burgettstown, Charleroi, South Side Beaver and Wash High.
Bentworth, which went 18-4 and won the Section 4-AA title last year, lost three starters, including all-section players Jessica Dorazio and Darcy Bostich. Dorazio averaged an area-best 21.6 points per game.
The Bearcats’ top returner is senior Taylor Pompei, who accounted for nine points, seven rebounds and 6.5 steals per game.
Burgettstown must replace Melissa Phillis (20.6 ppg) and 65 percent of its scoring from last year. Kristen Roy (8.2 ppg, 8.0 rpg) is the team’s top returner.
Wash High has 6-1 center/forward Mya Williams back after she averaged eight points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game.
The Prexies went 11-12 and tied Beth-Center for second in Section 4-AA at 9-3.
Chartiers-Houston and Fort Cherry bump up to Class AA and will compete in Section 4-AA along with Bishop Canevin, Brentwood, Seton-La Salle, Steel Valley and Wilkinsburg.
It’s a draw road, too, considering Seton-La Salle and Bishop Canevin met in the Class AA girls final.
The Rangers lost Beka Bellhy, Jessie Merckle and Carolena Gasbarro from last season’s WPIAL Class A semifinal squad, and that trio accounted for all but 17 points of Fort Cherry’s offense. Longtime coach Bob Miles also is now at Trinity.
Junior forward Rachel Bellhy will look to return from an ankle injury, while her younger sister, Tina, a sophomore, also is back. Both will take on larger roles with the loss of Beka, the 2011-12 Observer-Reporter Player of the Year.
Chartiers-Houston brings back seniors Ashley Balzer (14.3 ppg), Tori Fisher and Amanda Balzer from a team that went 17-6 and finished two games behind Fort Cherry in Section 3-A.