CANONSBURG – With zero seniors on this year’s Canon-McMillan girls basketball team and three underclassmen out with injuries, head coach Frank Zebrasky knew he would need a few fresh faces to step into starring roles.
Danielle Parker and Brittany Hutchinson didn’t mind.
Neither did Justine Burnquist, Morgan Gasbarrini or Gabrielle Trest.
While Olivia Lorusso, the team’s top returner from a season ago, delivered yet another solid performance and wound up winning the EQT Energy Classic’s Most Valuable Player award for Canon-Mac’s division, several other players with considerably less experience helped the Big Macs to a 43-28 win over Trinity in Sunday night’s championship game.
“It was a total team effort,” Zebrasky said. “As I told Olivia, ‘If you’re dressed, you need to be ready to play.’ ”
Parker led the scoring last night with 14 points while also pulling down eight rebounds. Lorusso contributed 10 points, as those two finished with 29 and 26 points, respectively, in the tournament. Fellow all-tournament team member Brittany Hutchinson had 12 points against the Hillers (1-1).
Gasbarrini came off the bench when Hutchinson had two fouls and played impressive defense, while Trest had a pretty feed to Parker in the post and finished with five rebounds. Burnquist scored four points and teamed with Hutchinson to bolster the Big Macs’ back court.
“It’s a big change – no seniors,” Hutchinson said. “We all have to work together. It’s all teamwork. We practice every position.”
Things weren’t quite as cheery on the Trinity side, where first-year head coach Bob Miles watched his team miss more shots than he’d like, though the Hillers were getting good looks.
“We couldn’t put the ball in the basket in the first quarter,” said Miles, whose team trailed, 8-0, before Rachel Phillis made a jumper with 34 seconds left in the first period. “I thought we had some nice looks; we just couldn’t finish them. I think as that happened, the girls got tight.
“We were thinking we would come out in the second half and make some shots, but we just didn’t do it.”
Canon-McMillan held an 8-2 lead after the first quarter, getting five points from Hutchinson during that stretch.
The Big Macs were ahead, 14-3, after a give-and-go that led to an easy basket for Lorusso, but Trinity answered with seven consecutive points to make it 17-10, the final two coming on a 17-foot jumper from Lauren Simpson.
The Big Macs, though, responded with two Lorusso free throws and a three-point play from Parker to take a 19-12 lead at halftime after Simpson scored on a backdoor layup with a few seconds left before the break.
Trinity had a chance to cut the deficit to four midway through the third quarter, though Canon-Mac answered with a lob from Trest into a wide-open Lorusso and a layup off a steal from Parker to extend the Big Macs’ lead to 25-15 at 3:28.
After Phillis hit a short jumper to make it 28-20 seven seconds into the fourth quarter, Parker scored on a pair of putbacks, and Burnquist made a jump shot to extend the Canon-Mac lead to 34-20.
Trinity would get no closer thanks to Canon-Mac’s tough defense – what Zebrasky credits to 10 multi-sport athletes swarming to the ball.
“Everyone knows every position,” Lorusso said. “When we need someone off the bench, they’ll come in and score points for us. That’s real big because the starters aren’t the only part of the game.”