Chris Dugan's Sports Column
Young PT girls team resumes climb
Senior Night for the Peters Township girls basketball team was canceled this year.
And it appears there will be no Senior Night next year, either.
No, this wasn’t some mean-spirited power-play decision by the school board. And, no, the Indians’ players didn’t do anything wrong that would have caused Senior Night to be scrapped.
You see, Peters Township has zero seniors on its roster this year.
And there are no juniors, either.
The Indians have played their season, which concludes Monday with a non-section game at Fox Chapel, with a 19-player roster comprised of only freshmen and sophomores.
After experiencing several non-winning seasons, multiple coaching changes and strife inside the program, the players who would have been juniors and seniors this season opted to leave the program and concentrate on some of the 11 other girls sports PT offers.
The Indians had a 3-19 record last season, and into this mess walked Bert Kendall, a veteran assistant coach at Section 3-AAAA rival Bethel Park. Kendall was hired last offseason and inherited a team woefully short on experience and size.
Combine that with the difficulty of playing in 3-AAAA, a section that is the best in the WPIAL, having produced nine of the 12 WPIAL finalists and five champions over the last six years, and you realize Kendall took one of the toughest jobs he could find. Perhaps the only person with a more difficult job than Kendall this year is his junior varsity coach Samantha Loadman. That’s because the group that should be Loadman’s team spends Monday and Thursday nights playing in the 7:30 p.m. varsity games instead of the 6 p.m. JV games.
“We knew we were going to be young, but we were putting in a good system and we have good kids,” said Kendall, who has brought a positive attitude to the Indians. “We’re getting better every day.”
While PT won’t be included when the WPIAL playoffs pairing are released Tuesday night, the Indians have tested the powers of youthful enthusiasm and put together a 7-14 record that includes a 2-10 mark in section. Kendall has the program headed in the right direction.
Kendall’s team has managed to play beyond its age. The Indians upset Baldwin and Canon-McMillan in league play and own wins over South Fayette, Ringgold and Central Valley, three teams that qualified for the Class AAA playoffs. In sophomore Madison Kerr, PT has one of the top scorers in Class AAAA and a building block for the future.
In the losses, Kendall refused to let PT use inexperience and youth as an excuse, though he sometimes has to remind himself that he’s dealing with freshmen and sophomores instead of three-year senior starters.
“To a certain degree, I do,” Kendall said. “I know that we’re going to get the unexpected turnover or lapse in concentration, but you can’t blame everything on age. I tell the kids, when you’re in the workplace and the boss gives you a job to do, you can’t use age as an excuse. He gives you the job because he thinks you’re capable.”
If Peters Township is capable of doing some postseason damage next season and beyond, Kendall might look back at this season, and the wins over Baldwin and Canon-Mac, as turning points in the program.
“We’re always talking about the future,” Kendall said. “The future could be tomorrow, next week or next year. … The goals will be loftier next season. I think we’ve earned some respect for Peters Township basketball this season and proved that even with our youth, we’re competitive at the high school level.”
Sports editor Chris Dugan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.