Latrobe girls basketball integrates guarded approach

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Wednesday 26 January 2022 | 16:46


Latrobe has gotten some attention in WPIAL girls’ basketball circles because of his height and old-fashioned post-play.

The Wildcats have a size advantage that teams envy. They are a skyscraper in a class 5A skyline.

But look at how the team plays this season and it’s clear there’s a lot more to the lineup than ‘bigs’.

Latrobe also has a lot of talent in the backcourt. The frontcourt – “Twin Towers” Anna Rafferty and Emma Blair – is still the best option. But they are often illuminated by the guards.

“We have developed our postgame. It’s years in the making,” said Rafferty, a senior striker. “But our guards — Camille (Dominick), Elle (Snyder), Bailey (Watson), and Josie (Straigis) have worked extremely hard, and it’s very obvious. “

Senior Bailey Watson leads the point, while sophomore Elle Snyder and six-foot junior Camille Dominick are the wings.

“When the team needs it, we can shoot the 3. We made nine in one game this year,” said Watson, who started part-time last season. “We have been able to do more with our offside. Every shot is a good shot.”

The Wildcats (10-2, 6-0), ranked No. 5 in WPIAL Class 5A heading into Wednesday’s game at Woodland Hills, were only in first place in Section 4 after 66-65 upset over then-No. . 4 McKeesport, the statement game if any of their schedule.

“That gave us a huge head start,” Watson said.

They also took an impressive 76-65 win over Woodland Hills, stopping a late comeback by the Wolverines, who took 30 points in the final eight minutes.

Coach Mark Burkhardt entered the locker room after the win with a loud, Jimmy Johnson-esque “What about those Latrobe Wildcats?”

What about those guards?

Watson leads the show and gives the team seven points and five assists per game. Snyder has accelerated as a goalscorer and has a team-best average of 15 points. She made five 3s in a game.

With some of the scoring load from Rafferty (12 points, 10 rebounds) and Blair (11 ppg, 11 rpg), Latrobe can do more offensively — and less with his back to the basket.

Rafferty and Blair can clear up the missed perimeter shots by picking offensive rebounds.

When they get a defensive rebound, the Wildcats can go either way: give-and-go, fast break, or half-court set up.

And because of that, the approach to defending opponents has changed.

“It keeps teams fair,” Burkhardt said of the guard game. “If we keep shooting the ball the way we shot it, teams won’t pack it on us as often.”

“Teams have to adapt to how we play,” said Rafferty, a six-foot IUP committed and reigning Trib Westmoreland Player of the Year who is recovering from a recent knee injury. She didn’t play against Penn Hills on Monday.

Rafferty continues to face double teams in the paint. But now she can blast the ball out for a 3 or mid-range jumper when hunted on the low block. And she can do that with confidence and trust in teammates.

“Now we can make them pay for it,” Burkhardt said of the dual teams.

Dominick has also taken on an elevated role, delivering 10 points per game while showing versatility. She scored 19 against Indiana and 18 in the Woodland Hills win for five 3-pointers in each game.

“Camille has developed a shot,” Burkhardt said. “She’s our shooting big.”

Dominick helped fill in at the post when Rafferty came down in the third quarter with a knee injury against Woodland Hills.

Junior forward Josie Straigus, freshman Carley Burke and sophomore Belle Blossey come off the bench. The last two are guards.

With the inside-outside options, the Wildcats learn how to use each in situations and against teams.

“Our guards handled the pressure really well,” Burkhardt said. “That really gives us an edge at the back of the press. The girls don’t panic anymore.”

Latrobe lost a nine point lead against Indiana late in the second game of the season, losing 53-50.

“We learned from that,” Burkhardt said. “And the McKeesport game was a play-off atmosphere; huge crowd. Our girls have handled it well.”

The team’s other loss was against 5A No. 1 Chartier Valley, 64-43. The Wildcats also lost to powerhouse Colts in the WPIAL semifinals last year.

“There are some really high-quality teams in 5A,” said Burkhardt. “There are probably eight or nine that could be a factor.”

Latrobe is one of them.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill via email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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