Women’s basketball building confidence


Pitt-Johnstown forward Olivia McCabe takes a jumpshot against Gannon University Jan. 9 where the Mountain Cats lost 71-74.

Cory Geer, Sports Editor

The leaves are changing color and temperatures predicted to cool, which means it is almost basketball season in Johnstown.

The Pitt-Johnstown women’s basketball team is looking to improve on last year’s 8-20 overall record and 4-18 conference record.

The Mountain Cats finished last in the loaded Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Western Division, that had six teams win 12 or more conference games compared with only two on the Eastern Division.

The Mountain Cats are led by Coach Mike Drahos, who will be entering his fifth season as the Mountain Cats head coach.

This season the women’s basketball team will be returning nine players who earned playing time, and Drahos said it is nice to have some continuity entering the season.

“It makes things a lot easier earlier on in the season, not having to coach eight kids how you want to do things,” said Drahos. “This year, it is a lot easier. The four new players can step into a role and learn from returning players.”

Last season the Mountain Cats had eight freshmen take the floor, something that Drahos said will help on this year’s team.

“This year, we are more experienced and not quite as young. Hopefully, we can eliminate our early mistakes that we made last season.”

Senior forward Olivia McCabe said it is great to have nine returning players.

“It is nice because they know what is expected of them and can really help the freshmen”.

One issue that the Mountain Cats faced last season was 3-point shooting. They tied for fourth in 3-point attempts but finished third-to-last shooting only 27.5 percent.

Drahos said that he would like to see that percentage increase this season.

“We like to shoot 3-pointers and stretch the floor. I think we got players who can knock them down at a high rate,” Drahos said.

“Hopefully that continues to get better with confidence and experience when it is really needed this season.”

This season the Mountain Cats welcome new assistant Coach Renee Brown. Brown, who played her college basketball at Edinboro University, won numerous awards as a Fighting Scots player.

She was selected as 2008-09 Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year, along with being a three-time all-conference first-team selection.

Drahos said that she is helping the team tremendously already.

“She has only been on campus for about (six weeks) and she has helped a lot with study halls and recruiting. Her personality is something that is going to really help us on and off the court.”

This year’s recruiting class features three freshmen. Forward Maddie Shanahan from West Chester, Chester County, guard Ashley Dean from Harrisburg, Dauphin County, and guard Mia Oterson from Marion Center, Indiana County.

Drahos said he expects the three freshmen to contribute to this year’s team.

“We don’t know yet, minutes-wise what they will contribute, but in practice they have shown flashes of being able to play right away,” said Drahos.

“I just think it is too early to say what their final contribution will be, but they will definitely help this year.”

The team also will welcome junior college transfer Alexis Harris, who played two years at Southeaster Community College in West Burlington, Iowa. In her two years there, Harris averaged 15 points and 5 assists per game.

Harris is someone Drahos said he thinks will play minutes right away for the Mountain Cats.

The Mountain Cats return three starters from last year’s team, McCabe, Tori Moreland and Laurel O’Barto.

McCabe, the only senior, averaged 13.3 points and 9.1 rebounds per game, said she wants to do anything to help the Mountain Cats win this season.

“I just want to keep contributing to the team like I did last year, whether it is points, rebounds or hustle plays,” McCabe said.

The home opener is scheduled to be played Nov. 18 against Bloomsburg.