S. ABINGTON TWP. — The Abington Heights girls basketball team will have a different look this season, but two familiar faces will be counted on to lead the charge.
Senior guard Hannah Kowalski is the lone returning starter from the squad that won the District 2 Class 5A championship last season. Senior forward Cassie Ksiazek, who missed last season with a knee injury, also returns after playing an integral role in the team’s run to a Class 4A title in 2015.
Senior forward Paris Koehler and sophomore forward Erin Albright played significant minutes last season, and senior guard Sharon Houlihan and sophomore guard Maria Tully each return with varsity experience.
Junior guard Hannah Hughes, sophomore guard Anna Marchetta, senior forward Maria Terrinoni, junior forward Arla Davis, and freshmen guards Clair Marion and Rachel McDonald are also expected to compete for time in the rotation.
“Our depth is terrific; we’re going to have a lot of kids playing,” Abington Heights head coach Deanna Klingman said. “Even if it’s just for three or four minute segments, they are going to play as tough as they can defensively.”
Although the team graduated four starters — guard Grace Evans, guard Nicole Getz, forward Olivia Baker and center Alessia Brunori — Klingman believes that, while this year’s team will have a different identity, there is the potential for another postseason run.
“We’re quicker and more athletic,” Klingman said. “We’re going to be able to run the floor in transition. Our team chemistry to start the year has been terrific. We had a great scrimmage at Parkland, so we’re pretty excited to get started.”
According to Klingman, the team’s overall success will likely depend on its ability to play as a unit.
“Playing together was what got us to the district final,” she said. “I think they’ve bought into that. They each have pretty defined roles and I think they are doing a really good job accepting them.”
Kowalski led the team in scoring with 311 points last season, but Klingman stressed that her contributions go well beyond the stat sheet.
“She’s a tough kid and a great competitor who will do whatever is asked of her,” Klingman said. “She turned into more of a scorer last year because I needed her to, but she also looks for her teammates in the open floor and does a great job distributing the basketball.”
The third-year coach also feels Ksiazek’s return will provide a spark to the team’s offensive production.
“We’re just thrilled that Cassie worked very hard in the offseason to get back,” Klingman said. “She is 100 percent ready to play and is going to give us a big boost in the paint.
“She has such a great mindset in terms of her goals and focus. She came to a lot of open gym sessions to reconnect with her teammates and I’m looking for her to have a real big year.”
Klingman believes the graduation of the top two scorers in Lackawanna League Division 1 play — West Scranton’s Destiny Jefferson and Scranton’s Ciaira Loyd — will likely cause the division to have a different feel this season.
“I think there is going to be more parity than in the past couple years,” she said. “It’s going to be fun competing. I think there is going to be a lot more scoring across the board for different teams.”
Abington Heights will open its season against Harrisburg, the eighth-ranked Class 5A team in the @PaGirlsHoops preseason state rankings, as part of a tournament at Hazleton Area High School at 6 p.m. Dec. 8.
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.