March 10, 2015
by Kevin Gorman
Penn Hills junior Jade Ely
Penn Hills girls basketball coach John Tate said he moped over the 20-point loss to Norwin in the WPIAL Class AAAA championship game for two days, then decided that if the Indians could win 12 consecutive games to get there they were capable of winning four more to reach the PIAA final.
Tate knew that Penn Hills needed Jade Ely to do it.
After playing her worst in the biggest game, scoring only four points in the WPIAL final, Ely now plays for redemption.
“We all had the same goal,” Ely said. “I know they expect a lot from me, and that I couldn’t produce it was rough. It was mental for me, the crowd and the gym, and I didn’t handle it real well. Knowing I had so much on my shoulders, it was a lot. Everyone could tell it was getting to me because I didn’t have my best game. It wasn’t even close to my best game. There was a lot of pressure and stress, and I didn’t handle it well during the time.”
Tate saw it as a sign that Ely was scared of the spotlight, and he understood why. Ely doesn’t have the deep background with basketball that many of the WPIAL’s top players do. She didn’t play organized basketball until the seventh grade, and didn’t play AAU basketball until the eighth grade.
“This is my personal opinion: She’s the best player around. When she’s right, she’s putting up numbers as well as anyone in Quad A,” Tate said. “She didn’t practice well the day before. She was fooling around, which to me was a sign of nerves. It was a huge stage for her, a huge stage for us. I just thought the moment was too big for her.
Of all the elite players in the area, she’s probably played the least amount of everyone.”
That didn’t stop Ely from developing into one of the district’s most dangerous scorers, one who averages 18 points a game and had 23 points against Mt. Lebanon in the first round, 21 against Penn-Trafford in the quarterfinals and 17 against Bethel Park in the semifinals. She had a strong bounce-back game from the WPIAL final, scoring 23 against Obama Academy in the first round of the PIAA playoffs. Penn Hills plays North Allegheny Tuesday.
“I knew I was talented, just from previous games and AAU,” Ely said, “but this year it really hit me, just knowing that my team depends on me, the way I play can determine the win or loss of the game. I try not to let it get to my head.”
But Penn Hills is hoping she takes it to heart.
#TribHS notebook: Penn Hills senior overcomes sprained knee ligament at PIAA wrestling tourney, by Bill West.
#TribHS highlight reel: Roundball Classic set for April 18
IN THE POOL
Carlynton junior Nicole Stengel
Carlynton junior Stengel competing in two races at state championships, by Nathan Smith.
Knoch’s breaststroke specialists ready for state meet, by Doug Gulasy.
Mt. Pleasant swim duo’s hard work pays off with PIAA berths, by Jason Black.
ON THE ICE
Deer Lakes’ Vincent Casale celebrates a goal against Montour
Deer Lakes strives to seize spot in PIHL Class A title game, by Jerin Steele.
Armstrong wins in overtime, earns spot in PIHL final, by Matt Grubba.
PIHL playoffs roundup
ON THE COURT
Valley senior Josh Denham, the only returning singles player, warms up with a ball control drill, during tennis practice
State berth whets Valley’s tennis team appetite, by Doug Gulasy.
New Elizabeth Forward football coach ‘ready for the challenge,’ by Dave Mackall.
East Allegheny board opens boys basketball jobs, by Patrick Cloonan.