PENN-OHIO ATHLETIC CLUB Area girls team wins national basketball title
Blue Storm capitalized on experience gained by last year's fourth-place finish.
By JOHN KOVACH
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
SHARON, Pa. -- Experience, goal-setting and preparation are three of the main reasons that a group of Youngstown-area girls has won a national basketball championship.
Last summer, the Blue Storm girls 17-18 basketball team, playing for the Mahoning Valley Eagles Club in Hubbard, placed fourth in the nation in its age group at the Basketball Congressional International National Tournament in Lubbock, Texas.
Just recently, this same Blue Storm team, with most of the players back and playing this time for the new Penn-Ohio Athletic Club in Sharon, won the AAU national tournament held at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla., from July 9-16.
The Blue Storm won all seven tournament games, including a 63-58 win over the SR Alabama Lady Cats in the final behind Lindsay Johnson's 21 points. Johnson is a senior at Springfield.
Amanda Nero, a senior from Lowellville, led the Blue Storm in scoring for the seven games with 119 points, while Johnson finished with 101, including 21 in the title game and 23 and 21 in the fourth and fifth games, respectively.
Lynle Cornell of Hubbard, who will be a freshman at Gannon University, contributed 92 points, and Taniesha Holland, a senior at Rayen, added 75.
Rounding out the 10-player team were seniors Ashley Pendleton (Farrell) and Chere Marshall (Hickory), juniors Shaina Smith and Lynn Renwick (both from Reynolds) and Leanne Magestro (Kennedy Catholic) and college freshman Jessica Saul (Reynolds and Clarion University).
Coach Justin Magestro said his team found out last year what it would take to win a national title.
"The one major reason [for winning] was that the girls have another year of experience under their belts," said Magestro, who is assisted by his brother, Dion Magestro, and Brian Sansom.
"They were able to take the experience from last year, and they knew what they had to work on to get to the championship level the following year," he added. "They found out what would be necessary to win and worked on that at practice."
Set a goal
Magestro also said his team set a goal and was determined to reach it.
"They said after last year that their dream was to win a national championship the next year. They set a goal, a long-term goal, and worked on it day in and day out in the season," said Magestro.
To prepare for the AAU meet, the Blue Storm practiced two or three times per week at several locations against various forms of competition and against both boys and girls.
In all, the team played in eight tournaments and finished with a 42-5 record.
Magestro said Marshall didn't play in any games this year because of an elbow injury, "but was to every practice and tournament and was as much a member of the team as all the others," he pointed out.
The Blue Storm separated from the Mahoning Valley Eagles girls basketball club, which is based in Hubbard, to form the new Penn-Ohio Athletic Association, which is for both girls and boys.
"We wanted to get something started for boys in the area because there were no AAU programs for boys in Mahoning, Trumbull, Lawrence and Mercer counties, so we figured we could do two things at once," said Magestro, noting Penn-Ohio has 20 teams -- 11 girls and nine boys -- from third through 12th grades.