Girard High’s Evan Standohar and Struthers High’s Brittaney Zupko were announced on Wednesday as the winners of the 2013-14 Coach John Kopp Heart of a Champion Award.
The award, sponsored by the law firm Betras, Kopp & Harshman, is given to basketball players who demonstrate determination and courage. Votes are tabulated on the firm’s website.
Standohar, who also plays varsity golf and baseball for Girard, said winning the award “is a great feeling because I feel it represents Girard as much as me, especially those who have supported me.”
Zupko said she was mildly shocked when she learned she had been selected.
“To have someone recognize your heart and desire, I can’t put the feeling into words,” Zupko said. “When a lot of people are supporting you and know your desire, it’s a special feeling.”
The players received a trophy while their school’s athletic department receives $2,500.
At 5-foot-9, Standohar was a dynamo on the court, averaging a double-double in scoring and rebounds the past two seasons.
The top memory he said he will take away from the court is how the Indians improved the past two seasons.
“My freshman and sophomore years really were down years,” Standohar said. “Last year, we brought Girard basketball back.” The game he enjoyed the most was the tournament opener against Liberty, a 62-33 victory.
“We really had fun — beating your rival really stood out,” he said.
The Indians also ousted LaBrae in a district semifinal, ending the varsity career of Davidson recruit Peyton Aldridge. A year ago, Adlridge’s Vikings played in the Division III state semifinal.
“All their players play their roles,” Aldridge said after the game, “starting with both Standohars — [cousin] Jimmy and Evan.
“They’re really hard to stop. If you help on penetration, they’re going to kick it out and knock down the shots.”
Girard’s season ended with a 73-63 loss to Ursuline in the district title game.
Zupko is one of five senior starters graduating from the Wildcats.
The moment that stood out for her this season came the day after Struthers lost to Hickory at the Covelli Centre.
“We were absolutely embarrassed and we never had a practice harder than that,” Zupko said. “It was an important life lesson.
“We learned not matter how hard life is or what it throws at you, you can always get back up. When you love what you’re doing, anything is possible.”
The Wildcats didn’t lose again until the district championship game, a 47-42 loss to West Branch.
Zupko will attend Youngstown State where she will major in nursing. Standohar also will attend YSU to major in education. He wants to be a history teacher and there is a possibility he will join the Penguins’ golf team.