NEPA Sports Nation

Lady Patriots try to remain at top

Jeff Gregory and Kallie Booth (at right, in top photo) received Coach and Player of the Year honors last season.

By Tom Robinson,

The Pittston Area girls basketball has gotten everyone’s attention.

Now, reigning state Class 5A Coach of the Year Jeff Gregory, has warned his player that they have to be ready to consistently take opponents’ best shot.

“I told my kids they have to adjust,” Gregory said during Wyoming Valley Conference Media Day. “It’s a little bit different. We’re not going to sneak up on anybody this year like we did last year.

“Sometimes it’s a little bit harder coming back trying to defend something than it is being in the middle of the pack and trying to win for the first time.”

So far, the Lady Patriots appear ready for the challenge.

They will take a 5-0 overall mark, currently tied with Hazleton Area for best in the district, into Monday’s home game against Berwick to begin defense of their Wyoming Valley Conference Division 1 title. That will be the first game in league play in any division of Lackawanna League or WVC boys or girls basketball this season.

Pittston Area is trying to continue on the path it took in 2021-22, going from last place at 1-11 in the division and 4-13 overall in Gregory’s debut in the position in 2020-21 to 12-2 and 24-5.

As they approach that task, the Lady Patriots will have one of District 2’s most-estabished and explosive backcourts while trying to rebuild the frontline with an undersized combination.

Kallie Booth was the Wyoming Valley Conference Division 1 Player of the Year last season.

With Dunmore’s Ciera Toomey remaining on the sideline with an injury, Booth, a second-team choice, is the only currently active player back from last season’s all-District 2 team, selected by (NEPABasketball has since been merged into

Daniella Ranieli (2) teams with Kallie Booth to form one of District 2’s most dynamic backcourt combinations.

Daniella Ranieli is back after being a first-team division all-star as a freshman.

The team’s third-leading scorer, Ava Callahan, is also back. Booth, Ranieli and Callahan combined for nearly five 3-pointers per game last season and are close to six per game this season.

“We’re not a secret this year,” Callahan said, echoing her coach’s thoughts during the Coaches vs. Cancer Media Day. “We’ve got a target on our back this year.”

The Lady Patriots still have new goals to pursue. They ended the season with consecutive losses, 38-31 to Abington Heights in the District 2 championship game at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza and 40-39 to Bangor in the first round of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association state tournament.

“We’re hoping to stay as reigning champs of the Wyoming Valley Conference and we definitely have to get back to the arena and finish what we started,” Booth said. “We had a slip-up last year.”

Pittston Area, which does not have a player taller than 5-foot-8, but gets plenty of rebounding help from its athletic guards, is led on the inside by 5-7 senior forward Taylor Baiera.

Baiera has missed the last two games with what Gregory hopes will be a short-term injury situation. She saw consistent playing time last season when she was fifth on the team in scoring.

“I definitely have to step up this year because we lost a lot of our bigs,” Baiera said, “but we have also have the young girls coming up this year who are going to help.”

Sophomore guard Maddie Karp has settled into another starting position.

Grace Callahan, a sophomore forward, has started the last two games.

Junior guard Rowan Lazevnick is the other seeing regular playing time.


The WVC Division 1 girls basketball schedule: Girls basketball schedules – Wyoming Valley Division 1 – NEPA Sports Nation.

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