Pitt-Johnstown’s Gabrielle Smith looks for a teammate to pass to while pressured by Indiana’s Brittany Robinson, right, during a PSAC game in Johnstown, PA., Wednesday, Jan.3, 2018. Indiana won 72-53.

The 2019-20 season looks to have the makings of a good one for seventh-year coach Mike Drahos and his Pitt-Johnstown women’s basketball team.

Led by 2018-19 first-team all-Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) West selection Gabrielle Smith and second-team all-PSAC West choice Alli McGrath, Pitt-Johnstown returns four starters and a total of eight upperclassmen from last year’s team that made its first PSAC Tournament appearance since joining the conference in 2013-14.

“We’re very eager for this season to get underway,” Drahos said. 

“I think we have a good mix of battle-tested veterans along with some talented new faces in our lineup. We’re looking forward to competing in one of the best conferences in the country.”

Pitt-Johnstown, which posted a 13-16 overall record and finished fifth in the PSAC West at 9-12, looks to take the next step after suffering a loss to Seton Hill the first round of the PSAC Tournament a year ago.

Smith led Pitt-Johnstown in scoring (19.4 ppg.), rebounding (7.1 rpg.), total assists (70) and total steals (36) on her way to garnering first-team all-conference honors as a junior. Smith, who became Pitt-Johnstown’s 38th 1,000-point scorer on Feb. 21, scored in double figures in all 29 games and broke Denise Gallo’s single-season program record for free-throws made (225) and attempted (283) in a season. In addition, Smith ranked second in NCAA Division II in free-throws made and attempted and 23rd in scoring.

Also back is McGrath, a second-team all-conference choice who finished her first year in the program as the team’s second-leading scorer (17.3 ppg.) and fourth-leading rebounder (5.3 rpg.). McGrath, a senior guard who transferred to Pitt-Johnstown from Maryland-Baltimore County prior to the 2018-19 season, scored in double figures 25 times last year and led Pitt-Johnstown in 3-point field goals made (65) and 3-point field goal percentage (34.9%).

Senior point guard Maurina Nunn and junior forward Maddie Shanahan join Smith and McGrath as returning starters for Drahos. Nunn, a starter the past two seasons, averaged 2.6 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game, while Shanahan was Pitt-Johnstown’s fourth-leading scorer (6.4 ppg.) and third leading rebounder (5.6 rpg.).

In the paint, senior Nicole Olkosky, who has starting experience, looks to rejoin the starting lineup after being limited to 19 games in 2018-19. In those games, Olkosky averaged 5.6 points and was Pitt-Johnstown’s second-leading rebounder at 6.5 rpg. Her 47 blocked shots led the team and ranked fourth in the PSAC.

Along with the four starters coming back, Drahos also has experienced depth at both the guard and forward positions. Senior guard Katie Bolden will wrap up her Pitt-Johnstown career as one of the hardest workers in program history, and junior guards Mia Oterson and Ashley Dean gained experience and provided Drahos with solid contributions off the bench the past two seasons.

The squad welcomes back a lot of experience, but Pitt-Johnstown must replace guards Tori Moreland and Laurel O’Barto, who were lost to graduation. 

Moreland, one of the team’s top shooters, averaged 7.1 points and 3.5 rebounds per game, while O’Barto was a starter most of her career but was sidelined for much of last season with an injury.

Pitt-Johnstown will also look to five talented freshman, including a pair of Pennsylvania all-state selections, to compete for immediate playing time. Olivia Fasick, a Class AAAA all-state choice last year, averaged 19 points and 7 rebounds per game on her way to leading Bishop McDevitt High School to three straight appearances in the PIAA quarterfinals, while Makalyn Clapper, a Class AAA all-state player, scored 1,184 career points, grabbed 912 rebounds and made 546 steals at Penn Cambria High School.

Along with Fasick and Clapper, three others join this year’s talented freshman class. Guard/forward Kashyra Jackson, led Arbor Preparatory High School in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, to back-to-back state runner-up finishes, while forward Ashley Norling, who was a 1,000-point scorer at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart High School in Pittsburgh, and guard Lindsay Shuke, was Bedford High School’s third all-time leading scorer with 1,256 career points.

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