Panthers open with win

By Sergei Feldman

The Pitt women’s basketball team’s preseason and exhibition started with a slight, as it missed… The Pitt women’s basketball team’s preseason and exhibition started with a slight, as it missed out on a top-25 spot in the most recent Associated Press poll. But, judging from its play against the OGBR Legends at the Peterson Events Center last night, the slight was barely noticeable, as the Panthers defeated the Legends, 73-58. In her sixth season at Pitt, Coach Agnus Berenato was excited for getting things underway. ‘Practice is one thing, but it’s not the same as playing a game,’ said Berenato. ‘It’s a new year and a new team. We have great chemistry. I really like this team.’ Prior to the game’s commencement, senior guard Shavonte Zellous was named as one of the 30 preseason candidates for the Wooden Award. She did not participate in the exhibition game, but her presence was felt. Berenato offered nothing but praise for her star senior. ‘[Zellous] is a rare gift and a special talent,’ said Berenato. ‘She’s taken her game to an elite level.’ And when Berenato is not busy pinching herself every time she sees Zellous sporting a Pitt jersey, she’s noticing her ‘million dollar smile.’ Smiles aside, the Panthers had a game to play. Leading the way was junior guard Jania Sims, who snagged an early rebound and drove for two scores, while catapulting the Panthers to a 23-8 run to start the game. ‘Jania is one of the best point guards in the country,’ said Berenato. ‘She’s very explosive.’ Sims finished the game with 13 points and eight rebounds. Two shots from beyond the arc by senior guard Xenia Stewart and another by sophomore forward Shayla Scott highlighted the dominating run. In the middle of the first half, Pitt’s focus faltered, as it turned the ball over 12 times and missed makeable shots. The sloppy, undisciplined play created some much-needed momentum for the Legends. After the 23-8 early run, the Legends titled the court with a demanding 12-2 run of their own, led by forward Amanda Lassiter, who finished the half with 10 points.’ But a few timeouts enabled Pitt to regroup and get back to what made it successful early on, finishing the half with a 16-7 run. ‘We weathered the storm,’ said Berenato. Pitt took a 46-31 lead into halftime. The second half could’ve been confused for a heavyweight title match. Both the Panthers and Legends picked up the intensity and physicality. Neither team seemed to pull away with any strong runs in the second half, as buckets were exchanged back and forth. Pitt held a 15-point lead going into halftime, but the Legends matched Pitt’s tally of 27 points in the second half. Ultimately, the Panthers prevailed, with the final 73-58 margin. Given the young season, it was important for the Panthers to play everyone, and they were able to do just that against the Legends. Pitt also demonstrated an across-the-board, balanced attack. ‘Everyone had their moments,’ said Berenato. ‘It’s what you learn more than the outcome.’