By Clayton Sauertieg
New Castle News
Neshannock High sophomore Ally Zarilla has basketball in her blood.
She is a daughter of former New Castle High 1,213-point scorer Jason Zarilla, who played from 1990-1993.
Now a member of the Lady Lancers, the WPIAL Class 3A runner-up, the younger Zarilla is hoping to make a name for herself.
“She has one of the purest shots I’ve seen,” Neshannock coach Luann Grybowski said. “She can go games, even practices, where she won’t miss. She has that in her and she can get into a groove.”
Zarilla, who comes off the bench, was able to get into a groove in Neshannock’s PIAA first-round playoff win over Everett, knocking down three 3-pointers and scoring 11 points to earn New Castle News Athlete of the Week honors sponsored by Washington Centre Physical Therapy and selected by the News sports staff.
The season got off to a delayed start for Zarilla as she missed 13 games while rehabbing from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee suffered while playing AAU basketball in April 2016.
“I was going to change direction, I stopped on my left leg and I went and it didn’t,” she said of the injury. “I screamed, but after awhile it didn’t hurt anymore so I figured I was okay. So I went back into that same game and I went to run and I wasn’t able to and had to be carried off.”
Zarilla said that she iced the injury after the game and was able to come back for the championship game of the tournament and “hit a couple of shots.”
She returned home to see a doctor following the tournament only to find out that she had torn the ligament.
“I was pretty devastated about it,” Zarilla. “I had the surgery on June 7 and my teammates were behind me the whole way. It was a long process, but it made me stronger in the long run.”
Zarilla underwent months of rehabilitation before returning to the court for Neshannock on Jan. 12 against Riverside. Since her return, the sweet-shooting guard is averaging 7.3 points per game, knocking down one 3-pointer per contest and is shooting a county-best 90 percent from the free-throw line.
“She started practicing and she didn’t look like she missed a beat,” Grybowski said of the return. “You could see the rust a bit, and those are things that you have to work through. I expect a lot from her, so I’m tough on her. But she’s coming along. She’s a step slower on the defensive end, but that’s going to come.”
Zarilla is currently the Lady Lancers’ fourth-leading scorer and their top bench contributor.
“I feel even stronger than I was last year,” she said of her time back. “I’ve gained a lot of leg strength because of all the rehab, and whenever I was unable to do any running I would just stand and shoot. Whenever I had the chance to, that’s what I would do and I think my shot even got better because of it.”
For someone with as little experience on the high school stage as Zarilla has, she exudes confidence.
“Everything I learned I learned it from my father,” she said. “He’s an amazing guy and knows so much about the game. I’ve been playing since I could pick up a ball, and these last few games in the playoffs have been so historic and our team’s just so excited about it. I think the adrenaline and that rush just makes everything seem natural and makes everything come together.”