‘Almost unguardable’ Talbert
keeping defenses honest
By Joe Simon
New Castle News
The moment’s never too big for Christina Talbert.
New Castle High girls basketball coach Jason Rankin found that out early in Talbert’s career. She stood at the foul line with just seconds remaining in the 2009 WPIAL championship. The game and the season were on the line — and on the shoulders of a skinny, scared little sophomore.
“She got fouled with nine seconds left, and we were down two,” Rankin recalled. “And she made both free throws.”
The clutch free throws were a sign of things to come for Talbert, now a 5-foot-8 senior guard for the Lady ’Canes. She’s been one of the most consistent players in Lawrence County for the last three years, and her ability to perform at the most crucial stages of games again surfaced last week.
Talbert scored 24 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter, against Blackhawk. She also netted a team-best 22 against top-ranked Hopewell, going for 14 in the decisive fourth frame this time. The performance earned her Lawrence County Athlete of the Week honors, an award sponsored by Washington Centre Physical Therapy and selected by the New Castle News sports staff.
Talbert’s success is no surprise to Rankin. He said she’s “almost unguardable” when she’s able to hit the mid-range jumper because opponents have no choice but to back off her to compensate for her quick first step.
“I think a lot of it is her speed,” Rankin said. “Obviously her ball handling helps out, too. And she’s stronger than she appears. She’s muscular, she can fit in tight spots in the lane and she knows how to finish.”
Talbert, who is averaging 17.1 points and 6.4 assists per game, admits that it’s not just her skill that has led to her recent scoring surge. Her smarts have helped, too.
Several teams focus the majority of their attention on teammate Kaylynn Waters, who averages more than 25 points per game, which has opened the floor up for Talbert. She said a game against Bethel Park, where the Lady Black Hawks ran what’s called a box-and-one defense against New Castle, helped her understand what she has to do when teams center their attention on Waters.
“I have to penetrate the gaps that they leave open,” said Talbert of when teams employ the box and one, which puts one person covering Waters while the other four players run a zone. “I have to get to the hole, pitch out to the open player and finish at the hoop if I can.
“After that Bethel Park game, we stepped up big and we reacted to (the defense). We were ready for it. We had been practicing against it because we knew we would see it again.”
The defense surfaced with the Lady ’Canes biggest section rivals — Blackhawk and Hopewell — and she was indeed ready for it, helping lead New Castle (4-0 section, 7-3 overall) to sole possession of first place.
But scoring and reading defenses isn’t all that Talbert does. She is one of New Castle’s best defenders and rarely comes out of the game. Considering the Lady ’Canes are constantly pushing the ball and playing a full-court press defense, Talbert’s conditioning is routinely put to the test — and she always answers the bell.
“I always tell people the story of when I first met her,” Rankin said. “She was in eighth grade. She had moved here between her seventh and eighth grade year, so she didn’t play junior high basketball in seventh grade. I said, ‘Hey, I’m the eighth-grade coach. We have practice in two weeks. It’s conditioning, just running.’ So, she doesn’t show up for the first week, and I called ... So, she shows up the next day, and we ran some suicides. First every time. All week, every one, she was first. And she had missed the week before!”
Talbert said she does become a little winded from time to time, but her competitive drive won’t allow her to slow down.
“In the clutch time, I have to step up big,” she said. “I have to play through all the fatigue — everything — and do whatever I have to do to win.”
THE CHRISTINA TALBERT FILE
TEAM: New Castle
KNOWN FOR: Talbert is one of the premier all-around players in the county She averages 17.1 points and 6.4 assists per game. She’s third in the area in scoring and is one of New Castle’s best defenders.
PARENTS: Mary Talbert.
FAVORITE PRO PLAYER AND WHY: LeBron James, Miami Heat. “He has a heart to win, he’s a team player, and I just like the way he plays.”
FAVORITE PRO TEAM AND WHY: Chicago Bulls. “I really like Derrick Rose. I’ve been watching him since he was in college. I like the way he gets to the hoop, he explodes to the basket, he’s a team player and his position of point guard is the same as mine.”
FUTURE PLANS: Talbert wants to attend college and play basketball, but she hasn’t decided where yet. She said she intends to study business management.