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A-K Valley athletes of the week: St. Joseph’s Julie Spinelli, Cheswick Christian’s Grant Rochkind

A-K Valley athletes of the week: St. Joseph’s Julie Spinelli, Cheswick Christian’s Grant Rochkind

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Saturday, January 20, 2024 | 12:54 PM


Julie Spinelli

Class: Senior

School: St. Joseph

Sport: Basketball

Report card: Reigning Valley News Dispatch girls basketball player of the year Julie Spinelli had 22 points Monday in a 70-40 win over Riverview in Section 3-A and then tallied 19 points in Thursday’s 56-39 victory over Eden Christian. The 5-foot-11 senior guard who is headed to Division II Frostburg State next fall has helped the Spartans to a 12-2 overall record and 5-0 mark in section play. Last season, she helped St. Joseph reach the WPIAL semifinals for a second straight year and surpassed 1,000 career points while averaging 18.9 points and 9.7 rebounds per game.

How did the team play against Eden Christian on Thursday?

I think we played well. We were missing one of our starters so it took us a little time to get adjusted at the beginning. We came out in the second half with a new fire and created some new plays to help us get the win.

What’s been the key to the team’s strong start to the season?

I think it’s teamwork. We really get along, all us girls. That positive attitude leads to a better outcome on the floor.

What are the team’s goals the rest of the way?

We definitely want to win our section and then hopefully we can make it to the WPIAL championship. We have been in the semifinals the past two years, so we want to get past that.

What will it take to win the Section 3-A title?

Our toughest opponent will be Riverview. We’ll have to beat them away at their gym. They play really aggressive defense, they are really athletic and push us a lot.

How do you think you have personally improved throughout your high school career?

I think I’ve improved my overall game. I’ve worked really hard in the offseason and focused on all aspects of my game — defense, rebounding, shooting. I think that’s helped me become a better player.

Why did you decide to commit to Frostburg State?

I really liked the school. I loved the coaches. They were really awesome. Everything just seemed to be the prefect fit for me.

What will you study?

I think business marketing.

What did the coaches like about you?

They liked how I was a very versatile player who can play multiple positions and do different things and I also play really hard on defense.

How do volleyball and softball help with your basketball career?

It helps develop different aspects of my game and makes me stronger and helps me be a more all-around player.

How do you want to be remembered at St. Joseph?

I want to be remembered as a positive leader, someone who was really good for the team, not only on the court but as a good teammate, helping everyone out and being a positive leader.

What’s your favorite home-cooked meal?

Probably any sort of pasta.

What’s your favorite area restaurant?

J&S Pizza (in Natrona Heights).

What’s your favorite outdoor activity in the winter?

I enjoy ice skating but I don’t do it much because of basketball. So, I would say sled riding.

What celebrity would you like to take a selfie with?

Kendall Jenner.

What was the last concert you went to?

Morgan Wallen.

What’s the last movie you saw in a theater?

“Anyone but you.”

What is something people might not know about you?

I really like to bake. I like to try different things.

Grant Rochkind

Class: Senior

School: Cheswick Christian Academy

Sport: Basketball

Report card: Cheswick Christian Academy senior Grant Rochkind has been gathering double-doubles this season, averaging 22.5 points and 13 rebounds. On Thursday, he had 18 points and 12 rebounds to help the Chargers to a 53-45 nonsection win over Geibel. Last Saturday, Rochkind, all-conference selection last winter, scored a career-high 38 points with 10 rebounds in a 72-39 victory over Pittsburgh Christian Academy. Also last week, he poured in 30 points in a 62-40 victory over Harvest Baptist Academy. The Chargers are off to a 7-1 start overall with a 3-0 mark in the SWCAC.

How did the team play against Geibel on Thursday?

I thought we played well. It wasn’t our best game of the season by any means. We can always play better. We’ll take the win and learn off some of the things we didn’t do well. It’s always better to do that off a win.

What does it take to be a good rebounder?

Obviously, the size, being tall (6-foot-3) is a nice thing to have, but getting good position on people, boxing out, is what leads to good rebounding.

What are some things the team is doing well at this point in the season?

We’re defending very well. On offense we have a lot of scorers on our team. We’ve been putting up a lot of points. We also have a lot of depth, guys who can come of the bench and score the ball and defend. We’ve had guys banged up so we’ve had guys coming off the bench and being very productive.

What are the team’s goals the rest of the way?

We’re just looking to improve game in and game out and ultimately get back to the championship where we were last year but to come out with a win.

How did it feel to surpass 1,000 career points?

That was the fist game against Aquinas. It was a free throw. It’s a good goal. I was glad to get it, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank all my teammates for getting me to that goal because I couldn’t have done that without any of them. They’re the reason I was able to achieve that goal.

Is there a story behind your long hair?

There’s really not much of a story. My whole life since I was younger, I’ve always had the long, blond hair, and I’ve always kept it. It’s just a staple look at this point. I put it in a like a man bun so I can see when I play.

Have you made any plans for next fall?

I plan on going to the University of Valley Forge to continue my basketball career and study to be a youth pastor.

How do you want to be remembered at Cheswick Christian?

I just want to be remembered as someone who people can look at say “Man, that guy loves the Lord and loves people and wants to help people the best way he can.”

What’s your favorite home-cooked meal?

I like burritos.

What’s your favorite area restaurant?

I’ll go with Tequila Jalisco (in Gibsonia).

What’s your favorite outdoor activity in the winter?

Probably sledding.

What celebrity would you like to take a selfie with?

LeBron.

What’s the last movie you saw in a theater?

It’s been a while. I think it was “Jesus Revolution.”

What’s something people might not know about you?

I love shoes. I’m a big shoe collector. I like Jordans. I have like five of them, so not that many.

Bill Hartlep is the sports editor of the Tribune-Review. You can contact Bill at [email protected] or via Twitter @BHartlep_Trib.

Tags: Cheswick Christian, St. Joseph