Kathy McConnell-Miller has coached for decades in high school, college and even the WNBA, so it’s safe to say the Trinity coach knows a good player when she sees one.

In all her years on the sideline, though, McConnell-Miller hasn’t had to face many players quite like the one the Hillers were tasked with defending on Thursday night.

In a battle for first place in Class 5A Section 4 between a pair of WPIAL title hopefuls, Trinity was no match for Maddie Webber and South Fayette as the Lions rolled into the Hillers’ home gym before claiming a convincing 47-25 win. The senior scored a game-high 22 points and, as always, affected the game in several ways with her exceptional defense, passing, court vision and basketball IQ.

“She’s good. She’s really good,” McConnell-Miller said. “I saw it in eighth grade. She has it. She has one, the ability to score at will. Two, she’s an exceptional passer. She’s got great size, she’s got good athleticism.

“She knows how to dominate a game.”

This is nothing new for Webber, a Villanova recruit considered by many to be the top girls player in the WPIAL this season. Heck, she could have made an argument for that title last year when she helped South Fayette knock off three-time defending champion Chartiers Valley in the WPIAL Class 5A championship game.

If that game and the Lions’ entire playoff run was Webber’s coming-out party, then this season has already been quite the encore.

A 5-11 point guard with a smooth jump shot and impressive handles, Webber has made great strides to become just as impactful on defense as she is on offense. She clogs up passing lanes with her long arms and routinely turns deflections into fast break opportunities the other way. She deflected about a dozen Trinity passes alone, at one point causing McConnell-Miller to question what her players were seeing during a timeout.

“I asked [my players] if they saw her. Like, do you see her in front of you?” McConnell-Miller said. “Transition defense, she leaks out. You take away the layup, she pulls up. If you close out hard on her, she can get to the rim.

“The versatility is unlike anyone in the WPIAL right now.”

Webber averages 18 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds and 3 steals for the Lions (12-2, 4-0), who sit atop the Class 5A Section 4 standings. Their only losses came 43-40 at Class 6A Norwin on Dec. 15 and 50-49 vs. St. Thomas Aquinas (N.J.) on Dec. 28. And now that 6-4 senior and Elon recruit Ava Leroux is back after a brief absence, Webber is free to do what she does best while Leroux handles the dirty work in the paint.

“I don’t just want to be a scorer on offense. I also want to be a key on defense,” Webber said. “I’m long, so I just use my hands to get a lot of deflections, and I think that helps us a lot.”

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better duo in the WPIAL right now than South Fayette’s Ava Leroux, left, and Maddie Webber. (Steve Rotstein/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Webber is already a household name in WPIAL circles, but now she’s starting to earn recognition on a national level. On Wednesday, Webber and Indiana’s Eva Fiala were the only two local players nominated to play in the 2023 McDonald’s All-American Game, one of the highest honors a high school player can receive. The full list of 722 nominees will be narrowed down to 24 boys and 24 girls on Jan. 24.

“She’s just a basketball junkie,” said South Fayette coach Bryan Bennett. “She just looks to improve every day. … She can score in a variety of ways, which is helpful. She does have a great 3-point shot, but we don’t rely on that when she’s an outstanding penetrator.”

As she continues to add more highlights to an already pristine resume, it would be easy for Webber to get complacent and start looking toward Villanova. After all, there isn’t much left for her to accomplish on the high school level.

Instead, she appears to be playing with even more vigor than ever, almost like she’s out to prove that last season was no fluke. Combine her versatile skill set with her fearless playing style, and an added chip on her shoulder to go with it, and you have the recipe for the most dynamic player in the WPIAL — and the most dangerous one for opposing coaches to prepare for.

“When you’re that consumed with a player, it becomes difficult. There aren’t many players in the WPIAL who can stop her,” McConnell-Miller said. “There were times that I was in awe watching her tonight. It’s something to watch. She’s going to have a great career at the next level.

“I’ve seen players at that level. She can go in and make an impact right away.”

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at srotstein@unionprogress.com.

Steve Rotstein

Steve is a sports writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at srotstein@unionprogress.com.