In her first three high school basketball seasons, Alyssa Clutter was able to get involved.
With a packed list around him, Trinity helped girl basketball player Hillers to a WPIAL title game as a sophomore. As a junior, Clutter became one of the team’s top players, averaging 13.8 points per game, helping Hillers return to the district finals.
Although she established herself as a key contributor in that junior season, Clutter was not always in the spotlight, thanks to a senior team that included last year Observer-Reporter Girl of the Year, Courtney Dahlquist.
When Clutter entered her senior season this winter, Hillers had a young team – three sophomores ended up starting most of the year – and she could not interfere anymore.
“As you go, the rest follow,” Clutter said. “I learned it as the season went on. If I was emotionally desperate, so would the rest of the team. So I really had to carry myself, and if I played a bad game, I could not “Let someone see it in my face. I could not let it bring me down because it meant something to the whole team.”
Although Hillers did not return to the WPIAL finals, Clutter undoubtedly succeeded in his new, more significant role.
She became Trinity’s best player on the field, averaging 18.1 points per game and directing Hillers’ attack from her point guard position. As a result, Clutter has been named OR’s Player of the Year. She is the third Trinity player to win the award in as many years, the fourth in six years and the sixth in total.
Her coach, Kathy McConnell-Miller, was very impressed with Clutter’s ability to walk from the ensemble to the lead.
“Alyssa was a significant part of last year,” McConnell-Miller said, “but she was not always a player who was beaten or the teams tried to take out of a match. That changed completely for her this year. She became the focus of everyone’s defensive plan. “
On and off the field, Clutter became the player her younger teammates admired, perhaps more than anyone else.
“Sometimes she was like a mother to them,” McConnell-Miller said. “Her car was always full to and from training. She always got players where they needed to be. It was she who always wrote to them, encouraged them, challenged them. So I just saw a significant change in her that helped us as a team. I’m just so happy for her transition from youth to senior year. ”
Clutter’s transformation into the heartbeat of Trinity girls basketball is more impressive with more context.
Clutter is an athlete with three sports who ended his football career in high school with a school record of 98 goals and is also a state qualifier on the track.
Two years ago, Clutter saw himself playing football, not basketball, in college. During her teenage years, however, she decided that of her three sports, basketball was the one she wanted to pursue beyond high school. By the fall, she will reach that goal when she begins her college career in Division I North Alabama.
“It was probably one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made,” Clutter said. “I love football too. I enjoy playing it. But what really made the difference is what I always felt I was returning to. It was always the ball that I wanted to collect in my hands.”
As a senior, Clutter was the one Trinity wanted to have the ball in his hands in the game’s critical situations.
“I felt like this year in basketball, having it on me, it just showed how much heart I had that I might not even be aware of,” Clutter said. “That I would not let my team lose. If I could do anything to prevent it, I would do it.
Perhaps the best example of Clutter’s “refuse to lose” mentality happened ironically in a game that Trinity lost.
In the WPIAL 5A quarterfinals, Hillers was behind after McKeesport double-digit in the fourth quarter. But Clutter scored 18 points in the final period, putting Trinity in a position to win in the final seconds of the game, and it took a 24-foot buzzer-beater by McKeeSport’s Madeline Cherepko to defeat Hillers by one point.
McConnell-Miller called it “probably the best performance I’ve ever seen of a high school player in a quarter.”
And not just because of the 18 points.
“She identified what her team needed and she did exactly that,” McConnell-Miller said. “She shot the ball, she came to the edge, she defended. She played the whole floor … Everything our team needed (her) to do, she did. The fourth quarter was probably the most impressive quarter of basketball, I have ever seen in a female athlete. “
The opponent’s coach was also impressed.
“As Clutter played, I did not want to go into overtime,” McKeesport coach Amy Gumbert said. “That kid has a heart of steel.”
Now, Clutter and her iron heart will move on to Alabama.
In the beginning, basketball was not even Clutter’s top sport in high school. Now she has earned a scholarship to play it in college and plans to take full advantage.
McConnell-Miller looks forward to seeing her manager at the next level, but will miss her very much at Hiller Hall.
“Everything she’s done as a student-athlete at Trinity will, in my opinion, be something that these kids will forever be better off having played with her,” McConnell-Miller said. “She was leading the way in practice and in playing what a Trinity student-athlete looks like. She’s committed. She’s someone who makes her presence felt in everything she does. She’s always the hardest worker in practice. “So I think her presence will be felt.”
Clutter will miss his coach and will miss his teammates – past and present – most of all.
“I love those girls,” Clutter said. “I love the young team we had this year and I miss the team we had before. I think, in the atmosphere around those girls, that I wish I could play with them in college. I enjoyed really being around them and all the laughs we had all year. “