WVC Girls Basketball Preview
The race for the district playoffs begins tonight when several Wyoming Valley Conference girls basketball teams open up the new season.
While it’s nice to win a division title, the focus now is on qualifying for the district playoffs and trying to earn a bid to the state tournament.
But a division championship is a goal worth striving for, and the usual suspects are expected to make a run. Hazleton Area, Holy Redeemer, Nanticoke Area and Northwest are all teams that are predicted to have a chance. But it’s the other teams in the conference that have a tendency to make things interesting.
Dallas is one of those teams in Division 1. Lake-Lehman and Berwick qualify as two of those teams in Division 2. In Division 3, Wyoming Seminary and Meyers are two teams looking to make some noise.
Moving on up
Three teams in the Wyoming Valley Conference will begin the season in a new classification. Wyoming Seminary will make the jump from 2A to 3A, while Hanover Area and GAR will move from 3A to 4A. Of course, GAR will be making the move for just this season as the program will consolidate with Coughlin and Meyers next year to form Wilkes-Barre Area.
Feel the power
Just a brief reminder: District 2 will be using a power rating system to determine which teams qualify for the district playoffs. More importantly with the new rating system, teams do receive some credit as far as strength of schedule is concerned.
With that in mind, all games played this year count. That means the exhibition games count toward a team’s overall power rating number as do their opponents’ winning percentage.
Last year, District 2 entered the postseason with the possibility of having 13 teams capable of qualifying for the state playoffs with Class A and 6A being subregionals. With the inclusion of Williamsport, the 6A tournament is a subregional, as is Class A with District 11.
This year, the number of potential qualifiers drops by one. In Class 3A last season, District 2 sent three teams to the state playoffs. When the state playoffs roll around in March, the number drops to two. All other classifications remained the same, with 6A receiving one berth and 5A, 2A and A getting two. Class 4A will still have three qualifiers.
Turning the tide
As divisional championships seem to become more a thing of the past with every team setting its sights on a district title and a berth in the state tournament, the WVC will look to regain some of its power against its opponents from the Lackawanna League.
Last year, the Lackawanna League won five of six district championships. The only WVC team to win a district title was Hazleton Area.
Going back to the 2016-17 season, the WVC won two titles thanks to Holy Redeemer and Nanticoke Area.
Calling the shots
The conference will see three new coaches taking over this year. Amanda Golden returns to the bench at Tunkhannock, while Ed Grant is the new coach at Nanticoke Area, and Vincent Vella will now coach MMI Prep.
Here is a brief look at each WVC team for this season. The teams are listed in alphabetical order and by division, and points per game scored last season are listed in parentheses.
Head coach: John Quinn
Looking back: Finished 1-22. Lost to Abington Heights, 56-31, in the first round of the district playoffs.
Players to watch: Ajalaya Butts (5.4), LeJune Berry (4.0), Arianna Brittingham (4.2), Abby Cicon (3.6), Yansel Perez (2.1)
Looking ahead: The good news for the Crusaders is that their attitude is light years ahead of where it was last season at this time. Quinn estimates that there are as many as seven players on the team who are really enthusiastic about playing basketball. The positive attitude has been reflective as the team ramped things up for the start of the season. The Crusaders averaged 23.9 points per game last season and that is obviously a number that is going to have to increase in order to be competitive this season. There will be struggles, but the biggest thing to look for is how competitive this team can be.
Head coach: Ed Stepanski
Looking back: Finished 17-9. Lost to Susquehannock, 38-33, in the first round of the state playoffs.
Players to watch: Bella Termini (2.2), Helena Jardine (5.9), Riley Magin (2.6), Kristen Andrews (2.2), Alexis Armstrong (2.0).
Looking ahead: The Comets were hit hard by graduation, losing three of their core players. Injuries have already set in with Sarah Richards and Brianna Wickiser out for the season. That will be a huge test to the team’s depth. Termini, Jardine and Magin will likely be the players the team is built around. Look for underclassmen such as Jaden Weiss, Jill Taleroski, Kelsey Kulak and Julia Johnson to see their roles expand quickly.
Head coach: Kelly Johnson
Looking back: Finished 12-11. Lost to Wyoming Area, 54-41, in the first round of the district playoffs.
Players to watch: Gianna Centrella (9.1), Lauren Charlton (13.9), Samantha Kern (5.8), Morgan MacNeely (4.8), Emily Weiland (2.5).
Looking ahead: All eyes appear to be on the Mountaineers this season despite losing all three guards to graduation and returning two starters. There are some holes to fill, but the return of Lauren Charlton — who played in only 10 games last season because of an injury — is a great place to start. She has been getting some attention from Division 1 colleges. There is quite a bit of experience on this team. Dallas is another squad that will need to establish roles, but once that happens, this is a team that could really take off.
Head coach: Joe Gavio
Looking back: Finished 15-10. Lost to Neshaminy, 41-28, in the first round of the state playoffs.
Players to watch: Faith Grula (8.6), Virginia Yurchak (7.9), Marissa Trivelpiece (7.0), Kyra Antolick (4.5), Olivia Wolk (1.7).
Looking ahead: There were some bumps in the road last year, but the Cougars still found a way to win a district title. This is a program that you can never count out. This year’s team is deep and the chemistry is sound. The Cougars have scorers and they will look once again to push the floor. While the names seem to change, the expectations won’t. Defensively, they will look to force turnovers and get opponents out of their comfort zone.
Head coach: Kathy Healey
Looking back: Finished 14-10. Lost to Abington Heights, 45-29, in the district semifinals.
Players to watch: Emily O’Brien (1.6), Emma Coles (2.7), Nicole Zambetti (1.4), Brooklyn Pedana (1.7), Kayleigh Walker (1.4) Lily Savoy (0.7).
Looking ahead: The Patriots will enter the new season with five new starters. The good news is that the Patriots emphasize defense, and that will be the part of the game that will carry the team early. Though there is not a lot of scoring returning to this year’s team, there is plenty of game experience. That should help soften the blow until a scorer or two step forward. Look for the Patriots to rely on their defense and share the ball on offense. The quicker more players get involved in the offense, the faster the learning curve will be.
Head coach: Gary Ferenchick
Looking back: Finished 12-12. Lost to Crestwood, 60-28, in the district semifinals.
Players to watch: Toni Amato (12.5), Nicole Boutanos (11.0), Andi Blaski (7.8), Lindsey Gruver (6.4).
Looking ahead: The Spartans return four starters and four of their top five scorers from last season. Amato is one of the top 3-point shooters in the conference, having made 54 last season. That being said, Valley West is not going to be able to just cruise by on the jump shot alone. The Spartans are going to need to find an inside presence that can score to help alleviate some of the pressure off the perimeter. If the Spartans can find that player, look for them to be in contention. This will be a team that will look and play a lot better once the middle of January rolls around than it looks now.
Head coach: Bill Phillips
Looking back: Finished 17-9. Lost to Bethlehem Catholic, 56-25, in the first round of the state playoffs.
Players to watch: Megan Dalo (7.5), Renny Murphy (5.3), Katie Starr (4.4), Sierra Miedaner (1.8).
Looking ahead: The Bulldogs graduated their top two scorers from last season. But the positive is there are three starters returning, which gives Phillips a solid nucleus to build around. With 18 players on the roster, Berwick will have some depth. This will be a relatively young group, with just two seniors on the roster in Makayla Force and Dalo. The Bulldogs will defend, but the offense will need a second and third scorer to step forward.
Head coach: John Jezorwski
Looking back: Finished 23-5. Lost to St. Basil Academy, 38-26, in the second round of the state playoffs.
Players to watch: Samantha Yencha (14.4), Julia Andrejko (13.0), Cameron Marcinkowski (7.3), Sara Kuderka (5.4), Jordan Cicon (1.8), Alyssa Gushka (1.4).
Looking ahead: Once again, the Royals will be expected to challenge for a division and district title, and there is no reason to think otherwise. With Yencha and Andrejko back, the Royals have two solid scorers who aren’t afraid to take the ball to the basket. Marcinkowski and Kuderka have also showed they can score when needed. One concern would be post play and whether the Royals have a true post player that can consistently score down low. If one emerges, this team is going to be awfully tough to beat.
Head coach: Charlie Lavan
Looking back: Finished 13-10. Lost to Berwick, 61-48, in the first round of the district playoffs.
Players to watch: Savannah Purdy (13.3), Madison Borum (12.3), Sarah Salus (9.7), Corinna Scoblick (9.1), Jessica Spencer (2.2).
Looking ahead: There is a lot to like about this team. It is a veteran group with four returning starters back in Purdy, Borum, Sarah Salus and Scoblick. The three-year starters have been through the rigors of the conference schedule. Borum has made tremendous strides between the end of last season and the start of this year. There is competition for the fifth spot in the starting lineup and that has helped the competition in practice. It will also help the depth. If the defense gets better, the Black Knights have the potential to be a dangerous team in February.
Head coach: Ed Grant
Looking back: Finished 22-6. Lost to Gwynedd-Mercy, 37-26, in the second round of the state playoffs.
Players to watch: Alyssa Lewis (12.4), Amiah Lukowski (6.0), Jil Baron (6.0), Bella Czeck (3.9), Lauren Casey (2.8), Emily Hauer (1.8).
Looking ahead: The cupboard certainly wasn’t empty when Grant took over as the head coach. He primarily worked on the defensive end of things during his time as an assistant. Now he gets to run the entire show. The Trojanettes have a nice mixture returning with some veteran leadership thanks to four core players who saw time in the starting lineup last year. Don’t expect much to change this year. Nanticoke Area will still look to press, create turnovers and convert easy chances on the other end. It will be all about consistency.
Head coach: Amanda Golden
Looking back: Finished 8-15. Lost to Scranton Prep, 47-24, in the first round of the district playoffs.
Players to watch: Abby Ritz (11.6), Rebecca Avery (9.4), Anna Brown (1.3), Courtney Yuhas (0.8), Kassidy Shirtz (0.8).
Looking ahead: In Ritz and Avery, the Tigers return their top two scorers from last season and only two starters. Both are capable of putting the ball in the basket from any spot on the floor. From there, the scoring drops quite a bit, but the experience doesn’t. The Tigers bring back four players who appeared in at least 14 games. Adjusting to some new roles will be key in the early going. The offense may run more inside the 3-point line than it did last year, with Avery being top 3-point shooter returning with eight last season.
Head coach: Chad Lojewski
Looking back: Finished 16-9. Lost to Berwick, 50-35, in a state playoff play-in game.
Players to watch: Cassidy Orzel (10.1), Aleah Kranson (5.4), Nicole Silinskie (5.8), Mackenzie Nocchi (1.7).
Looking ahead: The Warriors have holes to fill after their top threat from the perimeter, as well as their top rebounder, both graduated. This is an energetic group that is looking to take it one step further this season and get to the state playoffs. Orzel saw her role increase as the season progressed last year and turned out to be a scoring threat. She also has the ability to create shots for the other players on the floor. Kranson brings athleticism to the floor, while Silinskie can also score. There will be a brief adjustment period as the new players will have to figure out their roles. It is going to need to be a team effort on the boards at both ends this year. Once the rotations get finalized, the talent is there to have an impact on the divisional race.
Head coach: Hattie Carruso
Looking back: Finished 2-20. Did not qualify for the postseason.
Players to watch: Olivia Prato (8.8), Hannah Cook (3.7), Emily Engle (2.6), Lyann Pena (2.4).
Looking ahead: The Grenadiers begin their final season as a program with very little varsity experience on the roster. There are just two seniors, no juniors, seven sophomores and six freshmen. Carruso will do her best to put a competitive product on the floor every night. What this team lacks in scoring, it hopes to make up with hustle and attitude. Engle and Pena are the only returning players that saw action in all 22 games last year. Prato showed she can be a scorer in the 16 games she appeared in.
Head coach: Chris Parker
Looking back: Finished 10-13. Lost to Holy Cross, 54-37, in the first round of the district playoffs.
Players to watch: Sarah Tuzinski (5.2), Sara Whitesell (5.1), Madison Hooper (3.6), Tanisha Atherton (2.8).
Looking ahead: The Hawks must replace their top two scorers from last season, which amounts to about 27 points per game. The numbers in the program are not anywhere close to where Parker would like them. This team will be a work in progress — especially early in the season. While not looking for one or two players to take over the primary scoring roles, it is easy to see the Hawks as a team that will distribute the basketball and try to push the tempo on the defensive end of the floor. Look for sophomores Mollie Corbett and Tahjae Hines to see their roles increase as the season moves along.
Head coach: Mary Mushock
Looking back: Finished 9-14. Lost to Dunmore, 56-24, in the first round of the district playoffs.
Players to watch: Allycia Harris (10.6), DaNayia Ballard (4.5), Ashley Bruno (3.4), Bella Skaff (5.8), Bella Gray (1.6).
Looking ahead: Injuries hit the Mohawks hard last year, so obviously Mushock is hoping to be able to avoid that this season. The Mohawks do have to replace three starters, but Skaff, one of the injured from a year ago, does return. She appeared in five games and scored 29 points. Meyers has just four seniors and juniors on the roster with a combination of eight sophomores and freshmen filling out the rest. Bruno is the top 3-point shooter returning, having made 12 of the team’s 68.
Head coach: Vincent Vella
Looking back: Finished 0-21. Did not qualify for the postseason.
Players to watch: Kim Amentler (4.7), Irene Altmiller (4.3), Julie Amentler (2.9).
Looking ahead: Vella takes over a program that has struggled mightily, but it is not for the lack of effort. The good news is that the seven players on the roster are all sophomores. That will bode well for the future. As far as the present in concerned, Vella’s main objective is to look to build a program and instill his philosophy. There is some athleticism on the roster, which will afford a few opportunities to get out and push the ball if the opportunity presents itself. The main focus this year will be to be a better team at the end of the year than it is at the beginning. If that is the case, regardless of the record, consider the year a success.
Head coach: Scott Miner
Looking back: Finished 14-11. Lost to Southern Columbia, 45-34, in the first round of the state tournament.
Players to watch: Brenna Babcock (16.8), Reagan Harrison (11.6), Trista Babcock (4.8), Tess Edwards (2.5), Cassidy Crawford (3.3).
Looking ahead: Coming off a season that ended in the first round of the state tournament and a second-place finish in the district, Northwest won’t be sneaking up on anyone this year. The Rangers have a solid 1-2 scoring punch in Brenna Babcock and Harrison. Both can score inside and out. Brenna Babcock had 20 3-pointers last season while Harrison led the team with 21. With three starters returning, the Rangers head into the new year in good shape. While they are still a work in progress, making a run at the division title is not out of the question.
Head coach: Abbey Rodway
Looking back: Finished 14-10. Lost to Old Forge, 58-48, in the district semifinals.
Players to watch: Alex Wesneski (12.2), Ally Vezendy (8.6), Mia Raineri (4.9), Maaike Reitsma (4.5), Katie Getz (1.5).
Looking ahead: Nearly having the opportunity to play for a district championship last year will certainly be a motivating factor for this year’s team. But the road is going to be a lot tougher with the Blue Knights moving up in classification. The Blue Knights return three of their top four scores from last season. Wesneski made 32 3-pointers last season, while Vezendy made 27.