Last year the Tamaqua girls basketball team won both the Schuylkill League and District 11 AA titles.
Heading into Friday, the Lady Raiders find themselves exactly one win away from accomplishing that feat once again.
Top-seeded Tamaqua will square off with the Green Knights from Pen Argyl tonight, looking to win its second consecutive AA championship. The Raiders knocked off the Knights on their way to the district title last year and are hoping to repeat the process this time around.
The task at hand won't be easy for the Lady Raiders and head coach Joe Berezwick knows it.
"I am very concerned with Pen Argyl's balance on offense," said Berezwick. "Any given person on their team can score. It is difficult to game-plan for a team like Pen Argyl because they don't have that one standout scorer than you can focus on."
Pen Argyl's balance is evident in it having four starters that average at least seven points-per-game. Laura Cinelli and Sara Vough, two junior forwards who stand 5-8 and 6-1 respectively, lead the way for the Knights. Both players have scored over 200 points this season. Cinelli dropped 20 points in her first playoff game against Shenandoah, while Vough tallied 15 versus Pine Grove in the semis.
Also starting in the front court for Pen Argyl is senior Lindsay Ashworth. Ashworth, who stands at 5-10, averages seven points-per-game and adds to the Knights' size up front.
"I am also concerned with their size," admitted Berezwick. "To be honest I am concerned with just about everything and their height is one of those things.
"A team always has something that worries you as a coach. Some teams have speed while others have size. This one has size. Either way we are going to have to play a great defensive game."
Regardless of the Knights' size, Berezwick said he plans on sticking with his man-to-man defense. He figures Pen Argyl will do the same. Not just because that is what he has seen on tape, but because "most teams that make it this far in the playoffs play a good man-to-man defense."
Senior Megan Zanette and sophomore Catherine Clause round out the Knights' starting lineup. Zanette has scored 194 points and has hit 41 three-pointers, but shot just 49 percent from the free throw line. Clause isn't a scorer, but shows great poise as an underclassman.
The first person off the bench for Pen Argyl will be Kiersten Young. Young, a senior guard, averages just under five points-per-game. Mariah Oyer (guard) and Samm Firestone (center) also figure to see time.
The game should be a tight one. The Knights defeated Pine Grove 47-40 in the semifinals thanks to a 16-2 third quarter run. Ironically, Pine Grove handed Tamaqua its only losses of the season.
Still, Tamaqua has fared well against Colonial League teams this season. The Raiders improved to 3-0 versus the Colonial League with their victory over Palmerton in the other semi-final.
"This is going to be a good game," said Berezwick. "Both teams are good and will be playing for the ultimate goal. I think us having won the title last year helps with the experience, but it's going to be tough for the both of us.
"If we could come home with our second straight championship, I think it would take our program to a higher level. We have been considered good for a while, but never had anything to show for it. Now we have two league titles and have a shot at winning our second district title. These last two years have been really special."