This past Tuesday marked the end of the TIMES NEWS area basketball season.
Both the Marian boys and Tamaqua girls dropped close games in the second round of the state playoffs to close out the 2009-10 campaign.
With the season just completed, it's time to hand out some unofficial awards.
Below are a few of our picks. One quick note the Players of the Year will be named at a later when the TIMES NEWS announces its seasonal awards.
Boys Team of the Year
Marian The Colts posted an 18-4 regular season record and went 13-0 in the Schuylkill League Division 3 play to reach the league playoffs. While Mick Stefanek's team came up short in the Schuylkill championship game, falling to Pottsville, they came back to win the District 11 Class A title. Marian relied on defense, allowing an average of just 41 points per game, and enjoyed a 10-game winning streak during the season. The 23 wins were the most by a Colts team since the 1998-99 campaign.
Runnerup: Northern Lehigh.
Girls Team of the Year
Tamaqua The Lady Raiders posted a 20-2 regular-season record and went 10-2 in Schuylkill League Division I play to earn a berth in the league playoffs. Tamaqua defeated Nativity and Tri-Valley in those playoffs to earn the league championship. The Raiders doubled their title count a few weeks later when they successfully defended their District 11 Class AA title with a win over Pen Argyl. Joe Berezwick's club also gained a state playoff win and finished with an outstabding 25-3 record.
Runnerup: Northern Lehigh.
Boys Coach of the Year
Rich Oertner, Northern Lehigh The Bulldogs entered the season having lost their top two scorers from a team that barely made the district playoffs. While many still believed Nolehi was good enough to make districts again, few thought they'd be a force in the Colonial League. With a solid starting lineup, though, Oertner guided his team to a 17-5 regular season record and a 12-4 league mark. Earning a berth in the league playoffs, the Bulldogs proceeded to win exciting games in both the semifinals and finals to win the CL championship. Although the team lost in the opening round of districts, they enjoyed an overall 19-6 record.
Runnerup: Pat Crampsie, Panther Valley.
Girls Coach of the Year
Dave Oertner, Northern Lehigh While the Bulldogs returned their top players from a year ago, those players were still relatively young. Of the five starters, two were juniors and two were sophomores. Expected to do well, the team actually exceeded expectations by posting an undefeated 22-0 record during the regular season. They became the first TIMES NEWS area team to accomplish the feat since the Palmerton girls did it in 1996-97. Nolehi also reached the district championship game and earned a berth in the state playoffs.
Runnerup: Don Delich, Palmerton.
Best Boys Newcomer
Brock Mitchell, Panther Valley The Panther sophomore joined with senior Logan Stano to form an intimidating 1-2 punch in the paint. Mitchell, at 6-5, played in every PV game and reached double figures in scoring 17 times. His high game was 22 points in a district playoff win against North Schuylkill. For the year, Mitchell led the team in field goals with 123 and was second in scoring average at 12.39 points per game. His efforts helped the Panthers enjoy a 13-10 record and a return trip to the District 11 playoffs.
Runnerup: Mike Sharpe, Pleasant Valley.
Best Girls Newcomer
Cassie Eroh, Tamaqua The junior was a key member of a team that gained both league and district championships. Eroh, who only scored six points in 10 games a year ago, played in all 28 games, scoring 279 points for an average of of 9.96. She hit 13 three-pointers and went 54-of-76 at the foul line for a .711 percentage. Eroh also averaged 5.9 rebounds per contest.
Runnerup: Sara Jones, Northwestern.
Boys Game of the Year
Panther Valley 50, North Schuylkill 49, 2 OTs (Feb. 23) Panther Valley, which hadn't won a district playoff game since 1990, needed two overtimes to outlast the Spartans in a District 11 first round contest. Brock Mitchell had a huge game with 22 points and 11 rebounds. The Panthers trailed by six points in the first OT but rallied to force another extra session. Kyle Picht's three-point play to start the second OT proved to be the difference as PV held on for the exciting victory.
Runnerup: Northern Lehigh 30, Notre Dame 29, OT (Feb. 17).
Girls Game of the Year
Pine Grove 62, Tamaqua 60 (Feb. 8) In a battle of Schuylkill League powers, host Pine Grove pulls out a victory that gives it the Division 1 title. The two teams battle throughout with the outcome not decided until the final buzzer. The Cardinals gain a 10-point lead in the second quarter before the Raiders battle back. Tamaqua takes a lead at the end of the third quarter on an Amy Zehner three-pointer. Pine Grove breaks a tie with 48 seconds left but Zehner, who tallies 36 points and collects 13 rebounds, hits two free throws with 25 seconds to knot the score again. An inside basket by the Cards with 14 seconds to play puts the hosts on top again. The Raiders get two chances right before the buzzer but both inside attempts come up short.
Runnerup: Northern Lehigh 57, Palmerton 46, OT (Jan. 4).