Four TIMES NEWS area teams will be in action tonight as the District 11 basketball playoffs enter the semifinal round.
In boys action, Jim Thorpe faces Pottsville in a Class AAA contest and Marian plays Notre Dame of East Stroudsburg in a Class A game.
In girls action, Tamaqua and Palmerton will battle in a Class AA game.
No. 4 Jim Thorpe (17-7; 8-4 Schuylkill) vs.
No. 1 Pottsville (22-3, 10-2 Schuylkill)
TIPOFF: Tuesday, March 2 at Blue Mountain, 7:30 p.m.
COACHES: Jim Thorpe - Brian Carroll (3rd year); Pottsville - Dave Mullaney (3rd year)
STARTING LINE-UPS: Jim Thorpe - Corey Cinicola (Sr., Forward, 11.8 ppg), Sam Lux (Sr., Guard/Forward, 13.6), Rashid Epps (Jr., Center, 16.8), Jaquan Richardson (Sr., Guard, 4.3), Dean DiBonifazio (Jr., Guard, 7.0 ppg); Pottsville - Bobby Schappell (Jr., Guard, 5.2), Tyler Heffner (So., Guard, 3.0), Josh Whalen (Sr., Guard/Forward, 12.2), Eric Leymeister (Sr., Forward, 5.0), Nick Schlitzer (Jr., Forward, 20.3).
OFF THE BENCH: Jim Thorpe - Darius Clark (So., Guard/Forward, 1.1), PJ Johnson (So., Guard, 5.3), JT Otto (So., Forward, 1.1); Pottsville - Saige Speze (Sr., Guard/Forward), Casey Guers (Sr., Forward).
GAMES NOTES: In the half of the Class AAA bracket which was comprised of five Schuylkill League programs, top-seeded Pottsville and No. 4 seed Jim Thorpe were the survivors. The Tide captured a 61-49 win over Panther Valley in one quarterfinal, while the Olympians made it three out of four against Blue Mountain this season with a 55-45 win in another quarterfinal ... It will be the second year in a row that the Schuylkill League Division I powers have met up in the District 11 semifinals. A year ago, the No. 9 seeded Tide upset the fourth-seeded Olympians, 69-53, in Tamaqua ... Jim Thorpe and Pottsville have already met twice during the regular season and were close to meeting up again in the Schuylkill League playoffs, but Marian spoiled the Olympians' chances in a semifinal game. Jim Thorpe took the first meeting between the teams, posting a 59-47 win at Martz Hall on Jan. 15. Pottsville returned the favor on the Olympians' home turf with a 58-49 victory on Feb. 13 ... In the first meeting, the Olympians were able to hold the Tide's Nick Schlizter under his team-high scoring average. Schlizter finished with 14 points in the game while teammate Josh Whalen tallied 12. The Olympians were paced by Rashid Epps, who led all scorers with a 23-point performance. Sam Lux chipped in with 18 points ... A little over two weeks ago, Schlizter was able to top his season average of 20.3 ppg when he scored 22 points against Thorpe. Whalen was right behind him with 18 points. Lux, Epps and Corey Cincicola, who all fouled out of that game, led Jim Thorpe with 14, 12 and 10 points respectively ... The winner of this game not only earns a berth in the District 11 title game on Friday, but also qualifies for the PIAA State Tournament. The Olympians have only qualified for States twice in the last 30 years. The last time was 1992 when they lost to Lancaster Catholic, 72-60, in their opening round game ...
QUOTABLE: "The loss to Pottsville last year is a huge motivating factor for us. We had a goal of getting a little further in the playoffs this year. Fortunately enough, we also have a chance to redeem ourselves this year against Pottsville. We're excited to be back in the semifinal round again and we're hoping to take advantage of the opportunity to reverse last year's result." Jim Thorpe coach Brian Carroll.
No. 1 Marian (20-5, 13-0 Schuylkill) vs.
No. 4 Notre Dame ES (13-8 overall)
TIPOFF: Tuesday, March 2 at Northern Lehigh, 7 p.m.
COACHES: Marian - Mick Stefanek (11th year); NDES - Bob Mullen (25th year)
STARTING LINE-UPS: Marian - Chris Barletta (Jr., Guard, 10.2 ppg), Chris Decker (Sr., Guard, 5.5), Tom Gottstein (Sr., Guard, 4.9), Matt Yaich (Sr., Forward, 13.3), Drew Sherkness (Sr., Forward, 9.4); Notre Dame (ES) - Stephen Lepre (Sr., Guard, 16.3 ppg), Tim Mullen (Sr., Center, 16.2), Kevin Karoleski (Sr., Guard, 7.0), Nick Lewis (Sr., Forward, 6.0), Matt Long (Jr., Forward, 9.0)
OFF THE BENCH: Marian - Ryan Gimbi (Jr., Guard/Forward, 6.6), Vini Fital (Sr., Forward, 1.6), Mark Stawick (Jr., Guard, 1.6); Notre Dame (ES) - Mike Albarron (Sr., Guard, 8.0 ppg), Danny Carney (Sr., Forward, 4.0)
GAME NOTES: Notre Dame of East Stroudsburg prevented a third matchup this season between Schuylkill League Division III rivals Marian and Weatherly. The Spartans did it by handing the Wreckers a 67-53 setback. Meanwhile, Marian grabbed a semifinal berth for the fifth straight year with a 36-24 win over fellow SL Division III foe Mahanoy Area ... This will mark the fourth time that Notre Dame and Marian have met in the District 11 playoffs during Mick Stefanek's 11 years as the Colts' head coach. The Colts have taken three out of four of those meetings with wins in 2001 (67-49), 2003 (73-68) and 2004 (66-57). The 2006, when they edged the Colts, 61-53, in the District 11 Class A championship game ... The Colts and the Spartans haven't met this season, but have played two common opponents. Both teams have played Pius X and Lehighton this season. The Colts swept all three games, posting two victories (54-53, 40-32) over the Royals and one over the Indians (67-48). Meanwhile, the Spartans were 1-2 in three games against those teams. They posted a 59-44 win over Lehighton and ended up dropping a pair of games to Pius. (57-67, 49-63) ... Marian is 4-1 against non-Schuylkill League opposition this year. Their lone loss to schools outside of the of league came back on Jan. 2 when they suffered a 48-41 setback to Wilkes-Barre Meyers ... The winner of this game not only earns a berth in the District 11 title game on Friday, but also qualifies for the PIAA State Tournament. The Colts made the state playoffs a year ago, falling to Millville in the first round by a 45-40 score.
QUOTABLE: "We have been able to see them a few times so we're aware of their personnel and we're aware of what they like to do on the offensive and defensive ends. The great thing about our team is that you don't need any rah-rah speeches. They're focused. They know what's out there and they know we're in the middle of a process that can lead to something special for them something they can take with them as a memory and it's something they will always have. With that said, we have to take care of business on Tuesday." Marian Coach Mick Stefanek.
No. 4 Palmerton (15-8, 9-7 Colonial League) vs.
No. 1 Tamaqua (22-2, 10-2 Schuylkill League)
TIPOFF: Tuesday, March 2 at Blue Mountain, 6 p.m.
COACHES: Palmerton - Don Delich (7th year); Tamaqua - Joe Berezwick (13th season)
STARTING LINE-UPS: Palmerton - Casey Rinfret (Jr., Guard, 10.0), Kelsey Hay (So., Center, 15.1), Kristen Romano (Jr., Guard, 8.1), Katie Reimer (Jr., Forward, 5.9), Jen Snyder (So., Forward, 1.6); Tamaqua - Elissa Streisel (Sr., Point Guard, 9.3 ppg), Kayla Hope (So., Guard, 6.2), Cassie Eroh (Jr., Guard/Forward, 9.8), Ali Updike (Jr., Forward, 7.4), Amy Zehner (Jr., Forward, 21.5)
OFF THE BENCH: Palmerton - Sam Smith (Jr., Forward, 0.9), Gina Farquhar (Jr., Guard, 3.3), Erin Meinhart (Fr., Forward, 0.7); Tamaqua - Megan Berezwick (Sr., Guard, 1.1 ppg), Maria Streisel (Fr., Guard, 1.0)
GAME NOTES: While Tamaqua earned the No. 1 seed as well as a first round bye, Palmerton was able to advance to the semifinals in a six-team Class 2A bracket with a 40-31 victory over Colonial League counterpart Notre Dame of Green Pond ... The Blue Bombers and Raiders may not have met during the regular season, but they are familiar to one another having scrimmaged each other during pre-season work-outs. Berezwick stated they know each other well from the scrimmages year-in and year-out, so he stressed there is definitely some familiarity with each other regardless of not playing during the regular season ... Both Palmerton and Tamaqua have had success outside their respective leagues this season. The Blue Bombers were 5-1 outside of the Colonial League and were 3-0 against Schuylkill League opponents, in which they knocked off Jim Thorpe twice (57-44, 52-35) and Panther Valley (32-22) once. Meanwhile, the Blue Raiders are 5-0 outside of the Schuylkill League and 2-0 against Colonial League opponents, in which they scored wins against Northwestern (61-30) and Southern Lehigh (46-35) ... Besides being the leading scorer, Hay is also the leading rebounder (70 offensive, 216 defensive) and shot blocker (64) ... Zehner leads Tamaqua in scoring as well and in rebounds (242), blocked shots (26) and steals (57) ... Delich stated it's an opportunity for a Colonial League team to go up against the best of the Schuylkill League and his team is ready for the challenge, but knows his Bombers have their work cut out for them ... a Schuylkill League team has won the last three District 2A championships as well as 11 of the past 12.
QUOTABLE: "It's a totally different team. It was great to win, but at this point of the year, every game could be your last game. So, you better put things behind you and not dwell on things that happened in the past or you're going to be on the outside looking in. Tamaqua's a really good team. We scrimmaged them at the very beginning of the season. So, we're pretty aware of what they have and they're equally aware of our talent level. Knowing what they have, it wasn't very difficult to get my kids' attention and focus. We have a lot of work ahead of us in these two days trying to prepare." Palmerton head coach Don Delich.
"It's the district semifinals. It's that kind of game where this time of the year you have to be ready to play. If you don't win, you're going home. So, it's kind of that 'must' win and a sense of urgency for all teams at this point in the season. We have to make sure to do what we do best and I'm sure Coach Delich is thinking the same thing on his end as well." Tamaqua head coach Joe Berezwick.