As teams gear up for the end of the regular season and the post-season push, they are looking to get things in order before every game essentially becomes a 'win-or-go-home' scenario.
Meanwhile, coaches are busy planning for anything and everything that may come up in their respective games and are making sure their teams are prepared for certain situations.
However, there is one thing that coaches can't plan for that could possibly derail a team's championship aspirations: Injuries.
The Pleasant Valley girls' basketball team has found that out first hand over the last two weeks. The Bears lost two starters, senior Arden Cisluycis and junior Julia Craig, in their January 22nd game with East Stroudsburg South. Craig is lost for the season with an ankle injury, while Cisluycis is dealing with a broken finger. She missed three games before returning on Tuesday.
Pleasant Valley, who is a young team to begin with as Cisluycis is its only senior, has gone to the 'next woman up' approach and has been forced to give its bench players extended minutes. Juniors Jordan Meckes, Courtney Miller and Dzana Krcic, along with freshman Kiki Russell, have all seen their minutes increased due to the injuries.
"Jordan has always had the scoring, but now she is contributing on the defensive end as well," said Pleasant Valley head coach Nadia Gauronsky. "In the last two games she was the second leading rebounder twice and was also the leader in steals.
"Kiki is just a freshman and is really playing well. She is handling the ball well for us and is doing a good job on the defensive end."
Meckes, who was sadly mistaken for her sister last week in a TIMES NEWS story, has averaged 13 points over the last five games. That five-game performance has made her Pleasant Valley's leading scorer at 8.3 points-per-game. Russell has averaged six points over the same time and has raised her season average to 4.4 points-per-game.
Miller, Fields and Krcic have each played in at least 19 of Pleasant Valley's 20 games, but now they are staying on the court for longer periods of time. None are major scoring threats, but they are capable of putting the ball in the basket. Miller has scored seven and six points in the last two weeks and averages just under four points-per-game. Fields and Krcic are both scoring around two points-per-game.
Regardless of the scoring, the experience gained from playing extended minutes should help the Bears as they prepare for the post-season.
"Injuries are never good for teams, but I feel like the girls realize what they need to do now," said Gauronsky. "The realize how much everyone has to step up on the court in order to be successful and win in the post-season. I think the girls are gaining valuable minutes and are coming together for the betterment of the team. Hopefully they will continue to grow and help us contend for a MVC championship and a district playoff run."
The one constant throughout the year has been junior guard Keri Dekmar. Dekmar has the dual-threat ability of getting to the rim or hitting a jump shot. She is second on the team in scoring at 8.2 points-per-game.
Pleasant Valley had won nine of its previous ten games leading up to the South game. Since then the Bears are just 2-3, however all three losses have come to district-bound teams in Eastburg South (14-7), Liberty (12-8) and Pocono Mountain West (18-3).
The Bears finish the regular season with Easton on Thursday and Stroudsburg on Friday before heading into the MVC tournament next week. They are hoping that their now more-experienced depth will help them play deep into February.
IN OR OUT... As the area basketball teams head into their final games of the season, only one has its playoff fate yet to be determined.
The Lehighton boys are 10-11 as it prepares for its final regular season game of the year. The Indians will travel to Notre Dame of East Stroudsburg next Tuesday to face off with the 8-12 Spartans.
The scenario is simple for Lehighton. If it wins, it will keep its season going in the District 11 AAA playoffs. If the Indians lose then their season will be over.
MUST BE SOMETHING IN THE WATER... When it comes to three-point shooting, the kids from Lasford must be drinking the right kind of kool-aid.
Both Panther Valley basketball teams lead the area in three-pointers made. The boys have poured in an astounding 138 triples, while the girls have knocked down 75. Together they total 213 three-pointers.
The next highest total on the boys' side is Tamaqua at 107. Second place on the girls' side is Northwestern with 66.
The team with the second-most combined three-pointers is the Raiders with 165 - which is 48 treys behind the Panthers' two teams.