Three area teams play for hoop titles
League championships are on the line tonight for three TIMES NEWS area teams.
The Marian boys and Tamaqua girls will be battling for Schuylkill League titles, while the Northern Lehigh boys are seeking the Colonial League crown.
COLONIAL LEAGUE BOYS
at Freedom HS, 7:30 p.m.
No. Lehigh (18-5) vs
Notre Dame (GP) (20-3)
In the first season with the Colonial League split into two division rather than three, there's no better way for the league championship to be decided than between the two regular season division champions.
Northern Lehigh, which captured the the North Division title with a 12-4 league record, will face Notre Dame of Green Pond, which earned the South Division title with a 14-2 league mark, for the 2009-2010 Colonial League championship trophy.
After missing out on the playoffs a year ago, the Bulldogs are back looking to get their hands on a third CL championships in the last four years. They won league titles in both '07-'08 and '06-'07.
This is the fourth straight year that the Crusaders have qualified for the league playoffs, but the first time in that stretch they have reached the title game. The last CL championship for Notre Dame came in 2004-05, when it knocked off Catasauqua.
Rich Oertner, in his 10th-year as the Bulldogs' coach, knows his team will have to be on the top of their game against Notre Dame. The Crusaders won the only meeting betwen the clubs this season, 76-67, back on Jan. 15.
"They have been around awhile," Oertner said. "They have been in the playoffs pretty much every year. They know what it's about, but weren't able to get to the next step. They want to win as much as we want to win. They were the pre-season favorite and probably are a better team than us in general. They're expected to win. We're not.
"But, you come down and play that game that day, and you practice for that team, and you make your adjustments and hopefully your adjustments work."
While Notre Dame handled Southern Lehigh in their semifinals contest, Oertner stated Northern Lehigh was able to "steal" a 30-29 overtime win over Wilson to get back to their third league title game in the last four years.
Jordan Waylen leads the Bulldogs in scoring at a shade under 15 points a game. Nick Pappas (12.7) and Evan Biegley (11.8) form a powerful 1-2 combination inside.
For Notre Dame, which has won 14 of its last 15 games, Joey Gianglobbe (14.4 ppg.), Andrew Kohler (11.0) and Adam Ambielle (10.2) are the top offensive threats.
at Pottsville, 7:30 p.m.
Marian (19-4) vs.
Marian takes to the hardwood at Martz Hall with the intention of earning the program's first Schuylkill League title.
It is the third year in a row that Coach Mick Stefanek and his Colts have earned a league playoff berth. The Colts have fallen in the semifinals the last two years.
The Colts have broken a 15-year Schuylkill championship game drought thanks to a 62-46 win over Division I wild card Jim Thorpe. Marian's last title game appearance was in 1995 when it lost to Pottsville, 54-50.
The Colts are 0-for-3 in Schuylkill title games and this year's squad would like to be the first to hoist the championship trophy.
"Any time you can be the first team to do something, it will be memorable and historical," Stefanek said. "We're excited about that opportunity. Our kids are really pumped to play. We're a senior-oriented group. The worst case is they leave Marian High School at least having played for a Schuylkill League championship. Hopefully, things work out for us. We could have these guys leave as the first Schuylkill League champions."
It's not going to be easy task for the Colts.
The Colts enter as the underdogs, playing a Division I power they haven't faced this season and playing on Pottsville's home court.
Coach Dave Mullaney's Crimson Tide is led by Nick Schlitzer, the league's second leading scorer at 20.8 points per game, while Josh Whalen adds 12.3 ppg.
The Colts' top scorer is Matt Yaich, who is connecting for 14.1 per game, while Chris Barletta contributes 10.3 and Drew Sherkness chips in 10.2.
"It's always tough for the small schools to come out on top. Hey, we're here. There's only two of us here and one of us will be going home with the gold.
"It's exciting for our guys to be ed and well-coached team like Pottsville."
at Pottsville, 6 p.m.
Tamaqua (21-2) vs.
One person who wasn't totally surprised by Tri-Valley's 58-54 double OT upset win over Pine Grove in the Schuylkill semifinals is Tamaqua coach Joe Berezwick.
"People said at the beginning of the year that Tri-Valley could contend for Division 2 in the future, but I knew they had already arrived, and here they are, playing for the championship," said Berezwick.
team and starts a pair of freshmen. Those frosh, however, are no ordinary first year varsity players: point guard Juli Weber leads the Bulldogs in scoring at 12.6 points per game, and 6-3 center Tara Nahodil adds 10.6 ppg.
The rest of the Tri-Valley line-up includes senior Amber Wehry (9.0), senior Hannah Masser (4.4) and sophomore Rayne Newswanger (5.6).
Since 2005, Tamaqua has faced Tri-Valley six times, with the Raiders holding a 4-2 edge. That includes a 43-36 victory in last year's Schuylkill League semifinals and a 49-34 win at Hegins on Jan. 5.
"The biggest difference in this playoff run from when we played them is that they played more fullcourt man to man defense, while now they have kind of settled into playing more halfcourt man," noted Berezwick.
While Tri-Valley is playing for its first Schuylkill title, Tamaqua is in the final for the second straight year. The Raiders fell to Nativity a year ago in the title game and are seeking their first Schuylkill laurels since 1977.
The Raiders return three starters from last year's championship game, including junior forward Amy Zehner, the team's leading scorer at 21.7 points per game. Also back are senior guard Elissa Streisel (9.04) and sophomore guard Kayla Hope (5.7).
Junior Allison Updike (7.6) was injured at this time a year ago. The other starter is junior Cassie Eroh (9.96).
The Raiders, who avenged their title loss to Nativity in the semifinals, will look to push up the tempo against the Bulldogs.
"We have to do a great job on Nahodil inside and watch out for Weber's penetration," said Berezwick. "I feel uptempo is to our advantage. We'd like to put the game in the 50's and 60's, and I think they'd like to keep it in the 40's."