Returning stars lead the way
Jordyn Homyak Lehighton
Eight underclassmen appeared on the TIMES NEWS Boys and Girls First Team all-star squads a year ago.
While one of those players (Rashid Epps) took his talents to a prep school in New Jersey, the other seven returned and once again made major contributions to their respective teams.
Their performances not only helped their school's programs but they earned return trips to the TN First Teams.
Those earning repeat selections include Tamaqua's Amy Zehner, Northern Lehigh's Aimee Oertner, Sonya Josephson and Jordan Waylen, Marian's Chris Barletta, Lehighton's Jordyn Homyak and Palmerton's Kelsey Hay.
Joining them for the first time on our First Team are Marian's Ryan Gimbi, Pleasant Valley's Mike Sharpe and Nick Stanovick, and Jim Thorpe's Celeste Robinson.
Below are short capsules on each player. Selections were made by the TIMES NEWS Sports Department, and all quotes on the players are from their respective coaches.
Amy Zehner, Tamaqua
Resume: Tamaqua's leading scorer and the second leading scorer in the TIMES NEWS area averaged 21.96 points per game. She ended the year with a TN high 615 points.
The senior scored double figures in 27 of the 28 games she played in and tallied a season-high 33 against Blue Mountain on Dec. 22. She also reached 20 or more points in 19 games.
Zehner recorded 18 double-doubles, finishing the season with 322 rebounds (11.5 rpg). Her high game off the glass was 25 against Nativity on Feb. 16. She also ended the campaign with 85 steals, 62 assists and 50 blocked shots.
The three-time TIMES NEWS Girls Basketball Player of the Year, Zehner was named to the Pennsylvania Class AAA All-State First Team. The Bucknell-bound player finished her Tamaqua career with 1,908 points. That figure is third most on the Lady Raider all-time list and ninth all-time among TN girls players.
Quotable: "If you're looking for the model of a basketball player Amy is it. She had an outstanding season and career. This year she showed her leadership and will to win. A good part of the season she was nagged with injuries and she showed her toughness through that. She was a complete player. Other team's game plan was to stop her but she was still able to do her thing. Not only was she a role model and an influence to her teammates and the younger players, but she was also one to the younger girls in the stands that watched her play. Kids might want to play basketball just from watching her play."
Aimee Oertner, Northern Lehigh
Resume: Northern Lehigh's leading scorer was also third in the TIMES NEWS area with an average of 17.7 points per game.
The junior scored double figures in 27 of her team's 28 games including a season-high 35 points versus Pius X on Jan. 8. She also reached double digits in rebounds 21 times (finishing with 21 double-doubles). She ended the season with 316 boards for an average of 11.3 per game.
Oertner also blocked 113 shots and is the school's career leader with 368. She had a season-high eight against Pen Argyl on Feb. 4. The six-footer also chipped in with 108 assists and 78 steals with shooting 76 percent from the free throw line.
With a year still remaining, the Bulldog player has already totaled 1,256 points and 795 boards. A First Team TN selection last year, Oertner was also named to this season's Colonial League First Team all-star squad and the Pennsylvania Class AA All-State Third Team.
Quotable: "Aimee means so much to our team in that she does a little bit of everything. The offense runs through her. She's a shot blocker and already has the school record for career blocks. This year she improved on her inside game and she worked on her jump shooting. She didn't shoot a lot of jumpers, because that's not her role right now but that work helped her improve at the foul line."
Kelsey Hay, Palmerton
Resume: Palmerton's leading scorer and sixth best in the TIMES NEWS area averaged 14.75 points per game.
Hay, a two-year captain, reached double figures in scoring in 19 of the Bombers' 24 games including a season-high 24 against Salisbury on Jan. 24.
The junior also pulled down 239 rebounds (9.96 rpg), blocked 54 shots and dished out 45 assists. She will enter her senior season with 988 points, just 12 shy of becoming the eighth Lady Bomber to reach 1,000 points. She had 14 double-doubles and had a season-high 27 boards against Jim Thorpe.
A First Team TIMES NEWS selection as a sophomore, Hay was not only named to the Colonial League's First Team all-star squad but also was honored as the league's MVP.
Quotable: "Obviusly Kelsey is a super player who can play any position on the floor, anywhere from point guard to center. As good as she's been, I don't believe she's reached her full potential yet. She's smart. She's a coach on the floor. She's No. 2 in her class and after being a captain the past two seasons, she'll obviously be one again her senior year. She led the team in scoring, rebounds and blocked shots."
Jordyn Homyak, Lehighton
Resume: Lehighton's leading scorer and fourth best in the TIMES NEWS area averaged 17.2 ppg.
The senior, who reached 1,000 career points this past season, hit double figures in 19 of her 22 games played, including a season-high 35 on Dec. 21 against East Stroudsburg North.
The Indians' point guard also finished the season with 37 assists and 80 rebounds. She was one of two TN area girls to finish in the top 10 in scoring, free throw percentage (.733) and three-pointers (25).
Homyak, who was on the TN First Team a year ago, also received First Team honors on the Mountain Valley Conference all-star team.
Quotable: "Jordyn is the exact type of player that every coach dreams of having on their team. She has an outstanding work ethic, she's a player who teammates look up to, and she can put a team on her back and carry it. I just can't say enough about her work ethic. She'll spend a half hour after practice shooting. She's a role model for the younger players, and defines what it means to lead by example. She never complained about the team's record and came out every night prepared to do her best."
Sonya Josephson, No. Lehigh
Resume: The second leading scorer on her team and fifth best in the TIMES NEWS area averaged 14.96 points per game.
The senior scored double figures in 22 of her 27 games including a season-high 35 against Pius X on Jan. 8. In one game, she tallied 18 points in one quarter.
Josephson is the only area girls player to be ranked in the top five in scoring average, free throw percentage (.750) and three-pointers (26). Her other stats include 184 rebounds (6.8 rpg), including a season-high 15 against Saucon Valley, 41 blocked shots, 32 steals and 79 assits.
A TIMES NEWS First Team selection a year ago, she was also named to the Colonial League's First Team all-star squad. She finished her career with 1,183 points, 666 rebounds and 211 blocked shots.
Quotable: "On any other team Sonya would demand complete focus but with Aimee teams couldn't do that. The two complimented each other so well. She made it tough for teams to match up. Her jump shot was key for us. She was our primary shooter and when she was on she opened up things for everybody else. She's also an excellent passer. What makes a player good is when they make other players around them better and that's what she did."
Celeste Robinson, Jim Thorpe
Resume: Jim Thorpe's leading scorer also finished as the top scorer in the entire TIMES NEWS area with an average of 22.87 ppg.
The junior scored double figures in every one of her team's games this season, the only player in the TN area to do that. She also had 20 or more points in 14 games and 30 or more seven times. Her high was 38 on Jan. 25 against North Schuylkill.
Robinson, who reached the 1,000-point plateau this season, also led her team in rebounds and steals.
A Second Team TIMES NEWS selection a year ago, Robinson was named to the Pennsylvania Class AAA All-State Third Team.
Quotable: "Obviously she's the straw that stirs our drink. When you look at her scoring numbers, you can see she had an outstanding season but what the numbers don't show is that she's an outstanding defender and rebounder. She's a complete player with unlimited potential. As a junior, she took another step in the maturity process. She became more confident as a person and a basketball player. Her lateral quickness is amazing and I'm excited to have her back next year."
Chris Barletta, Marian
Resume: Led the TIMES NEWS area in scoring, hitting for 414 points and a 16.56 average.
The Colts' senior reached double figures in 21 of the 25 games he played in, including a season-high 30 points in his team's opening game on Dec. 10. He also earned MVP honors of the Panther Valley Tip-Off Tournament.
The point guard averaged 5.4 assists per game, 4.8 rebounds per contest and 2.6 steals in helping the Colts win the District 11 Class A championship.
Barletta, who finished his career at Marian with 933 points, was recently named the TIMES NEWS Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
Quotable: "Chris really stepped up for us this year. We knew what he was capable of doing but he really took over for us especially early on. Until we got our feet on the ground it was critical for him to score. This year he proved he can be a scorer. In the past he was more of just a point guard and distributor but we needed him to score eary in the year and he did."
Jordan Waylen, No. Lehigh
Resume: Led Northern Lehigh in scoring and was second in the TIMES NEWS area with an average of 14.26 points per game.
The Bulldog senior scored double figures in 17 of his 23 games including a season-high 31 on Dec. 28 against Jim Thorpe. He also earned the MVP award at the Slatington Rotary Tournament.
The guard, who was named to the Colonial League's Second Team, was second in the TN area in three-pointers with 53 and his 131 career treys set an all-time Northern Lehigh mark.
Waylen, who finished his career with 923 points, also had 66 assists, 68 rebounds and 52 steals.
Quotable: "He was certainly a leader on and off the court. This year, Jordan developed into an all-around player. He was a pleasure to coach. Over the years, people thought of him as just a shooter but as I said, he became more of an all-around player. He especially improved at getting to the bucket instead of settling for just shooting a three-pointer. He was better at creating shots."
Ryan Gimbi, Marian
Resume: Finished second on his team and sixth in the TIMES NEWS area in scoring with an average of 12.81 points per game.
The Colts' senior scored double figures in 20 games including a season-high 26 on Jan. 19 against Williams Valley. Gimbi also reached double figures in rebounding 16 times. Gimbi recorded 12 double-doubles.
The senior averaged 11.3 rebounds per game, and added 58 steals and 25 blocked shots.
Gimbi came up big in Marian's District 11 championship game, coming up with a key steal and dunk in the fourth quarter. He tallied seven of his 12 points in the final frame to help the Colts claim the title.
Quotable: "Ryan really came a long way this season. He played a bunch last year as a junior but he stepped it up at both ends of the floor. He does a good job rebounding and defending but he became our No. 2 scorer. He didn't get noticed as much as Chris but he was very important to our success. He's a tough guy to guard and causes matchup problems for other teams. If a bigger guy defends him, Ryan's usually quicker than him. If a smaller guy is on him, he can use his strength. Ryan's a good jumper and can really get off his feet."
Mike Sharpe, Pleasant Vy.
Resume: Led Pleasant Valley in scoring and was fifth in the TIMES NEWS area with an average of 13.25 points per game.
The Bears' senior center scored double figures in 20 of his team's 24 games.
Sharpe received First Team honors on the MVC all-star squad and is planning on continuing his education and basketball career at Wilkes University.
Quotable: "Mike was obviously important to us offensively. He struggled early in the season from outside but he eventually got his three-point range. He was very versatile in that he had good post moves and could also shoot from the perimeter. The way he went was usually the way we went."
Nick Stanovick, Pleasant Vy.
Resume: The second leading scorer for Pleasant Valley, Stanovick's 12.58 points per game average also ranked him seventh among TIMES NEWS area players.
The junior scored double figures in 16 of his team's 24 games including a season-high 25 against Lehighton on Jan. 27.
The Bears' guard led the entire TN area in three-pointers with 62 which also set a new PV single-season record. He also now holds the school's career mark for treys with 106.
Stanovick received Mountain Valley Conference Second Team honors.
Quotable: "Nick was very underrated. He played almost every minute of every game. I don't know how he did it physically. He played like a senior and was like one of our seniors. Fortunately, know, I get him back for another year. He's the school's top three-pointer with still a year to play, but he also passed the ball with the best of them."