Six area teams in search of titles
Six TIMES NEWS area teams will be in semifinal action tonight and tomorrow as the Schuylkill League, Mountain Valley Conference and Colonial League basketball playoffs begin.
The Marian boys will be in Schuylkill League action tonight, while the Pleasant Valley girls take the court in the MVC.
On Wednesday, the Tamaqua girls are in Schuylkill League play, the Pleasant Valley boys battle in MVC competition and the Palmerton and Northern Lehigh girls are in opposite sides of the bracket in the Colonial League playoffs.
Marian (18-4; 11-2 Div. III)
vs. Pottsville (21-1; 12-0 Div. I)
TIPOFF: Tuesday, Feb. 15th at 7:30 p.m. at Martz, Hall, Pottsville High School
COACHES: Marian - John Patton; Pottsville - Dave Mullaney
LEADING SCORERS: Marian - Chris Barletta (17.14 ppg), Ryan Gimbi (12.73), Dom Richards (7.95); Pottsville - Nick Schlitzer (21.00 ppg), Bobby Schappell (9.60), Casey Guers (7.40)
GAME NOTES: In his first season as head coach, John Patton has guided the Colts back to its fourth consecutive berth in the Schuylkill League playoffs by winning their fourth consecutive Division III title. It's the second consecutive trip for Pottsville, the defending Schuylkill League champions ... The Colts enter with a seven-game winning streak, while the Tide have won their last 15 after suffering its lone loss of the regular season to Wilson West Lawn back on January 2 ... Marian fell victim to Pottsville in the SL championship game last year, 49-25. This year, the Colts and Tide meet in the semifinals after not facing one another at all during the regular season ...
QUOTABLE: "Nick Schlitzer is probably one of the best if not the best player in the Schuylkill League. He's certainly an all-around player. He can play inside. He can play outside. He can shoot the ball and he can post up. We're going to throw a lot of people at him and hopefully we can find the right combination. But, it's not just him. They got some other guys who can play and when you take him away, he finds a way to get the other people involved. I mean he's a complete player. Even if he's not scoring, he certainly finds a way for his guys to score. So, it's not so much defending him, it's defending the whole team as they play well as a team. In order to beat them, we're going to have to play as perfect as a game as possible, " Marian head coach John Patton
Tamaqua (22-0 overall; 12-0 Div. I)
vs. Nativity (16-6 overall; 11-2 SL Div. III)
TIPOFF: Wednesday, Feb. 16 at 7:30 p.m. at Martz Hall, Pottsville High School
COACHES: Tamaqua - Joe Berezwick; Nativity - George Forney
LEADING SCORERS: Tamaqua - Amy Zehner (23.6 ppg), Cassie Eroh (13.5), Allie Updike (6.3); Nativity - Kiely Chaklos (15.4 ppg), Nikki Farr (13.4), Bridget Holohan (6.3)
GAME NOTES: Tamaqua, the defending Schuylkill League champs, have qualified for its third straight league playoffs, while Nativity earned its ninth consecutive berth ... Tamaqua, the SL Division I champs, looks to extend a perfect season, while Nativity, the SL Division III champs, is riding the comforts of a nine-game winning streak ... Amy Zehner sparked the Blue Raiders to a 67-55 regular season win over Nativity on Stadium Hill back on January 11th, while Cassie Eroh chipped in with 11 points ... Last year, the same two teams met in the SL semis with Tamaqua coming out on top 63-51, in which Zehner, Hope and Updike finished with 16, 14 and 11 points.
QUOTABLE: "Elissa Streisel was our lone senior last year, so we have come back with a very experienced ball club and that was a huge part of our regular season success. That was a great run and it was a great accomplishment. But, now we begin a whole different season. We do know we have a bull's eye on our back, but we have to come ready to play anyways. Nativity will come out ready to play also. Two years ago, they were the champions of this league and they have been champions many times. And, they're going to do their part to hold their place in winning this league this year. We have to be ready to handle whatever they throw at us," Tamaqua head coach Joe Berezwick
MOUNTAIN VALLEY CONFERENCE
East Stroudsburg South (10-11, 8-4)
vs. Pleasant Valley (16-6, 10-2)
TIPOFF: Tuesday, February 15 at 6 p.m. at Pocono Mountain West
COACHES: Pleasant Valley - Nadia Guaronsky; East Stroudsburg South - Adam Cole
LEADING SCORERS: Pleasant Valley - Kasey Meckes (11.4 ppg.), Kelecia Harris (10.84), Megan Hardy (5.85); East Stroudsburg South - Tara Steakin (14.5 ppg), Lisa Steakin (9.3), Emma Menio (4.5).
GAME NOTES: Gauronsky believes the Lady Bears' defense has been the key to their success so far this season. They like to capitalize on other teams' mistakes and finish on the break. The Bears were especially able to do that in their last meeting with the Cavaliers, as they won by 20 points (53-33). The first meeting was much closer, but Pleasant Valley still came out on top 47-39. This is new territory for the up-start Bears and they need to remain confident in their abilities. They have the two things any title contender will need: a strong ball handler in Kasey Meckes and a great post player in Kelicia Harris.
QUOTABLE: "In the post season, everyone brings their 'A' game. If we can play to our strengths, which are our athleticism and aggressive defensive, we hopefully will continue to be successful." - Pleasant Valley head coach Nadia Guaronsky
MOUNTAIN VALLEY CONFERENCE
Pleasant Valley (11-11, 6-6) vs. Pocono Mountain West (18-4, 11-1)
TIPOFF: Wednesday, February 16 at 7:30 p.m. at Pocono Mountain West
COACHES: Pleasant Valley - Ken Piontkowski; Pocono Mountain West - Brad Pensyl.
LEADING SCORERS: Pleasant Valley - Mike Sharpe (13.55 ppg), Nick Stanovick (12.27), Selwyn Wright (7.43); Pocono Mountain West - Tynell Fortune (19.3 ppg), Kevin Anema (9.5), Mike Collins (8.5), Keon Scott (7.5).
GAME NOTES: While this is Pleasant Valley's first crack in the Mountain Valley Conference championships in a few years, it will be faced with a tough task. The Bears lost both times to the Panthers, once by 51 at home and once by 16 on the road, and will have a number of match-up problems. They tried to go to a 3-2 zone defensively in their first meeting, but were shredded by Fortune's driving abilities and long-range capabilities. The Panthers' full-court press also posed some problems for the Bears. Length and size will also be a problem, as Anema stands nearly 6-9 and Scott possesses size unlike any Bears' player in the post - save a freshman called Marquis Brown. Pleasant Valley will have to play a near-perfect game if its wants to stand any chance against the conference's No. 1 seed.
QUOTABLE: "There is no question that we will be huge underdogs heading into this game, so we really have nothing to lose. Sometimes when a team feels that way they will play a lot freer and come out more relaxed. We almost had Pocono Mountain East at their place the other day, and they beat West earlier in the season, but in order to have a chance to have to play a top-notch game." - Pleasant Valley head coach Ken Piontkowski
Palmerton (17-4, 13-3) vs. Southern Lehigh (18-4, 14-2)
TIPOFF: Wednesday, February 16 at 6 p.m. at Catasauqua
COACHES: Palmerton - Don Delich; Southern Lehigh - Megan Dellegrotti
LEADING SCORERS: Palmerton - Kelsey Hay (14.7 ppg), Casey Rinfret (12.1), Gina Farquhar (7.8); Southern Lehigh - Bridgette Dougherty (13.6 ppg), Hannah Doell (10.1), Eleni Dimou (7.3).
GAME NOTES: Palmerton only had three league losses this season and they were to other qualifying teams in the tournament (Northern Lehigh, Bangor and Southern Lehigh) ... Palmerton dropped sole decision to Lady Spartans, 49-36 at home on January 19, a game in which leading scorer Hay only scored five points ... Spartans' Dimou's 18 point performance in that meeting was the difference, as she seldom missed from the floor ... possess height to battle PHS' interior game.
QUOTABLE: "They probably have the strongest and deepset personnel in the league, they play eight or nine players, and have a strong bench. It should be quite a challenge for us. We can't turn the ball over as much as we did last time and we need to shoot better than we did the other time. We need to handle their pressure, box out and compete on the boards, and we need to play great team defense. If we do those things, I think we can compete with them." Palmerton head coach Don Delich
Bangor (17-5, 12-4) vs. Northern Lehigh (20-2, 14-2)
TIPOFF: Wednesday, February 16 at Catasauqua High School at 7:30pm
COACHES: Bangor - Dale Godshalk; Northern Lehigh - Dave Oertner
LEADING SCORERS: Bangor - Morgan McCollian (10.5 ppg), Audrey Schiavone (10.1 ppg), Brianna Bisci (8.8 ppg);
Northern Lehigh - Aimee Oertner (181 ppg), Sonya Josephson (16.3 ppg), Tina Bastardi (8.3 ppg).
GAME NOTES: The Lady Slaters are one of two teams in the Colonial League to hand Northern Lehigh a loss this season...last meeting was a 41-35 Bangor win on January 28 at Bangor...In the other meeting, Northern Lehigh won in overtime by six, 50-44 on December 14... The Bulldogs boasts two of the league's top two scorers in Aimee Oertner and Josephson ...tend to utilize Oertner's ball-handling to get her to the foul line, where she excels...other players have been stepping up their games of late.
QUOTABLE: "We expect more of the same from them. Both times, they gave us a tough battle. We don't match up well with them. They shoot a lot of threes and we tend to do a lot better against bigger teams. We're definitely going to have to play well to beat them." Northern Lehigh head coach Dave Oertner