Can area teams take first step toward title?
The 2011-12 league playoffs for TIMES NEWS area teams will get underway tonight with Mountain Valley Conference and Colonial League girls action. Six area team teams have qualified for league playoff berths this year with Schuylkill League girls, Colonial League boys, and MVC boys all beginning play on Wednesday night.
COLONIAL LEAGUE GIRLS
Northwestern (15-7 overall; 11-5 league)
vs. So. Lehigh (19-3 overall; 15-1 league)
TIPOFF: Tuesday, Feb 14 at 7:30 p.m. at Catasauqua High School
COACHES: Northwestern - Chris Deutsch; Southern Lehigh - Megan Dellogrotti
LEADING SCORERS: Northwestern - Sara Jones (13.9 ppg), Sara Segan (8.2 ppg), Trista Cunningham (6.8 ppg), Sabrina Mertz (6.0 ppg), Caileigh Landrigan (4.1 ppg); Southern Lehigh - Bridgette Dougherty (15.1 ppg), Madelene McDonald (11.4 ppg).
GAME NOTES: Southern Lehigh, the defending league champion, is making its third straight trip to the league playoffs under the guidance of head coach Megan Dellogrotti. Northwestern is returning for the first time since 2007 when the Tigers knocked off Bangor for the Colonial League title ... This is the fifth time Deutsch has guided the program into the Colonial League playoffs in his nine years as head coach ... The Tigers won back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007. In '06, the Tigers beat Pen Argyl to hand Deutsch's his first league title as their head coach ... The two teams met during the regular season on Jan. 10th in Center Valle. In that game, Melann Amory hit a three-pointer in the final 10 seconds of the game to lift Southern Lehigh to a 53-52 win. Sarah Segan led the Tigers with 14 points while Trista Cunningham and Caleigh Landrigan both finished with 11 points. Sara Jones was held to six points. Bridgette Dougherty paced the Spartans with a game-high 16 points while Madelene McDonald added 10 points.
QUOTEABLE ... "During the regular season, Southern Lehigh was the best team. They are the defending Colonial League champ and, in my mind, they're the team to beat until someone can knock them off. To play the defending Colonial League champ, a team that was 15-1 in the league this season, that's a tough task. They're definitely a very good team
"We think to win the game, we have to keep our composure at all times, keep our cool when things aren't going well. Transition wise we need to push the ball, defensively we need to rebound the ball because they are bigger than we are. I think we just need to come out and play loose and relaxed. If we do that, I think we're going to be right in the game. I really do. We have been in every game this year even the games we lost.
"We think we have as good a chance as anybody to win this thing. Our girls are ready to go. They're cranked up. They're excited to be in the postseason. We're ready to play and we're excited. I think we have a good chance to win it on Tuesday. I really do." Northwestern coach Chris Deutsch.
PM East (10-12 overall, 8-4 MVC) vs.
Pleasant Valley (14-8 overall, 9-3 MVC)
TIPOFF: Tuesday, Feb. 14 at 7:30 p.m. at Pleasant Valley
COACHES: Pocono Mountain East - Rose Haller; Pleasant Valley - Nadia Gauronsky
LEADING SCORERS: Pocono Mountain East - Tristen Wicks (11.3 ppg), Ally Roth (8.3 ppg); Pleasant Valley - Kelecia Harris (13.6 ppg), Amber Chieffo (7.6 ppg), Arden Cisluycis (6.8 ppg).
GAME NOTES: The teams split two games during the regular season. Pleasant Valley won the first meeting on Jan. 13, 36-32. Amber Chieffo hit two big free throws late that helped seal the win for the Bears. Mackenzie Dorney led the team 10 points while Kelecia Harris had just four. East took the Feb. 7th meeting at home, 44-37. The Cardinals' twin towers in Tristen Wicks and Neechelle Ingram led the way with 12 and 11 points respectively ... East will certainly have the height advantage with its two forwards and will probably see a lot of zone from Pleasant Valley. Ally Roth is the team's senior leader and is capable of knocking down shots from the outside. Pleasant Valley must locate and rotate to her if they do in fact sit in a zone ... The Bears will be doing everything in their power to win their second consecutive MVC title ... Gauronsky isn't afraid to sub early and often, as eight different players have played in at least 21 games ... Harris must also stay out of foul trouble, as she is the only Bear that can match up with Wicks and Ingram height-wise.
QUOTEABLE: "We didn't play very well in our last meeting with (East), so we are trying to build on the fact that we know that we can play better.
"In games like this, it will come down to free throw shooting and that it something that we have lacked all season long. Regardless of what we shot during the year, we are now at the time where everything is a one-game season. It doesn't matter how we shot in January. It only matters how we shoot Tuesday. If we can make our free throws, and box out on the defensive end, then I like our chances." - Pleasant Valley's Nadia Gauronsky.
SCHUYLKILL LEAGUE GIRLS
Jim Thorpe (20-3 overall; 10-2 league)
vs. Marian (17-4; 12-1 league)
TIPOFF: Wednesday, Feb 15th at 7:30 p.m. At Martz Hall in Pottsville
COACHES: Jim Thorpe - Rob Kovac; Marian - Paul Brutto
LEADING SCORERS: Jim Thorpe - Celeste Robinson (25.32 ppg), Chelsea Smelas (11.55 ppg), Kristin Lawrence (37 three-pointers); Marian - Kaysi McLaughlin (12.57 ppg, 43 three-pointers), Kelly Shober (10.60 ppg), Danielle Tristani (9.35 ppg).
GAME NOTES: This is the first meeting between Jim Thorpe (52.36 ppg) and Marian (50.24 ppg) this season and is a showcase of the two-highest scoring teams in the TIMES NEWS area. Marian is headed back to the Schuylkill League playoffs for the first time since 2008 and the Olympians for the first time ever. Coach Kovac (Jim Thorpe) and Coach Brutto (Marian) are used to coaching in big-time games with Brutto winning multiple Schuylkill League and District 11 titles along with winning a Class-A State Championship in 2008. Kovac took Panther Valley to a Class-AA Eastern Final during the 1998-99 season and also captured the District 11 Championship that same year. Kovac may have a secret weapon looming on his coaching staff with Brutto's former stand-out point guard Tricia McEmoyle on the bench. McEmoyle helped lead the Fillies to a State Championship appearance in 2005. This Schuylkill League semifinal certainly serves as an intriguing match-up. Marian and Jim Thorpe create a lot of offense from their defense with Marian only letting opponents score 32.67 points per contest and Thorpe only allowing 38.95. The two team's style of play are very different and it's interesting to see which team can better execute their game-plan. The Olympians love to push the envelope with their full-court pressure which in turn creates a lot of transition opportunities. Transition basketball is what highlights Robinson's game and if she gets the ball in space that could spell trouble for the Fillies. Marian on the other hand wants to play half-court basketball and force Jim Thorpe to have to run a half-court offense. The Olympians are capable in the halfcourt, but when they have struggled this season it has been when teams have forced them to play slow and in the halfcourt. The Fillies play fierce man-to-man defense so the Olympians will definitely be tested if the Fillies can slow down their transition attack. Marian is also much better offensively in halfcourt sets and have the outside shooting of McLaughlin and the underneath play of Shober and Tristani to be effective. If Marian can force Thorpe into their style of play the Olympians' Chelsea Smelas becomes a very important piece to the puzzle. She's really the only inside the presence Thorpe has and for Jim Thorpe to be successful she will have to perform. It will no doubt be a good one for TIMES NEWS area fans on Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. at the historic Martz Hall in Pottsville.
QUOTEABLE: "First of all it's always tough playing against Marian. They're a premier program and qualifying for the Schuylkill League and District Playoffs is like a right of passage for their players. They're a very good and defensively sound ball club and that always is a cause of concern as a head coach. They have some talented players in McLaughlin, Shober and Tristani. McLaughlin can shoot it as well as anybody and Shober and Tristani cause some match-up problems for us because of their size. I think the outcome of the game is going to be decided on how well each team can execute in their own style of play. We obviously want to play up and down and they want to slow things down. It all depends how they handle our pressure and how we handle their tough man-to man." Jim Thorpe coach Rob Kovac
"Their full-court pressure is tough and we have to limit our turnovers. They have some good athletes and with Robinson at the front of their pressure she creates fits for people with her length and quickness. The game where we struggled the most this season was with Tri-Valley and we had about 30 turnovers so that's definitely key for us. We obviously want to get them into a half-court game and use our ability to play good defense in that situation. Jim Thorpe is much more than Robinson as well. Smelas is a demon on the boards and in the paint and Lawrence can shoot it. We also have to do our best not to let them get into the open court because it's tough for anybody to stop Robinson in transition." Marian coach Paul Brutto
COLONIAL LEAGUE BOYS
Bangor (18-4 overall, 15-1 CL) vs.
No. Lehigh (22-3 overall, 13-3 CL)
TIPOFF: Wednesday, February 15, at 6 p.m. at Catasauqua High School
COACHES: Bangor - Bron Holland; Northern Lehigh - Jeff Miller
LEADING SCORERS: Bangor - Justin Ringland (15.3 ppg), Kerry Reider (13.8 ppg), and Alex Colton (13.4 ppg); Northern Lehigh - Caleb Johnson (10.73 ppg), Lucas Pierce (10.27 ppg).
GAME NOTES: The teams have met twice this season with both victories going to the Slaters…On Dec. 15 in the league opener for both teams, Bangor posted a 50-41 decision over the Bulldogs. On Jan. 27 at Bangor, the Slaters once again were nine points better than the Bulldogs, winning 51-42…The first contest was close most of the way before Bangor pulled away in the fourth quarter thanks to a 10-for-10 performance from the free throw line. Ringland scored 22 for the Slaters in that game while fellow frontcourt teammate Reider added 13 and Colton 10. Josh Pristash led with 14 for NL while Pierce added 12. But the Slaters held Johnson to just four points. In the second game between the teams, Bangor put three players in double digits and darted out early with a 17-6 first quarter lead. Colton had 15, Reider 13 and Sean Altemose scored 10. Pierce and Johnson led Northern Lehigh with 12 and 11 points in a game where the Bulldogs attempted just eight free throws.
QUOTABLE: "We need to be able to handle their 2-3 zone. They create a lot of their offense in transition, either from turnovers or bad shot choices. We have to limit those bad choices and hopefully that can limit their transition opportunities. "We also have to be more physical. In our two previous games against them, they were definitely the more physical team."
"Offensively, we need some other players to step up, too, especially against their zone to stretch it out. We need Josh (Pristash) and Tyler (Dibilio) to hit some shots. That'll help loosen things up inside for Caleb (Johnson) and Lucas (Pierce)." Northern Lehigh coach Jeff Miller.
Stroudsburg (8-14 overall, 7-5 MVC)
vs. Pleas.Vy. (10-12 overall, 7-5 MVC)
TIPOFF: Wednesday, Feb. 15 at 6 p.m. at Pocono Mountain West
COACHES: Pleasant Valley - Ken Piontkowski; Stroudsburg - Shawn Thornton
LEADING SCORERS: Stroudsburg - Langston Northern (11.3 ppg), David Clowney (11 ppg), Jacob Battle (9.3 ppg); Pleasant Valley - Selwyn Wright (12.05 ppg), Marquis Brown (10.00 ppg).
GAME NOTES: Both games have come down to the wire with these two teams. Pleasant Valley won the first meeting on a buzzer-beater by guard Dre Shivers, while Stroudsburg recently defeated the Bears last Friday in double overtime ... The key for Pleasant Valley will be locating Jacob Battle, something it didn't do too well in the last game. Battle sank four three-pointers, three in the first quarter, and may have had a lot more had he not been in foul trouble late in regulation ... Last year, Pleasant Valley fell to Pocono Mountain West in the first round of the MVC playoffs ... The Bears will be looking to win their first-ever MVC playoff game since the format's inception ... With senior Nick Stanovick sidelined for the rest of the year, Selwyn Wright and Marquis Brown will have to handle the scoring load. Brown is bigger and stronger than anyone the Mounties can put in the post and should see some touches on the block. Wright also did a good job of attacking the basket last week and will focus on doing more of that this time around.
QUOTEABLE: "It has been quite an interesting year for both of us. Stroudsburg started off the season slow, but has put it together over the last few weeks to get into the tournament. We have seemed to be up-and-down and have been hanging around the .500 mark all year. It is definitely going to be a battle. Our two games have been pretty intense and each team knows it is capable of beating the other. It is going to come down to which ever team takes care of the ball, knocks down its shots, and earns some extra possessions by getting on the loose balls." - Pleasant Valley's Ken Piontkowski.