Road to districts becoming clear
The end of the 2012-13 high school basketball season is about two and a half weeks away. With that comes the furry of teams wanting to end the year on a good note and hopefully qualifying for post-season play.
District 11 states that a team must win either 50 percent of its overall games or 50 percent of its league games to earn a spot in the district playoffs. Since every team plays 22 games, 11 wins are needed to qualify via the 'overall games' stipulation. However, the 'league games' route is different for every league.
Mountain Valley Conference (Pleasant Valley and Lehighton) and Schuylkill League Division I teams (Jim Thorpe, Panther Valley and Tamaqua) need six wins to qualify. Schuylkill League Division II teams (Marian and Weatherly) need seven wins, while Colonial League teams (Northern Lehigh, Northwestern and Palmerton) will need eight. For those who aren't familiar with the Schuylkill League's divisional play, Division I teams (seven) only play themselves and do so twice. The other two divisions have five teams and play their own division twice and the other division once. That makes for 13 games, with seven wins needed to be over 50 percent.
Five local teams have already qualified for District 11 play and can use their final games to work on whatever is needed. Also, positioning themselves for their league championships is probably at the front of that list. The six teams that ARE IN include the Marian girls (11-4), the Northwestern girls (17-0), the Pleasant Valley girls (12-4), the Tamaqua girls (11-4), the Northern Lehigh boys (11-5) and the Marian boys (13-4).
Unfortunately, six other TIMES NEWS teams have already been eliminated from district contention. Neither of these teams can make it to 11 overall wins or win as many league games as needed. They teams that HAVE BEEN ELIMINATED include the Jim Thorpe girls, the Lehighton girls, the Northern Lehigh girls, the Northwestern boys, the Palmerton boys and the Panther Valley boys.
That leaves the area with eight other teams still alive with playoff hopes. Here is a quick look at those squads.
NEED ONE WIN TO QUALIFY
PALMERTON GIRLS (10-6): The Lady Bombers have six games remaining and need to win only one. They currently have a 5-6 Colonial League record with five league games left, but that point is moot. While the majority of Palmerton's remaining games aren't easy by any stretch of the imagination, having Northern Lehigh (2-14, 0-11) scheduled for the final game of the year should provide some comfort.
PLEASANT VALLEY BOYS (10-8): The Bears have four games left - all in the league - against Lehighton, Pocono Mountain East, Pocono Mountain West and Stroudsburg. The locals defeated both the Indians and the Cardinals the first time around, but both were tightly contested. Pocono Mountain East seems to be Pleasant Valley's best opportunity at a win, however it will be on the road.
NEED TWO WINS TO QUALIFY
PANTHER VALLEY GIRLS (9-8): The Lady Panthers have five games left. Four of those games are league games against Blue Mountain, Pine Grove, Pottsville and Tamaqua, with Weatherly being the out-of-league contest. All four of those divisional opponents are ahead of the Panthers (2-6 SL) in the standings and all of them have already beat PV this season, although Pottsville (2-5 SL) and Blue Mountain (3-6 SL) are far from unbeatable. If Panther Valley qualifies for district play, it would be its first trip since 2003.
LEHIGHTON BOYS (9-7): The Indians have six games remaining, with four of them being in the MVC. The teams left on Lehighton's schedule include Tamaqua, Notre Dame of East Stroudsburg, East Stroudsburg North, East Stroudsburg South, Pocono Mountain West and Pleasant Valley. The Indians beat East Stroudsburg North earlier this season, but lost to the other three MVC opponents. NDES currently has a 4-9 record while Tamaqua (see below) is 9-6 and also on the postseason bubble.
TAMAQUA BOYS (9-6): The Blue Raiders have seven games left to win two. Tamaqua appears to be in good shape with league games left against three teams it has already beaten (Pine Grove, Jim Thorpe and Panther Valley) and a non-league game against winless Palmerton. Also remaining on the schedule are Pottsville, Lehighton and Lincoln Leadershp Academy. The Raiders are looking for their first district berth since 2004.
HAVE A CHANCE
WEATHERLY BOYS (8-6): The Wreckers have eight games left and the quickest way to districts would be to win any three of them. If Weatherly can knock off Columbia-Montour again (def. 74-36) and Moravian Academy (7-7), then it would only have to win one of its remaining games against Nativity (4-5 SL), Mahanoy Area (8-0 SL), Shenandoah (7-2 SL), Marian (5-4 SL) and Northumberland Christian (5-11). The Wreckers also have yet to make up the Columbia-Montour tournament championship game against Nativity, which should help their chances.
DO OR DIE TIME
WEATHERLY GIRLS (4-11): The Lady Wreckers have seven games left and must win out if they want to play in the post-season. Weatherly, who sits at 1-8 in the league, has no shot at winning the minimum of seven league games. The remaining games include Panther Valley, Pottsville, Mahanoy Area, Shenandoah Valley, Jim Thorpe, Marian and Moravian.
JIM THORPE BOYS (3-13): While their overall record says they shouldn't have a chance, the Olympians are in fact still alive for the playoffs. Their only shot at making it however comes with the notion that they must win all five of their remaining league games. Jim Thorpe is 1-6 in Division I and can still make it to 6-6 if they can beat Pine Grove (2-6 SL), North Schuylkill (5-3 SL), Blue Mountain (7-1 SL), Tamaqua (4-4 SL) and Pottsville (7-0 SL). It may be a long shot, but technically it is still a shot.
LEHIGHTON WIN STREAK .... Lehighton upset visiting Stroudsburg on Tuesday night to end a 14-game losing streak against the Mounties.
The victory also gave the Indians a four-game winning streak.
The last time Lehighton had a string of wins that long was during the 2000-01 season. From Dec. 21, 2000 through Jan. 9, 2001 the Indians, under head coach Ed Wise, reeled off six victories in a row.
The four-game streak is also noteworthy in the fact that Lehighton hasn't even posted four wins during each of the past five seasons.
THREE-POINT EXPLOSION .... Despite losing to Jim Thorpe las Friday, Panther Valley had a record-breaking night from behind the three-point line.
The Panthers drained 14 treys, nine of them by Jake Szczecina, in the 61-59 setback.
The 14 threes set a new school record. PV's previous high in a game was 11, which was set on Jan. 18, 1995 (vs. Lourdes) and then equaled on Dec. 18, 2007 (at Pine Grove).
The nine treys by Szczecina broke the school's individual mark of eight, which was achieved by Brad Yuricheck on Feb. 26, 2000 against Palmerton.
NON-LEAGUE SUCCESS .... While teams strive to be successful in their own league or conference, winning non-league games are also important. Faring well in those contests can mean the difference between reaching the district playoffs or missing the post-season.
Through Tuesday's games, five teams from the TIMES NEWS area are undefeated in their non-league contest.
The Northwestern girls, who remain undefeated overall, naturally are perfect outside the league (6-0). The other squads with undefeated mark in non-league games include the Marian boys (8-0), Weatherly boys (5-0), Palmerton girls (5-0) and Northern Lehigh boys (4-0).
TOP TIGER ... Northwestern's Sara Jones became the school's all-time leading girls basketball scorer last week.
The senior guard scored 18 points in a win over Emmaus to push her career total up to 1126 and eclipse Dana Stellar's mark of 1,110.
"It feels great," said Jones. "Knowing the girls that have done it before, being a part of that club feels good.
"I really couldn't do it without my team. I know I say that all the time, but it's true."
Jones has been the team's leading scorer for all four years of her career. The team has gotten better each year. She has also developed into one of the best leaders head coach Chris Deutsch has ever coached.
"Her leadership, I've never seen anything like it," he said. "She doesn't like to be recognized out in front. She'd rather pass the credit to other people."
Jones is considering moving on to the Naval Academy next year where she would walk onto the Cadets' basketball team.
But she has unfinished business to complete over the next two months. While she is proud of her individual accomplishments, they pale in comparison to team goals. She's glad to have the scoring record out of the way so the team can focus on winning a title or two.
"We can now focus on playoffs," Jones said. "There are no more records to break. I just want to get some numbers on that girls basketball championship banner before I leave her."
With the 17 points she scored in Tuesday's win over Notre Dame (Green Pond) Jones has 1143 points in her career.