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Times News announces all-area basketball team

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    Skyler Searfoss, Jim Thorpe

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    Tyler Fritz, Marian

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    Emily Shaud, Marian

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    Jada Saeger, Northern Lehigh

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    Brandon Hess, Northern Lehigh

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    Nate Dougherty, Palmerton

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    Rene Figueroa, Panther Valley

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    Erika Dubosky, Panther Valley

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    Brayden Knoblauch, Tamaqua

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    Emma Kuczynski, Tamaqua
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    Lucas Gregoire, Tamaqua

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    Emily Zoscin, Weatherly

Published April 12. 2019 11:46PM

It was an exciting season of basketball in the Times News area.

The 2018-19 season featured dramatic regular season and playoff victories, six 1,000-point scorers, and perhaps one of the deeper talent pools in both girls and boys basketball in recent memory in the region.

A total of 15 area teams qualified for the district playoffs with a host of those teams advancing to the state tournament.

In boys basketball, Palmerton came away with postseason gold with an impressive upset victory in the semifinals of the District 11/1 subregional over No. 1 seed Notre Dame Green Pond to capture the District 11 3A championship. It was the Bombers’ first district championship since the 1988-89 season. Northwestern also advanced to the state tournament after a quarterfinal win over Tamaqua in Class 4A.

In girls basketball, there were many quality teams in the area, but 2018-19 was definitely the year of the Olympians. Jim Thorpe went 22-0 in the regular season, and then followed that up with two wins in the Schuylkill League playoffs for the program’s first-ever league championship. Then in the district playoffs, Thorpe defeated Tamaqua for the third time during the season to reach the District 11 4A championship against eventual 4A state champ Bethlehem Catholic. The Olympians hung tough in that game, losing by just nine, and advancing to the state tournament for the first time in their program history.

Fellow 4A squad Tamaqua also bounced back nicely after its loss to Thorpe, defeating Northwestern in the consolation match-up to advance to the state tournament.

Palmerton and Marian also put together nice seasons and were able to advance to the state tournament, appearing in their respective district championships. The Fillies got to the 2A title game, while Palmerton upset North Schuylkill to get to the 3A championship.

When all was said and done, however, it was Weatherly that was the last team standing in the Times News area. The Wreckers advanced all the way to the quarterfinals of the 1A state tournament after winning the District 11 1A championship for the second consecutive season. Weatherly’s quarterfinal appearance matched the farthest it has ever advanced in the state tournament. The Wreckers set a school record this season with four consecutive District 11 playoffs appearances.

Obviously, it was an outstanding season for many area teams.

But before we close out the books on 2018-19, it’s time to honor some of the individuals that helped propel their squads to glory.

Below is the annual Times News all-area All-Star Basketball Team. Six players on the boys and girls side were selected, with many other quality players being named to the All-Honorable Mention team.

BOYS

Rene Figueroa, Panther Valley

MIGHTY MOUSE … Figueroa has been the Damon Stoudemire of the Schuylkill League ever since he laced up his sneakers for the Panthers. Stoudemire, nicknamed “Mighty Mouse” because of his combination of small stature (5-10) and strength as well as his ability to score at a high level in the NBA, would be the professional basketball version of Figueroa. The senior, who stands at just 5-7, has been one of the most prolific scorers in all of District 11 over the past two seasons. Figueroa scored a total of 1,028 points over the past two seasons for an average of 21 points per game over his last 49 games. His Times News-leading 24.65 points per game average this season helped him earn Times News Boys Basketball Player of the Year. He finished with a PV boys record 1,554 points.

“Because of his scoring ability, I think the thing that gets lost with Rene is how complete a player he is. He led us in rebounds, assists and steals as well as scoring. When you take all aspects of his game into account, I think he’s the best player to ever come through here.” – Panther Valley head coach Pat Crampsie.

EVERYTHING ELSE … Figueroa didn’t just score, he did a lot more for the Panthers. His ability to get into the paint as well as hit the outside shot from beyond the arc helped Panther Valley to be one of the most exciting and high-scoring offenses in recent memory. Figueroa helped the Panthers average an impressive 66.78 points per game and hit an even more-impressive 204 team three-pointers. Figueroa himself hit 67 triples, which was second in the TN area to teammate Brandon Stilitino. Figueroa also led the team with 6.4 rebounds per game, 3.3 assists per game and 2.2 steals per game.

PROGRAM SUCCESS … Figueroa’s dynamic play over the past two seasons helped Panther Valley qualify for the District 11 playoffs in back-to-back seasons with a combined record of 31-18 during that span. The Panthers have put together back-to-back seasons of 15 or more wins for the first time since the 1991-92 and 1992-93 seasons. PV made it to the District 11 2A final in 2017-18, qualifying for the state tournament. In 2018-19, it was a participant in the District 11 3A playoffs.

Tyler Fritz, Marian

PURE SCORER … Tyler Fritz has been a pure scorer ever since he stepped on the hardwood for the Colts. The junior averaged an impressive 11 points per game as a freshman and it was off to the 1,000-point club from that point on. He followed that up in his sophomore campaign with a Times News best 23.64 points per game, which was good enough to earn him the 2017-18 Times News Boys Basketball Player of the Year award. Fritz didn’t take his foot off the gas pedal this season either, averaging 20.2 points per game. Over the past two seasons, Fritz has scored an impressive 985 points for a 21.4 points per game average over his last 46 ballgames. He currently sits at 1,260 career points.

“It’s been great to watch Tyler’s game evolve over the last three years. He’s really added a different element to his game each season, and you can see how much of a complete player he’s become. He’s not just a shooter, he can get to the basket, he gets his teammates involved, and he’s become a stronger leader. It’s all a testament to how hard he works and the kind of kid he is. I’m excited for what his senior year is going to bring.” – Marian head coach John Patton.

ASSASSIN … Fritz can do many things on the basketball court, but the one consistent throughout his career at Marian has been his ability to shoot the basketball. Fritz hit 45 three-pointers this season, giving him a career total of 170 triples in just three seasons. Fritz has also been impressive from the foul line in his career with an .806 career foul shooting percentage.

CONSISTENT CONTENTION … The Colts have advanced to the postseason in all three seasons with Fritz in the lineup. Marian won a District 11 2A title in 2016-17 and played in the District 11 2A semis the past two seasons. Marian has a combined record of 45-28 over the past three seasons.

Nate Dougherty, Palmerton

MR. OPPORTUNITY … Palmerton senior Nate Dougherty worked hard to earn significant playing time as a sophomore for the Blue Bombers. He worked for that opportunity, but he also made the most of that opportunity as well. Dougherty burst onto the scene in his sophomore campaign, averaging 15 points per game. He followed that up with a 16.17 points-per-game effort in his junior season and then took his game to the next level this season, averaging 19.64 points per game. In his three seasons on the court for the Bombers, Dougherty scored 1,198 points. Dougherty will be heading to Moravian College to continue his basketball and academic career.

“What comes to mind when I think about Nate from a skillset frame of mind is that he’s just a flat-out scorer. He got stronger this season, he got faster, and he was outright explosive getting to the basket. That’s something he really worked on was getting better at attacking the rim, and he was one of the best in our league at doing that this season. He’s a good outside shooter, but he didn’t need to settle for a jump shot, because he was so dynamic getting to the bucket.” – Palmerton head coach Ken Termini.

THE BIG STAGE … Dougherty isn’t shy when it comes to performing well in big games. Sixteen games into this season, the Bombers needed a win against rival Northwestern to keep their postseason hopes alive, and Dougherty himself needed 25 points to surpass the 1,000-point mark. All Dougherty did was lead his team to a victory, scoring a career-high 36 points. Then, later on in the season, in the District 11 3A Championship game against No. 1 seed Notre Dame Green Pond, Dougherty helped his team win a championship, scoring 25 points, including three triples.

HISTORIC SEASON … Dougherty helped the Bombers complete a truly historic season. Palmerton won a district championship for the first time since the 1988-89 season and qualified for the state tournament for the first time since 2000.

Brayden Knoblauch, Tamaqua

STEPPING UP … With the loss of a few important seniors from last season’s state-qualifying Tamaqua basketball team, it was time for junior Brayden Knoblauch to step up. Knoblauch, who averaged just over double figures the last two seasons was going to be counted on to be one of the offensive leaders for the Blue Raiders and he delivered. Knoblauch finished sixth in the Times News area in scoring, averaging 17 points per game. Knobluach is just 179 points away from surpassing the 1,000-point mark.

“I think Brayden had just a phenomenal year for us. He really stepped up, and a lot of what we ran went through him. I think he saw a box-and-one defense eight or nine times throughout the season and he never lost his composure. He was able to shoot the ball well, get his teammates involved and also got stronger. He really improved his ability to get into the paint and that, paired with his shooting ability, made him difficult to defend.” - Tamaqua head coach Jim Barron.

PURE SHOOTER … Knoblauch came in as a freshman in 2016-17 with the ability to shoot from the outside and it showed. He hit 48 three-pointers as a freshman, 39 last season and 57 this season. He shot an impressive 41 percent from three-point range, 83 percent from the foul line and 52 percent from the field overall this season.

STAT LINE … Knobluach not only scored for the Raiders, he had impressive statistics in a number of other categories. At just 5-11, the junior averaged 7.8 rebounds per game, led the team in assists with 4.7 per game and also got it done on the defensive end, averaging 1.6 steals per game.

Lucas Gregoire, Tamaqua

IMPROVING GREATLY … The Blue Raiders’ Lucas Gregoire has made exceptional strides in his three seasons playing for Tamaqua. After seeing limited playing time as a freshman, Gregoire took a big jump in his sophomore season, averaging 12.80 points per game, proving to be a solid inside presence for the Raiders. This season, Gregoire didn’t just take a jump, he took a leap, cementing himself as the main inside presence for Tamaqua by averaging 16.96 points per game. In just two seasons, Gregoire scored 735 of his 763 points. He’s just 237 points away from surpassing the 1,000-point mark.

“Everything we ran inside, we ran through Lucas. He was our post presence all year long. He fought hard in there and he finished well around the basket. He also did a good job of turning his 15-foot-and-in game into a 20-foot game. He could step out when we needed him too, which only made him more of a versatile player for us. He’s worked hard and that’s why you can see the improvement in his game year-in-and-year-out.”

MR. CONSISTENCY … Gregoire was one of the more consistent post players throughout the season in the Times News area. He scored in double figures in 21 of 23 games, leading the Raiders with 8.7 rebounds per game, which included an impressive three offensive rebounds per game. Gregoire scored over 20 six times throughout the season, scoring a career-high 27 against Jim Thorpe on Jan. 25.

EFFICIENT … Gregoire was tough around the basket for the Raiders, coming through with 137 two-point field goals, shooting an impressive 54 percent on two-point field goal attempts. Gregoire did occasionally step out to the three-point line, coming through with eight triples on the season.

Brandon Hess, Northern Lehigh

INNOVATIVE … At just 5-9 and 140 pounds, Northern Lehigh’s Brandon Hess can electrify a gym. He’s done that in all three seasons for the Bulldogs and his senior season didn’t disappoint, averaging 15.88 points per game and helping Northern Lehigh to a 15-9 record and a trip to both the Colonial League and District 11 playoffs. Hess’ style of play, excelling in the open court, raining down triples and slipping inside the paint with acrobatic finishes enables him to score in bunches, and he did just that this season. Hess scored in double figures in 20 of 24 games and scored north of 30 points in two games.

“It’s just amazing to me what he’s able to do at 5-9, 130-140 pounds. He’s so clever when he gets into the paint and attacks the bucket. He really can twist his body, his arms, his legs to get the ball up there, and he’s one of the better finishers I’ve seen in the area this season. There’s times, too, where I’ve seen him go crashing into the wall or the mat and I just hoped he would get up. That’s how tough he is. He works hard, he’s a true gym rat and we’ll surely miss him.” – Northern Lehigh head coach Jeff Miller.

HESS SUCCESS … As Hess has gotten better over the years, so have the Bulldogs. In his freshman season, Northern Lehigh went 1-21, but in his sophomore campaign Hess took a big jump averaging 12.27 points per game and the Bulldogs improved to 7-15. Last season, Hess really came into his own, averaging 17.29 points per game (third best in the Times News area), helping lead Northern Lehigh to an 11-12 record and a District 11 3A playoff berth – its first since 2014. This season, Hess once again led the team in scoring and the Bulldogs went 15-9 and qualified for both the league and district playoffs.

THREE FALLIN’ … Three-point shooters likes Hess don’t come around very often. He was fourth in the Times News area this season with 57 triples. For his career, Hess has hit over 170 three-pointers for the Bulldogs.

GIRLS

Skyler Searfoss, Jim Thorpe

FRESHMAN PHENOM … Searfoss was part of a trio of Olympian freshmen that led Thorpe to an undefeated 22-0 regular season, a Schuylkill League championship, a District 11 4A championship runner-up effort, and a state tournament appearance. Searfoss impressed throughout the season, averaging 18.68 points per game. Just a freshman, Searfoss was the player that was counted on in crunch time. When the game was on the line, the ball was in Searfoss’ hands. For example, in three games against Schuylkill League Division 1 rival Tamaqua, which was the Olympians strongest competition during the regular season, Searfoss was the top scorer in each game, shooting nearly 60 percent from the floor and leading Thorpe to victories in all three contests.

“Skyler has an unbelievable court sense. She sees the whole floor and her composure allows her to make outstanding decisions with the ball. Skyler’s game has a calming effect on the rest of our team because she never plays too fast. She is so efficient when she has the ball.” – Jim Thorpe head coach Rob Kovac.

STAT STUFFER … Searfoss led the Olympians in a number of categories this season with the most notable being points per game, assists per game and steals per game. Searfoss averaged 3.4 assists and an impressive 3.5 steals per game, helping anchor an Olympians’ defense that averaged 12.9 steals per contest. Searfoss also came up big on the boards, ranking second on the team, collecting five rebounds per game.

DOMINANT DRIVE … Searfoss was one of the top guards in the Schuylkill League and Times News area this season at getting to the basket. The freshman was not only good at getting there, but was efficient at finishing as well. Searfoss connected on 177 two-point buckets this season, shooting an exceptional 53 percent. Searfoss’ ability to get into the paint also helped her get to the foul line a ton. She got to the charity stripe for an unbelievable 203 attempts, where she made 163 of them for a solid 80 percent foul shooting percentage. She got to the line an average of 7.25 times per game and her 203 attempts were 35 more than the next closest player in the Times News area.

Emma Kuczynski, Tamaqua

CONSISTENT IMPACT … Kuczynski, since her freshman campaign, has made an immediate impact on the Blue Raiders basketball program. The junior averaged 18.17 points per game as a freshman and didn’t disappoint as a sophomore, averaging 18.38 points per game. Kuczynski then took an even bigger step this season in the scoring department, averaging 20.96 points per game, which was good enough for second in the Times News area. In fact, in her career, Kuczynski has scored in double figures in all but three games.

“Her motor, her hustle, plus her skill set makes her such a tough player to defend. She plays so hard and she never gives up on a play. She’s coachable, she does the little things the right way, she really is everything you look for in a basketball player and a person.” – Tamaqua head coach Erika Davis.

DOUBLE THE FUN … Kuczynski, one of the best pure athletes in the Times News area, didn’t just score the basketball — she did much more. Starting in the rebounding department, she was one of the best in the Schuylkill League averaging 10.5 rebounds per game, giving her a double-double average on the season. Kucyznski also led the Raiders in assists, with 3.3 per game and steals at an impressive 4.2 per contest.

PLAYOFF PUSH … In all three of Kuczynski’s seasons with the Raiders, they’ve qualified for the postseason. This season, the Raiders advanced to the District 11 4A semis for the second consecutive time and were able to win a consolation game over a talented Northwestern squad to advance to the state tournament.

Jada Saeger, Northern Lehigh

WHAT A SEASON … There’s one thing for sure about Saeger, and that is she can score the basketball. The senior led the Times News area with 24.09 points per game. She scored in double figures in every game this season, scoring over 20 points 13 times and over 30 points on three occasions, including a career-high 38 points against Saucon Valley on Jan. 10. Saegar also surpassed the 1,000-point milestone on Dec. 15 against Salisbury with a 23-point performance. She finished her career with 1,262 total points.

“If anybody deserves the accolades for their play, it’s Jada. She’ll leave practice and then go get another workout in, that’s how hard she works. She’s become a really good leader over her career, as well, and she plays defense as hard as anybody. She can obviously score with the best of them. We’ve run her into the ground over the past couple years, too. She’s played a lot of minutes. We’ve asked her if she wants to come out and she always says she wants to keep playing.” - Northern Lehigh head coach Ken Shankweiler.

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS … Saeger needed just three years to score 1,262 points, scoring 936 points over her past two seasons. Saeger put together a solid sophomore campaign, averaging 14.82 points per game and followed that up with a fine junior season, averaging 18.45 points per game.

ADDED DIMENSION … Saeger is best known for her quickness, athleticism and handle with the basketball. She’s one of the best in the Times News area at breaking down opposing defenders, with 142 two-point field goals made this season. But the senior can knock down the outside shot as well. Saeger finished third in the Times News area with 42 triples and hit 105 trifectas during her career.

Erika Dubosky, Panther Valley

SCORING SURGE … Panther Valley’s Erika Dubosky was impressive in her freshman season, averaging 13.67 points per game and scoring 287 total points. The sophomore took it to another level this season. With some important senior scorers graduating from last year’s team, Dubosky knew she had to step up, and that’s exactly what she did. Dubosky improved her average by almost seven points, averaging 20.33 points per game as a sophomore in 2018-19, which was good enough for third in the Times News area. Dubosky has 714 points in just two seasons with the Panthers.

“Erika means everything to us, she was depended on to do so many different things for us. I just appreciate her work ethic. I’ll drive past the basketball courts in Summit Hill and it will be raining, and she’s out there working on her game. She’s real passionate about getting better and it shows. She’s become a better leader, and I’m just excited as she gets even stronger and faster to see what she’ll be able to do.” – Panther Valley head coach “Dapper” Lynn.

TAKE IT STRONG … Dubosky took it to the hole frequently this season, coming through with 110 two-point field goals. Dubosky’s ability to penetrate also sent her to the foul line an impressive 168 times, which was only second to Thorpe’s Skyler Searfoss. The super sophomore hit 132 of her 168 attempts for a solid 78 percent free throw shooting percentage. In her two-year career, Dubosky has gone to the foul line 279 times, making 217 of them for a career shooting mark of 77 percent.

INSIDE OUTSIDE … One of the more impressive parts of Dubosky’s game is her ability to play both inside and outside. Standing at close to 6-0, Dubosky can take it to the rack and can also step out and hit the triple. She ranked 15th in the Times News area with 25 three-pointers this season and has a total of 47 three-pointers in her career.

Emily Zoscin, Weatherly

ALL TIME … Zoscin’s career is one of the best in Weatherly history. The senior, who is headed to Lycoming to continue her academic and athletic career, averaged 17.85 points per game this season, which was good enough for fifth in the Times News area. In her career, she scored an outstanding 1,703 points and has collected some impressive accolades along the way. Zoscin is a two-time third team All -State selection and a three-time Times News All-Star selection.

“I got here when Emily was in eighth grade and I think everybody in the program, and people outside the program as well, knew how special she was going to be. She’s just a relentless player, she loves to attack and that type of mentality is why she has all these great numbers. She works hard, she plays even harder, and she’s been the driving force behind our championship success over the past two seasons.” – Weatherly head coach Kevin Kringe.

WINNING WAYS … Zoscin’s statistical achievements are many and exceptional, but Weatherly’s team success over the past two seasons is arguably even more impressive. The Wreckers have won back-to-back District 11 1A championships and they also advanced to the quarterfinal round of the state tournament this season. This year’s senior group at Weatherly is the first ever to qualify for the district playoffs in four consecutive seasons.

DO-IT-ALL … Zoscin didn’t just score, she did a little bit of everything for the Wreckers. She averaged nine rebounds per game, 4.9 assists per game and an unbelievable 5.1 steals per game. In her career, Zoscin has collected 745 career rebounds, 480 steals, 360 assists and 710 career trips to the charity stripe.

Emily Shaud, Marian

STEADY SHAUD … Marian’s Emily Shaud has been the floor general for the Fillies basketball program for the past three seasons. Shaud made an immediate impact as a freshman for Marian, averaging 12.20 points per game. She followed that up with a 12.52 points-per-game effort in her sophomore season and then this season had her best year in the scoring category, averaging 13.38 points per game, which was good enough for seventh in the Times News area. Shaud has steadily improved every season in the scoring department, while staying true to her position as the Fillies point guard. The junior has 853 points in her career, just 147 points away from 1,000.

“Emily is your prototypical really good point guard. She has high basketball IQ, she’s fearless, and she’s really improved her outside shot, which makes us better as a unit. There were times this season where she was able to utilize her ball-handling ability and just run out the clock at the end of a game. Those are the types of things she does. She led us in assists and other categories, but what I want to really mention was her ability to take charges. She was so good at it, we almost had to tell her not to do it, and it really gave us some momentum-changing energy in some big games.” - Marian head coach Paul Brutto.

SHOOTERS TOUCH … Shaud’s been good from the three-point line over the past two seasons, hitting a combined 58 triples. Shaud hit 27 three-pointers this season, ranking 10th in the Times News area. Shaud has also been good from the foul line in her career. This season, Shaud went 93-of-124 for a foul shooting percentage of 75 percent, which was a five-percent difference from a year ago. In her career, she’s gone to the line an impressive 322 times.

IN CONTENTION … The Fillies have a combined record of 52-19 in Shaud’s three seasons as the starting point guard and Marian took the next step this season. After losing in their opening round match-up in districts in her freshman and sophomore campaigns, the Fillies were able to advance to the District 11 2A final this year, finishing as the runner-up and advancing to the state tournament for the first time in four seasons. It was the 26th straight season the Fillies qualified for the district playoffs.

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