I am not a greedy man, but the more basketball I can see the happier I am. Saturday, Jan. 8, I could be particularly giddy since the South Williamsport girls host Loyalsock and the Williamsport boys host Loyalsock.
It's two of the area's top rivalries and four of the area's premier programs competing on the same day. There's just one problem - both games are scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Now I'm not one to beg, but I'm asking pretty please with sugar on top that either South or Williamsport moves the time of its game so that area fans, myself included, can watch both games. One game could be played in the afternoon, say 2:30 or so, and the other at the regular start time. Everybody wins under that scenario and area fans are not forced to decide between attending what could be one of the year's top girls games or one of the year's top boys games. Both schools also could increase revenue by moving the game too since people would then be able to attend both games and not have to choose.
Rachel Fatherly and Williamsport are looking to improve upon last season’s 14-10 finish. See Friday’s Sun-Gazette for our annual high school sports winter preview special section.
Jan. 8 could be a special day for area girls and boys basketball. All we need now is a compromise to make it happen.
Dr. Masse's Preseason Top Five
(last year's record in parentheses)
1. Williamsport (14-10): The Millionaires have improved their win total in each of the last two years and Derek Slaughter's team could be headed for big things a year after reaching the District 2-4 Class AAAA semifinals. Rachel Fatherly and Alicia Ross are two of District 4's premier players and form a terrific inside-outside combination. But it's players like Maura Rose, Canisha Belle, Aisha Evans and Yolanda Littles, to name a few, who could push Williamsport over the top. If those role players from last year can keep making solid progress, Williamsport has the potential to be one of the district's most exciting and deepest teams. Slaughter has done a nice job in three seasons building up a program that was decimated by graduation the year he arrived and this season could be the big breakthrough.
2. Loyalsock (21-7): Standout Keely Henninger is gone, but nearly everyone else is back from last year's District 4 Class AA champion and that makes the Lancers dangerous once again. Point guard Sami Lane and forward Jonaida Williams are two of the area's premier players, and both shined in the postseason last year while players like Cassaundra Soars, Mackenzie Yaw and Avery Cero all have plenty of varsity experience to help the Lancers in the rugged HAC-II. Another plus for Loyalsock is that second-year coach Demarr Wright has had an entire offseason to work with them and the Lancers played well over the summer.
"I think we're in better condition than last year which is an absolute plus because conditioning won a lot of games last year," Wright said. "The thing that impressed me most is we beat some real strong Quad A teams this summer."
3. South Williamsport (20-3): The Mounties are moving up to the HAC-II after capturing two straight HAC-III titles while going 28-0 in league play. That move should help South come playoffs since they will be seeing most of the District 4 Class AA field twice each during the regular season. South has won 45 games, two league titles and a district championship the last two seasons and will be tough again with starters like Division I recruit Tierney Pfirman, Alyssa House and Jamie Steer returning. Players like guards Sarah March, Samantha Reasner, Anastasia Laird, along with post players like Jenna Bachman, Megan Whiteman and Kathleen Rooker also will figure prominently in what kind of season this becomes.
"We have one of the bigger teams we've ever had and there's times when I could put five of them on the court and have four be 6-feet or taller," long-time coach Mike Allison said. "We'll see how the mixture comes along and we're looking for underclassmen to step it up."
4. Lewisburg (18-6): Like Loyalsock, the Green Dragons lost their top player from last year in Jenny Meslener, but they are loaded with returning talented players, including four starters. Versatile center Emily Lesher can be a force on both ends of the court and guards Maria Kelleher, Chelsea Boyer and Jade Kerstetter, all could be poised for big seasons. Injuries derailed Lewisburg late last season, but the Dragons have the pieces in place to reach the state tournament for the fourth time in five seasons and pursue their third district title since 2005.
5. Milton (11-13): The Black Panthers return nearly all their starters from last year's team that was a few points from having a much better record. Milton lost several close games, including by two to district finalist Shamokin in the quarterfinals, but could be one of the team's to beat in District 4 Class AAA with double-digit scorers Ali Derr, Mandy Metzger and Madison Krebs all returning. Now we if can only get Milton's coaches to start calling in scores it will be easier to report on the team's progress throughout the season.
Rounding out the Top 10: 6. Cowanesque Valley (20-6); 7. Wellsboro (16-7); 8. Sullivan County (13-11); 9. Muncy (10-13); 10. Montgomery (16-9)
Preseason All-Star Team
Rachel Fatherly, Williamsport: The powerful forward can be a matchup nightmare when she gets the ball down low and made tremendous progress in her first year playing varsity a season ago. Fatherly averaged a double-double as a sophomore and finished the year among the area's top five scorers with 16 points per game while consistently leading Williamsport in rebounds. The junior is the latest in a pipeline of tremendous Fatherly athletes to compete at Williamsport and has a lot of potential to get even better the next two seasons. Williamsport increased its win total by five last year and more good times could be ahead if Fatherly keeps progressing.
Sami Lane, Loyalsock: The senior point guard is the engine that powers Loyalsock and has been so for the past two seasons. Lane can do it all on both ends and was instrumental in helping the Lancers rally to capture the HAC-II title last year before adding a district crown and reaching the state tournament's second round. Lane can shoot outside or beat defenders to the basket, but it is her defense that really makes Loyalsock go. When Lane gets into the passing lanes and makes steals, Loyalsock is at its best and its transition offense really takes off. Lane also is a good passer who can set up her teammates for quality shots.
Emily Lesher, Lewisburg: Offense or defense, it doesn't matter. Lesher can be a force on both ends. Last year, Lesher was a dominant defensive force, averaging 4.2 blocks and 2.1 steals per game while altering countless more shots. She also was a versatile offensive weapon, averaging nearly a double-double while being one of the team's best passers. With Meslener no longer in the post, Lesher will be counted on to score some more inside and if she does, the Lewisburg inside-outside game could be lethal.
Alex Marple, Wellsboro: One of the district's best kept secrets, Marple has quietly been one of its premier players the last two years. A four-year starter who will soon score her 1,000th point, the senior point guard averaged 16.7 points, close to five assists, four rebounds and three steals last year as Wellsboro finished second in the NTL-West. Marple did all that despite being the focus of every opponent the Green Hornets faced. Like Lane, Marple can hurt teams on both ends and as she goes, so goes Wellsboro most of the time.
Alicia Ross, Williamsport: Arguably, the area's best all-around guard, Ross blossomed last season after recovering from a broken wrist that had ended her promising 2009 campaign. Ross can do it all and is as dangerous going to the basket as she is draining long-range shots. The senior guard helps ignite a scintillating transition offense and is outstanding in the open court. Ross averaged 15 points per game last year and played one of the season's top games against Communications Tech, scoring a career-high 29 points on 10 of 16 shooting while adding seven assists and six steals in an 81-46 win.
of the Year
Tierney Pfirman, South Williamsport: Already a two-time all-state selection, Pfirman is the first area player to receive major Division I consideration while in high school since Kelly Mazzante and Madina Ali. Pfirman put on a show while playing AAU basketball in Philadelphia last summer and is one of the most recruited players on the Eastern Seaboard entering the season. If you want an idea of how good she is, understand that powerhouse Connecticut is interested. It's for good reason too as the 6-foot-1 junior can play all five positions and do everything. Pfirman, who reached 1,000 points last year, averaged 25 points, seven rebounds, five steals and four assists last year while helping South reach 20 wins for a second straight year. Able to beat defenders in a variety of ways, Pfirman played her best against some of the district's best last year, scoring a career-high 37 points and hitting a buzzer-beater against Lewisburg while scoring 35 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and adding four assists against Loyalsock two weeks later. If Pfirman makes the same kind of progress from her sophomore to junior campaigns as she did from freshman to sophomore, she could do some special things this season.
Second Team: Courtney Ebner, Muncy; Reilly Gavitt, Sullivan County; Alyssa House, South Williamsport; Mandy Metzger, Milton; Brittany Phelps, Cowanesque Valley; Jonaida Williams, Loyalsock