Get ready for an unprecedented girls basketball postseason
Unprecedented times have created an unprecedented playoff situation.
Unlike in years past, only the district basketball champions will reach this year’s state tournament. The following is a look at the District 4 girls playoffs and the teams chasing those championship dreams. The first two rounds will be played at the site of the higher-seeded team with the championships held at Williamsport. All tournaments include eight teams.
Nearly every team in this tournament could make a title push. Lewisburg (12-5) earned the top seed and hosts No. 8 Midd-West (6-12), a team it swept in the regular season and starts former Muncy guard Bella Fave.
Lewisburg went through a growing process last year and has developed into a balanced and tough defensive team. Roz Noone, Sophie Kilbride and Hope Drumm all average more than seven points per game and Regan Llanso and Lauren Gross provide strong rebounding.
The Midd-West-Lewisburg winner faces either Central Columbia or Montoursville. No. 4 Central (9-9) has won four games in a row, defeated Lewisburg by 25, and reached the Class AAA state tournament last year. Ellie and Emmie Rowe, as well, as Alyx Flick have had some big games.
Montoursville (6-13) has won four of its last five games despite encountering late-season adversity with its coaching staff resigning last Thursday. Maddie Adams is a versatile threat who leads the team in scoring, Alaina Marchioni has produced a good sophomore campaign, and Mackenzie Cohick runs the offense well.
No. 2 Shamokin (9-5) reached states last year, split two games with Lewisburg and hosts defending champion Danville (4-11). No. 3 Athens hosts No. 6 Milton (7-10). Athens senior Kayleigh Miller is a 1,000-point scorer and the program’s all-time 3-point leader.
Best quarterfinal — Montoursville at Central: The Blue Jays took both back and forth regular-season games. Central won by five each time so this feels like a coin flip game.
Tournament sleeper — Milton: The Black Panthers (7-10) won three straight games late this season, allowing just 50 points in those contests. Crystal Hamilton provides a strong post presence and the Panthers nearly upset Shamokin in last year’s quarterfinals.
Player to watch — Maddie Labatch, Montoursville: The freshman forward has flourished late this season and scored a career-high 13 points in a season-changing 32-28 double overtime win against Hughesville. She is not just a player to watch this postseason, but over the next three years.
Projected semifinals: Central over Lewisburg; Shamokin over Athens. Projected final: Central over Shamokin.
This looks like a three-team race between last year’s finalists Bloomsburg and Loyalsock, as well as NTL-I champion Towanda. Those three are a combined 49-5 with Bloomsburg and Loyalsock winning the last two championships.
Only a ridiculously scheduled game which Loyalsock (15-3) was forced to play with six junior varsity players Saturday at Montoursville kept it from securing the No. 2 seed. The Lancers have four starters back from last year’s 24-win team which reached the second round of states and has quality non-conference wins against Holy Redeemer and Tyrone as well as an impressive 63-35 win against perennial power Mount Carmel. Summer McNulty is having another all-state caliber season. Mia Patterson has become an offensive and defensive weapon. Cassie Gee stretches the defense and Allyia Kennedy provides quality interior defense.
The Lancers host rival Hughesville, which played them tough a few weeks ago. Hughesville (7-11) has lost four in a row but has the kind of smothering defense which can keep it in any game. Alex Snyder and Olivia Strother form a good inside duo, and point guard Lauren Henry played well down the stretch.
Hughesville or Loyalsock will face either No. 2 Towanda (18-1) or No. 7 Wellsboro (6-8) in the semifinals. Towanda went undefeated in league play, has a nice inside-outside mix, and its lone loss came against Sullivan County. Wellsboro plays swarming defense and Emma Coolidge has had a breakout season.
Bloomsburg (16-1), which hosts No. 8 Troy, captured the rugged HAC-II championship and has four starters back from last year’s champion. Madeline Evans and Kelsey Widom form an imposing inside duo and the Panthers beat Loyalsock, 55-38, last month.
Best quarterfinal — No. 5 Line Mountain at No. 4 Warrior Run: Line Mountain (10-10) has won three straight games and Warrior Run three of its last four so both teams are surging at the right time.
Tournament sleeper — Warrior Run: It has dealt with adversity all year, but Warrior Run is coming on strong and has four starters back from last year’s semifinalist. Senior guard Sydney Hoffman is a 1,000-point scorer, Gracy Beachel and Emily McKee both average in double figures and Jordan Hartman put on a shooting display last Thursday, draining eight 3-pointers and scoring 28 points against Northumberland Christian.
Player to watch — Sophia Gardner, Loyalsock: The senior guard is 5-foot-2 but is a fearless player who competes like she is 6-2. Gardner, who will run track at Pitt next year, ignites a stifling Loyalsock defense.
Projected semifinals: Bloomsburg over Warrior Run; Loyalsock over Towanda. Projected final: Bloomsburg over Loyalsock.
Second-seeded Mount Carmel has made 11 consecutive state tournament appearances and won five consecutive district championships at the AAA and AA levels. All-state center Dani Rae Renno is dominant player and scored 40 points in Saturday’s win against Central Mountain. Lauren Shedleski is a versatile guard who can go off at any time. The Red Tornadoes (13-5), who host No. 7 East Juniata, are the only team which beat Bloomsburg and have four returning starters.
Top-seeded Southern Columbia (14-4) edged Mount Carmel, 55-53, early this year and returns a strong group of players from last year’s state qualifier. All five starters are capable of big games and this is an athletic team which can do damage in all facets.
Muncy (8-6) opens at Southern and is making its fifth straight postseason appearance, reaching the semifinals in each of the past three. Bell Hitesman is one of the field’s best post players and point guard Avery Bigelow frequently stuffs the stat sheet. Ariana Copeland heated up late this season and scored a career-high 21 points in a late-season win against Montgomery.
No. 3 South Williamsport has been one of the district’s big surprise teams. Having just nine players, including three first-time starting sophomores and four new starters, South is a few shots from being undefeated. The Mounties won a share of their first league title since 2010 and Claudia Green, Rachel Stahl, Aleigha Rieppel and Piper Minier all average more than seven points per game. The Mounties play ferocious defense and have not let a team score more than 34 points, holding their first nine to 25 or fewer.
Best quarterfinal — Wyalusing at Northeast Bradford: League rivals who went a combined 23-9 will meet in the postseason for the first time in the 2000s. Northeast Bradford took Round 1, 58-44 and reached the Class A state tournament last year.
Tournament sleeper — Millville: The Quakers travel to South and return a good core from last year’s District 4 Class A finalist. Millville is a quick team and Jessica Dodge a dangerous player.
Player to watch — Rachel Stahl, South Williamsport: The team’s lone senior, Stahl can be a defensive eraser inside and also averages 9 points per game. A good leader, Stahl started on last year’s district finalist.
Projected semifinals: Southern over Northeast Bradford; Mount Carmel over South. Projected final: Mount Carmel over Southern.
Defending champion Northumberland Christian has nearly its entire team back from last year’s state quarterfinalist and looks like a serious state title contender. Someone will have to pull a major upset to prevent the Lions (16-3) from repeating.
Emily Garvin is an all-state guard and is surrounded by a strong supporting cast. Norry played an outstanding non-conference schedule, defeated Mount Carmel and gave Bloomsburg a serious scare.
No. 4 North Penn-Liberty could cross paths with Norry if it gets by No. 5 Meadowbrook Christian. The Mounties (6-9) have made nice strides this season, doubling their win total. Eva Rice and Kiersten Mitstifier each average more than eight points per game.
No. 2 Sullivan County hosts No. 7 St. John Neumann after winning a share of its fifth Mid-Penn championship in a row and handing South Williamsport its only loss. Sullivan (10-4) made a statement three weeks ago when it battered Towanda, 64-30. Sophia Springman leads the area in scoring and also is one of its top rebounders. Bethany Beinlich gives Sullivan a spark on both ends, Samantha Albright hits the boards hard, and Kassidy Beinlich is among the area’s assist leaders. The Griffins have won five games in a row, closing the regular season with a 40-28 win at No. 3 Lourdes.
Neumann (5-10) is much improved from last year, winning three more games and building the foundation for a strong future. Sophomore Sheiana Tutler has produced some monster performances. Sophomore Lily Reid averages eight points per game and freshman Gigi Parlante grabbed 14 rebounds last week at Bucktail.
No. 6 Montgomery (8-12) plays good defense and has let just one team reach 40 points in its last nine games. The offense has struggled at times, but the potential is there against Lourdes with all five starters capable of producing in double figures.
Lourdes dominated this tournament until Sullivan ended its stranglehold in last year’s quarterfinals. The Red Raiders are much improved after being young last year, won 14 games and are battle-tested.
Best quarterfinal — Neumann at Sullivan County: The Griffins cruised in Round 1, but this has been an entertaining rivalry over the years.
Tournament sleeper — Meadowbrook Christian: Really, anyone not named Northumberland Christian applies, but the Lions rallied from an 0-5 start and won 10 of 14 games at one point.
Player to watch — Faith Persing, Montgomery: Blink and you might miss Persing hustling down the court. The junior point guard leads the team in scoring and often fills up the stat sheet. Persing tied a program record set by the late, great Dionna Satteson when she made 11 steals against Neumann.
Projected demifinals: Norry over Meadowbrook; Lourdes over Sullivan. Projected final: Norry over Lourdes.