What a crazy Friday it turned out to be. And what a curious week we have approaching. After the PIAA girls Class 6A first-round game at the Lackawanna College Student Union, Garnet Valley, jubilant in victory, still had a level of uncertainty about its scheduled second-round game set for Tuesday. Fear of a winter apocalypse threatening the east coast, has PIAA staffers probably as nervous as a long tail cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Basketball and Swimming Championships are scheduled for next week, and I’m not sure how familiar fans are with how tight the calendar gets this time of year, or even the logistics involved in securing neutral site locations, the hiring of staffs at these locations, in what is a small window to get the games completed. If this storm cripples the state, we could have a real scheduling Armageddon, as well.
But, let’s stay positive and not get ahead of ourselves. I did see one “model” that predicted only a moderate snowfall. It is March for goodness sake.
LADY KNIGHTS’ REMARKABLE SEASON ENDS
So, I caught the doubleheader at the Lackawanna College Student Union, as I touched on earlier. Garnet Valley came away with a hard fought win over Scranton in the girls Class 6A game. Look, part of this job at this time of the year, can be gut wrenching. One team wins. And, as is the case in sports, one team loses. Scranton, which looked like a juggernaut last weekend in the District 2 Class 6A final, had achieved so much this season. We have had popular teams in the past, but for some reason, the analytics on my Faceboook page, Joby Fawcett / The Times-Tribune, show this Lady Knights group has easily been the most viewed and supported team of this basketball season. Early, it just seemed like, and I don’t think coach P.J. Hughes would disagree, the Lady Knights got a bit overwhelmed in the moment. They looked tense, unnerved and hesitant — all things coaches try to guard against when teams take the floor under the spotlight of the state playoffs. Oh, and this just in, Garnet Valley has good players, too. The Lady Jaguars were talented and were able to conquer their equally tough early-game jitters, and posted a 58-43, win.
Scranton had a highlight. Ciaira Loyd, who emerged as at least the most dynamic girls player in the Lackawanna League, became the program’s all-time leading scorer with a 3-pointer in the second quarter. It came as part of a 7-point stretch for the senior, who finished with 15 points, and contributed five steals and three assists. She is a fantastic player. I couldn’t help but feel for her as she received her hug from Hughes. She looked almost stunned it had ended. An amazing season, and an incredible career. There are five seniors listed on the Scranton Lady Knights roster. Loyd has been the show-stopper, the catalyst, but this rise to the state playoffs came as a group effort. Tahliah Dillon, who had 10 points, Peyton Orzello, Samantha Peck and Victoria Yatko all stuck with the program. Four years ago, Scranton won 5 games overall and finished 2-11 in the Lackawanna League Division I. The following season, the Lady Knights had 2 wins overall and were 1-13 in the league. Now, they were shedding tears, unable to appreciate in the moment a 13-0 league season, a 16-game winning streak, and a District 2 Class 6A championship. That’s the harsh finality of a state-playoff loss. But, in the days and months ahead, they will appreciate what they achieved. And, someday, after AD Ted Anderson signs the check for a red banner emblazoned with gold letters, honoring this team and Loyd for her individual accomplishments, they will remember this as the time of their lives.
COMETS SOAR IN PIAA CLASS 5A FIRST ROUND
In the second game, Abington Heights looked like a veteran of this stage. It’s because the Comets are. This is a third go-around for seniors Tommy Rothenberger and Seth Maxwell. And let’s face it, while guys like Ross Danzig, J.C. Show, Evan Maxwell, Timmy Toro, etc. were storming into and through opponents in the PIAA playoffs, these guys were at the games, either as ball boys or fans. When Maxwell takes the court, his 7-foot-0 frame sets the tone. I don’t care how you evaluate his abilities or scout to game plan, he will always be 7-feet tall. He’s intimidating and imposing. So much so, Lampeter-Strasburg had its own, 6-foot-7 center — and he looked short against Maxwell. Throw in Jackson Danzig at 6-5 and George Tinsley at 6-5 and Trey Koehler as a sprouting 6-2 guard, this team is a matchup nightmare. Then, of course, with all that size, they bury 3-pointers that would make Larry Bird proud. In the last two games the Comets have buried 20 of 34 from beyond the 3-point arc in the last two games. Try to key on one guy. As Robert Conrad used to say “go ahead, I dare you.”
Koehler and Danzig have 5 each, Rothenberger has 4 and Tinsley has 3. Then, you want to extend the defense, well, Maxwell and Danzig will elevate and bring the fans to their feet with powerful moves to the basket and thunderous dunks. Lampeter-Strasburg found out in a 67-48 game which really wasn’t that close. Abington Heights is playing its best basketball of the season.
Look at these numbers:
- 28 assists on 53 baskets in the last two games.
- 67 rebounds in two games.
- 58 percent shooting in two games.
- 30 points in first quarter against West Scranton in District 2 Class 5A final.
- 27 points in second quarter against Lampeter-Strasburg.
- 745 wins for head coach Ken Bianchi.
Now the Comets will play Martin Luther King High School, one of the talented teams from District 12, which is the Philadelphia-area. It should be an unbelievable game. Let’s hope the snow doesn’t cool off the Comets.
Here is what the top half of the PIAA Class 5A bracket looks like after Day 1:
INVADERS NEARLY PULL OFF UPSET
Now, I wasn’t able to attend the West Scranton-Spring Grove game at Scranton High School. From what I heard, though, the Invaders gave one heck of an effort, which is not a surprise.
This is a gritty group. Four years ago, Cole Stetzar took the court as a starter. All he has done is become a soon-to-be three-time Lackawanna League Division I all-star, a 1,000-point scorer in his career and made two trips to the PIAA playoffs. This senior class had lofty goals. They banded together in junior high when they won a pair of Lackawanna League titles and they have had a very successful run as varsity players under coach Jack Lyons.
They went to the state playoffs as a third-place team last season, and as the runner-up this year. And all the Invaders heard all week probably was how great Spring Grove and Michigan-bound senior Eli Brooks were. Well, one thing I know about West Scranton athletes, they never back down from a challenge.
They went toe-to-toe with the big-time recruit and nearly pulled off the upset.
My man, Blake Carlton, who is about as unassuming a shooting assassin (in basketball terms) you will find, had 16 points. Matt Williams had 12 points, Shaun Fanning, the bull in the paint, had 8 points and Stetzar ended his court career with 8 points, but Spring Grove staved off the Invaders, 49-48.
Forgive me, this one hurts a little. I have built a pretty cool relationship with these West Scranton guys. When you start for four or three years in multiple sports, as several of them have, you get close to them. It’s inevitable with this job. They even included me in their Senior Class Scavenger Hunt. They read the paper. They follow me on Twitter. They are loyal. I remember when they were fresh-faced youngsters, winning a game against Scranton at the buzzer, and the pure joy of victory on their faces just resonated with me.
They were a good group. They were successful. They were fun.
More importantly, they were gentlemen off the court. Especially to me. Respectful and courteous. Just genuine model kids, who the entire West Scranton community should be proud of. I know I am.
Great season and great career Invaders.
Ok, fans, Friday is in the books, and while most of the wild and crazy NEPA residents will be celebrating with green shirts and cold beverages, it’s a basketball day too.
Here are capsules for today’s games. I will be at North Pocono High School for the girls Class 1A and boys Class 2A doubleheader. And remember to stay glued to me on Twitter @JobyFawcett26 for updates regarding the schedule if we get buried in snow.
4-2 Southern Columbia (15-10)
vs. 2-2 Mid Valley (23-3)
When: Today, 1 p.m.
Where: Shamokin Area High School, Coal Township.
How they got here: Mid Valley is the runner-up in District 2, having lost to Holy Redeemer, 38-36; Southern Columbia lost to Hughesville, 45-36, in the District 4 championship game.
Players to watch: Southern Columbia — Julian Fleming, 19.8 points per game; Cam Young; Brett Szuler; Tobias Walden.
Mid Valley — Noah Tanner, 13.2 points per game; Brad Kalinowski, 12.2 ppg.; R.J. Gouldsbury, 10.3 ppg.
What’s next: The winner will play the winner of the Valley Forge-Parkway Center City game on March 14.
The buzz: Mid Valley is into the state playoffs for the fourth time in the last five seasons. … The Spartans have a state-playoff record of 4-4 with their last win coming in 2015 against Columbia, 49-44. … Head coach Mike Abda has a career record of 143-44. … Fleming was an all-state football player for Southern Columbia. … Southern Columbia is 7-14 all-time in the state playoffs with its last win coming against Mountain View, 61-57, in 2006.
11-3 Salisbury (20-7)
vs. 2-1 Scranton Prep (22-3)
When: Today, 5:30 p.m.
Where: Insalaco Arena, Marywood University.
How they got here: Salisbury won the District 11 third-place game, beating Saucon Valley, 75-48; Scranton Prep is the District 2 champion having beaten GAR, 64-45.
Players to watch:
Salisbury — Jaxon Costello 18.7 points per game; Jack Reichenbach, 15.3 ppg.; Ryan Slutsky, 11.8 ppg.
Scranton Prep — Paddy Casey, 15.5 ppg.; Logan Bailey, 13.3 ppg.; Nick Dende, 11.7 ppg.
What’s next: The winner plays the winner of the Imhotep Charter-Bishop McDevitt game on March 15.
The buzz: Scranton Prep won its third straight District 2 championship. … The Cavaliers have a state-playoff record of 19-17 and has won a first-round game in three of the last four seasons. … Scranton Prep coach Andrew Kettel has a career record of 169-83 and is 92-13 in four seasons at Scranton Prep. … Salisbury has gone 0-6 in last six state tournament appearances. … Last state playoff wins came in 2001 when it defeated Lancaster Catholic in the first round, Delone Catholic in second round. … Salisbury coach Jason Weaver is in his ninth season with a record of 161-71.
2-2 Mountain View (11-14) vs.
4-2 Northeast Bradford (15-10)
When: Today, 4:30 p.m.
Where: Mansfield University.
How they got here: Mountain View is the second-place team from District 2 and lost to Holy Cross, 46-18; Northeast Bradford lost to North Penn-Mansfield, 35-16, in the District 4 championship game.
Players to watch:
Mountain View — Matt Lavin, 16.7 points per game; Kyle Streich, 8.8 ppg.; Mikey Schermerhorn, 8.3 ppg.
Northeast Bradford — Garrett Smith, 11.0 ppg; Austin Senn-Bishop, 10.5 ppg; David Ford, 14.7 ppg.
What’s next: The winner advances to face the winner of the Marian Catholic-Masterman game on March 15.
The buzz: Mountain View is in its first state playoff tournament since 2007. … The Eagles last win in the state playoffs was in the first round of the 2007 Class 2A tournament, beating Loyalsock, 95-92, in overtime. … Mountain View has a state playoff record of 3-7. … Head coach Joe Gibbons is in his first season. … Mountain View defeated Northeast Bradford, 62-46, on Jan. 7, to snap a seven-game losing streak. … Northeast Bradford is 6-4 in games decided by 10 points of less.
11-2 Shenandoah Valley (20-4)
vs. 1-Holy Cross (18-8)
When: Today, 5:30 p.m.
Where: North Pocono High School
How they got here: Holy Cross won the District 2 Class 2A championship, beating Mountain View, 46-18; Shenandoah Valley lost to Marian Catholic, 59-51, in the District 11 final.
Players to watch: Holy Cross — Malachi Phillips, 11.4 points per game; Tyler Mozeleski, 8.8 ppg.; Patrick Galvin, 8.7 ppg.
Shenandoah Valley — Joel Santana, 20.1 ppg.; Jermaine McNeil, 15.7 ppg.; Noah Raisner, 6.7 ppg; Isaiah Alvarez, 6.3 ppg.
What’s next: The winner will play the winner of the Church Farm-Constitution game on March 15.
The buzz: Holy Cross is in its 10th PIAA playoffs in the 10-year history of the program. … The Crusaders have won five District 2 Class 2A championships. … Holy Cross has a state-playoff record of 13-9 and reached the Class 2A final in 2013. … Holy Cross coach Al Callejas has a career record of 443-228 and is 219-64 in 10 seasons at Holy Cross. … Shenandoah Valley has wins over MMI Prep, 51-40, and Old Forge, 53-46, this season. … Shenandoah Valley coach Robbie Miller is in his seventh season.