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District 9 Girls Basketball Playoff Preview

By Andy Close

It’s playoff time.

On the girls side, 10 Class A teams will battle for four berths in the PIAA playoffs, while eight Class AA schools and a pair of Class AAA teams will vie for two spots and one respectively.

Here’s a quick glance at what to look for when the ball goes up in the air for the first time Tuesday.

CLASS A

Port Allegany, fresh off an undefeated regular season, has the No. 1 seed, and will be looking to make its second-straight trip to the PIAA playoffs.

Senior forward and 1,000-point scorer Becca Lathrop leads the way, averaging 16.7 ppg, while 6-0 Brooke Roys averages 11.0 ppg. to give the 21-0 Lady Gators an excellent 1-2 punch on the inside.

Senior point guard Krista Miller sets the table on both the offensive and defensive ends, while McKenna Johnson is a jack-of-all-trades, with sharp-shooter Lynae Delacour rounding out the starting lineup. Guards Somer and Autumn Buchsenchutz as well as Shania Jones provide quickness and shooting off the bench.

On the opposite end of the bracket as the No. 2 seed is Coudersport (19-3), whose only losses are to Port Allegany (twice) and Bradford. 1,000-point scorer Jenna Gabreski leads the way at 16.6 ppg.

The AML and KSAC make up seeds 3-6, with Venango Catholic at No. 3, Clarion  No. 4, Elk County Catholic No. 5 and DuBois Central Catholic No. 6.

Clarion (17-6), the defending Class A champion, is led by the strong 1-2 punch of Kyla Miles (16.9 ppg) and Maci Thornton (15.5 ppg.). They will face off against ECC, whom they beat back on Dec. 28, 49-30 in the EQT Energy Classic. The AML-champion Lady Crusaders (19-5)  have a pair of sharp-shooting guards in Julia Sweeney (12.0 ppg.) and Macy Neurieter.

No. 3 Venango Catholic (18-4), which lost to Port Allegany in the quarterfinals last season, may have the most balanced team in the field. Lindsey Homan averages 14.9 ppg., with Taylor Moltz at 13.5 and Ava Homan at 10.5.

DuBois Central Catholic (16-6) enters with a record of 16-6 and is led by Kylee Schaffer (10.8 ppg.) and Maria French (9.1 ppg.).

Teams 7-10, Keystone, Smethport, Brockway and Cameron County will play in first round games Tuesday.

Keystone (15-7), a state qualifier last season and district champion in 2012, could make a return trip, as they are led by one of the most dynamic players in the district in Maddie Johnson, who averages 15.9 points per game. Guard Amber Hess is a deadly outside shooter and averages 10.o ppg. They will play a Cameron County team that comes in with a record of 12-10 and is led by Susie Guisto (11.3 ppg.), Mallory Lyon, Madi Guisto and Brooke Burfield.

In the 8-9 matchup, Smethport (13-9) comes in red-hot, winners of eight-straight games. Morgan Okerlund averages 13.5 ppg and has scored at least 20 point in five of her last seven games. Kiyah Taggart, Molly Lord and Katie Treat are tied for second in scoring for the Lady Hubbers, who will face a Brockway (11-10) team that is entering the playoffs for the first time in quite a while. Julie Esposito averages 10.9 ppg.

CLASS AA

An eight-team field makes up Class AA, led by Karns City.

KC nearly ran the gauntlet in the very competitive KSAC, finishing with a record of 21-1. They may be looking at an extended run of excellence, as most of their top players will return next season as well. LeeAnn Gibson is one of the top scorers in District 9 at 17.2 ppg., while Emily LoPresti (12.1) and Shanel Preston (11.0) also average in double figures for a team that averages 60.4 ppg.

Karns City will play defending Class AA champion Brookville in the first round. The Lady Raiders (8-14) don’t come in with quite the same firepower that they did last season, but still will be a tough out thanks to Hali Olson (10.5 ppg) and Elaina Powell (8.2 ppg.) among others.

The 2-7 game between Curwensville (15-7)and Kane (12-12) is an interesting one. Curwensville comes in as the No. 2 seed, but has lost twice, both by double figures, to the Lady Wolves. Ciara Strickland, for the second-consecutive season, is one of the leading scorers in District 9, averaging 19.4 ppg.

They will face a young Kane team that features a pair of freshmen starters in point guard Kiley Kinney and forward Camryn Cummings. Junior forward Taylor Morgan leads the way at 11.0 ppg.

The 3-6 game features the iron five of Clarion-Limestone (14-8) against District 9’s most dynamic scorer — Cranberry’s Emily Merryman. Merryman averages a district-best 26.7 ppg. She has scored 30 points in a game seven times this season, including 44 in the season opener against Lakeview.

Clarion-Limestone, meanwhile, has three players averaging in double figures with Lily Port, Abby Mellott and Alissa Burns. Cranberry (13-9) swept the season series, including a one-point win on Feb. 11.

The 4-5 game also features a pair of teams that are familiar with one another — Moniteau and Redbank Valley. They have played twice this season, with Moniteau sweeping.

Redbank Valley (14-8) is led by sophomore Brooke Hinderliter, who once again is near the top of D-9 in scoring at 20.2 ppg, or roughly 40 percent of RBV’s offesnse.

Moniteau (14-8), meanwhile, features a trio of players averaing over 10 ppg in Stephanie McCall, Emily Rider and Fontaine Glenn. McCall leads the way at 14.9 ppg.

CLASS AAA

The Bradford girls will look to make it three-straight district championships when they play Punxsutawney.

The two teams have played twice this season, with Bradford winning both games, albeit by close margins. The Lady Owls (20-2) won 38-33 in Bradford and 45-44 at Punxsutawney.

Senior point guard and 1,000-point scorer Ali Rinfrette leads Bradford with 13.5 ppg, and also leads the team in assists, rebounds, steals and field goal percentage.

Fellow four-year starter Haley Vinelli averages 8.0 ppg., while seniors Liz Coppella and Payton Ambrose and junior Rylee Lundgren round out the starting lineup.  A pair of freshmen guards, Bri Wells and Morgan Roggenbaum, also see significant time for Bradford.

Punxsutawney, meanwhile, is an athletic team that relies on three-point shooting for much of its offense. Taylor Newcome averages 11.3 points per game to lead the Lady Chucks (14-8), who played a very aggressive non-league schedule.

Jensen Constantino, Nicole Dipietro, Emily Horner and Allie Fye also play significant roles for Punxsutawney.

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