CLARION, Pa. – Seven District 9 girls’ basketball teams will start their quest for PIAA Championships Friday and Saturday when the 2016 PIAA tournament gets underway.
Four D9 squads – Keystone, Elk County Catholic, North Clarion and Elk County Catholic – will be in the 32-team Class A field, two D9 teams – Karns City and Moniteau – will compete in the 32-team Class AA tournament and one D9 team – Punxsutawney – will try its luck in the 32-team Class AAA bracket. There are no District 9 teams in the Class AAAA tournament.
(9-1) Keystone (18-7) vs. (7-5) Winchester Thurston (14-11)
When and Where: 4:30 p.m. Saturday, March 5, at Clarion University’s Tippin Gym
Winner gets: Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic/Cochranton winner
About Keystone: The Lady Panthers rolled through the District 9 tournament winning their three games by an average of 14 points per game including a 53-35 win over Elk County Catholic in the title game Saturday … Keystone is 12-1 vs. Class A teams this year and has won nine in a row vs. A opponents … A pair of sophomores – Taylor Geer and Josselin Geer (no relation) and a senior – Amber Hess – lead the Lady Panthers … Taylor Geer averages 13.5 ppg. Josselin Geer chips in 11.9 ppg and Hess 13.2 … Keystone is in the PIAA Tournament for the first time since 2014 when the Lady Panthers 41-33 to Claysburg-Kimmel. The last PIAA playoff win for Keystone came over Winchester Thurston, 74-33, in 2012.
About Winchester Thurston: The Bears started the year 1-6 but have won 8 of 9 since late January with the only loss being a 49-42 setback to Quigley Catholic in the WPIAL quarterfinals. They then had to win a pair of playin game beating Rochester, 44-42, and Riverview, 39-34, to get into the PIAA playoffs as the final team out of the WPIAL … 6-0 sophomore forward Ayanna Townsend is a big reason for the resurgence, and Townsend had 21 points in the win over Riverview while grabbing 13 rebounds. Sophie Buckholder is another key player for Winchester Thurston, which also lost to Clarion, 52-30, in the opening round of the PIAA Tournament in 2013.
(9-2) Elk County Catholic (13-13) vs. (6-3) Bishop Guilfoyle (19-6)
When and where: 3 p.m. Saturday, March 5, at Clarion University’s Tippin Gym
Winner gets: Vincentian Academy/Meyersdale winner
About ECC: The Lady Crusaders saw their dream run through the District 9 tournament end in a thud Saturday when Keystone had 12 points before ECC could muster a shot in a 53-35 loss to the Lady Panthers in the D9 title game … But the Lady Crusaders enter the PIAA tournament having won 4 of 6 while playing some of their best basketball of the season … Junior forward Reilly Herzing leads ECC averaging 11.5 ppg while Cassidy Cunningham chips in 8.5 ppg, Josie Smith 7.7 ppg and Mackenzie Cashmer 6.7 ppg … ECC, which is in the state tournament despite not even making the AML Tournament (four of the eight teams in the league go to the conference tourney), has been involved in a ton of close games on the season having 12 games decided by seven or fewer points and four decided by three or less but went just 4-8 in those contests … ECC has been streaky starting 8-4 then going 2-8 before the current 4-2 stretch … ECC lost to Bishop Guilfoyle in the 2009 and 2011 PIAA first rounds … Last year, the Lady Crusaders dropped a 54-37 decision to Kennedy Catholic in the opening round of the PIAA Playoffs. They last won a PIAA playoff game in 2012 when they beat Southern Fulton, 53-47, in the opening round.
About Bishop Guilfoyle: The Lady Marauders own six PIAA titles including winning back-to-back Class A titles in 2009 and 2010 while also losing the title game in 2011 … They lost to Blairsville, 54-51, in the District 6 semifinals but responded by beating Homer-Center, 67-51, to reach to the PIAA playoffs … Junior guard Lili Benzel leads Bishop Guilfoyle averaging 17.5 ppg, while Anna Audley, a 5-10 junior forward, adds 12.8 ppg and Ryley Lewis, a sophomore guard, chips in 11.3 ppg … This is the 10th straight PIAA playoff appearance for the Lady Marauders, who have won 16 consecutive interdistrict first-round games.
(9-3) North Clarion (22-4) vs. (10-1) Kennedy Catholic (19-4)
When and where: 4 p.m. Saturday, March 5, at Farrell High School
Winner gets: Blairsville vs. Cornell winner
About North Clarion: The She-Wolves are in the PIAA Tournament for the first time since 1986 (when they lost to Shannock Valley in a first-round game at Clarion High School) and for just the second time in school history … North Clarion was upset by Elk County Catholic in the D9 semifinals but rebounded to beat Coudersport in the consolation game to earn the third seed … The She-Wolves are led by the dynamic inside duo of senior Abbie Schmader, a 1,000-point career scorer, and sophomore Tori Obenrader. Both players average a double-double with Schmader scoring 18.3 ppg to go with 10.0 rpg and Obenrader adding 16.6 ppg and 16.6 rpg … Two of North Clarion’s other three losses have come to District 9 Class AA champion Karns City.
About Kennedy Catholic: The Lady Eagles rolled to the District 10 title with a 64-28 beating of Cochranton in the title game. It was one of only two D10 playoff games they had to win to get the title getting a bye into the semifinals where they beat Farrell 52-44 … Kennedy Catholic is a well-balanced group with six players averaging between 6.4 ppg and 11.3 ppg … Raygen Fischer leads the Lady Eagles scoring 1.3 ppg, while Sophia Berardi adds 9.0 ppg, Makayla Shannonhouse chips in 8.4 ppg, Taylor Zacherl 8.1 ppg, McKayla Fusco 7.0 ppg and Gillian Fisher 6.4 ppg … Kennedy Catholic, which has won six straight D10 Class A titles, advanced to the PIAA quarterfinals last year before losing to eventual champion, Vincentian Academy. That included first-round win over District 9 third-place finisher, ECC, 54-37. It was the Lady Eagles fifth straight trip to the PIAA quarterfinals including in 2012 when they beat Clarion in the second round and 2013 when they topped Port Allegany in the second round to reach the quarterfinals.
(9-4) Coudersport (22-3) vs. (6-1) Bishop Carroll (22-4)
When and where: 4 p.m. Saturday, March 5, at Central Cambria High School
Winner gets: McConnellsburg vs. Quigley Catholic winner
About Coudersport: After not losing a game in two months, Coudersport has dropped two in a row losing to Keystone in the D9 semifinals and then to North Clarion in the consolation game to take fourth place … The Lady Falcons are making their first appearance in the PIAA playoffs since 2011, when they beat Aliquippa in the opening round before falling to Fort Cherry in the second round … The Lady Falcons have been a deep team all year with four players scoring at least five points per game while playing practically two separate lines … Haley Keck is the leading scorer for Coudy averaging 12.5 ppg, while Ally Easton adds 9.3 ppg and Emily Morey 7.7 ppg.
About Bishop Carroll: Bishop Carroll is in the PIAA playoffs for the third straight season. The Lady Huskies lost to eventual champion Vincentian Academy in the round last year after beating Clarion in the opening round as the third-place team out of D6 … BC beat Blairsville, 59-31, in the District 6 title game to win the D6 title for the first time since 2005. It was the Huskies 15th win in 16 tries and their third in a row … Alyssa Martinazzi leads the Lady Huskies averaging 13.5 ppg despite only being a sophomore … Jourdan Williams chips in 9.8 ppg while Lea Sammarco adds 9.0 ppg … Interestingly, in 2005, when BC won its last D6 title, it met and beat Coudersport in the opening round of the PIAA playoffs. The teams also met in 1994, 2001 and 2003 with the Lady Huskies winning each time including the 2003 semifinals on their way to their second straight PIAA title.
(9-1) Karns City (23-2) vs. (7-4) Carlynton (20-5)
When and where: 6 p.m. Friday, March 4, at Clarion University’s Tippin Gym
Winner gets: North Star vs. Marion Center winner
About Karns City: The Lady Gremlins are in the PIAA playoffs for the third straight year as the D9 AA champion and advanced to the second round in 2014 when they beat Girard before losing to Bishop Canevin. Last year, Karns City fell to Burrell in the opening round … Sophomore Emily Hegedus and senior LeeAnn Gibson lead the Lady Gremlins, who won the state title in 2000. Hegedus averages 17.5 ppg and has been stellar in the second half of the season, while Gibson, who is headed to Slippery Rock next season, adds 16.7 ppg. Also for Karns City, Alyssa Gibson, LeeAnn’s younger sister, chips in 8.8 ppg while Mackenzie Craig, the baby sister of former Gremlin standout and Redbank Valley head coach Patrick Craig, adds 8.0 ppg … Karns City brings a 17-game win streak to the PIAA playoffs last losing, 68-58, Dec. 29 to District 10 champion West Middlesex. The Lady Gremlins only other loss was in the season opener to Class AAAA Latrobe.
About Carlynton: The Lady Cougars are back in PIAA tournament for the second straight season. Last year, they beat Redbank Valley, 45-33, before being upset by Chartiers-Houston … A team that is built around a pressing defense, Carlynton lost to Greensburg Central Catholic, 61-48, in the WPIAL semifinals breaking a six-game win streak. The Lady Cougars have won 11 of their last 13 games … Diamond Thomas (17.7 ppg), Ashleigh Wilson (16.7 ppg) and Abigail Greiner (15.4 ppg) give Carlynton a big three for teams to contend with.
(9-2) Moniteau (16-8) vs. (7-3) Our Lady of the Sacred Heart
When and where: 6 p.m. Friday, March 4, at Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School
Winner gets: West Middlesex vs. Chartiers-Houston winner
About Moniteau: This is the Lady Warriors first foray into the state playoffs since 2012 when they lost in overtime by one, 44-43, to Keystone Oaks … Moniteau is just 3-3 in its last six games but with all three losses coming to D9 champions – two to AA champ Karns City including a 40-23 set back in the title game and one to A champ Keystone … A pair of juniors lead the way for the Lady Warriors with Kristina DeMatteis averaging 15.3 ppg and Alazia Greaves 14.4 ppg. Sara Hull adds 9.0 ppg.
About OLSH: The Lady Chargers are in the PIAA postseason for the third straight season and made it to the second round last year beating Bishop McCort before falling to Bishop Canevin … Bishop Canevin then beat OLSH 38-31 in the WPIAL semifinals this year on its way to the WPIAL title. That was only the second loss in 14 games for the Lady Chargers … Courtney Alexander leads OLSH averaging 15.6 ppg with Bella Marra chipping in 11.1 ppg.
(9-1) Punxsutawney (20-4) vs. (7-3) Hampton (19-6)
When and where: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 5, at Clarion University’s Tippin Gym
Winner gets: Villia Maria vs. Blackhawk winner
About Punxsutawney: The Lady Chucks will have gone 15 days between games by the time this contest tips off Saturday night. Punxsy’s last game was a 36-28 win over Bradford in the D9 championship Feb. 19 … That win marked the 11th in a row for Punxsutawney, who is in the PIAA playoffs for the second straight year after losing to Chartiers Valley, 33-14, in last year’s first round … The Lady Chucks are paced by the inside tandem of Hope Bridge and Leah Miller … Miller, a 6-0 sophomore, averages 11.4 ppg with Bridge, a 6-1 senior, adding 10.7 ppg. Alli Lunger, a 5-10 junior, chips in 7.2 ppg, but the Lady Chucks don’t have a guard averaging more than 4.6 ppg.
About Hampton: The Lady Talbots, who are in the PIAA playoffs for the first time since a 2013 first-round loss to Forest Hills, lost to eventual WPIAL champion South Fayette, 57-49, in the WPIAL semifinals. That broke a four-game win streak for Hampton, who had lost three in a row prior to the spurt … Allison Collins leads a trio of Lady Talbots scoring in double digits with 15.2 ppg. Laryn Edwards adds 14.3 ppg and Jenna Lafko 13.2 ppg … Hampton last played in Tippin Gym March 13, 2010, which was famous to St. Marys’ Kayla Ho’ohuli exploding for 52 points to lead the Lady Dutch to a 64-55 win over the Lady Talbots.