Here is a quick look at the District 9 playoff games for Feb. 28.
(Photo of North Clarion’s Tori Obenrader. Photo by Jared Bakaysa of JB Graphics. See more of Bakaysa’s work here)
Class 4A Championship Game
(2) Clearfield (14-9) vs. (1) Bradford (14-8)
When and where: 7:30 p.m. at DuBois High School
Players to Watch: Bradford: Deondre Terwilliger (15.1 ppg), Tyler Gigliotti (14.8 ppg). Clearfield: Reese Wilson (11.9 ppg), Cade Walker (9.5 ppg), Jon Gates (8.7 ppg), Ryan Chew (7.6 ppg)
Game Notes: Clearfield is the defending champion and has won three straight D9 titles (last year in 4A and the previous two in 3A). The Bison are in their fifth straight D9 championship game having lost the 3A title in 2015 creating arguably the greatest stretch every in Clearfield boys’ basketball history … Bradford, once a regular in the District 9 championship game, is back in a title game for the first time since 2013 when it won its second of two consecutive titles in 3A. From 2001 to 2013 Bradford won 10 3A championships while playing in 11 titles games … The Owls have finished strong winning six straight and seven of eight … After winning 7 of 8 between Jan. 10 and Jan. 26, Clearfield has gone 4-3 in its past seven including a semifinal win over St. Marys … Bradford knocked off Punxsutawney in the semifinals … The winner gets the WPIAL fifth-place team, which will come from the grouping of Valley, Uniontown, South Fayette and Ambridge.
Class 1A Semifinals
(4) Johnsonburg (17-7) vs. (1) North Clarion (20-3)
When and where: 7:30 p.m. at Brookville High School
Players to Watch: North Clarion: Nathan Banner (16.5 ppg), Kyle Mills (9.9 ppg), Jesse Schmader (7.0 ppg). Johnsonburg: Austin Green (11.4 ppg), Kacey Raubenstrauch (9.5 ppg).
Game Notes: Banner is three points shy of 1,000 in his career … Mills gives the Wolves a presence few if any team in D9 can match at 6-foot-7, 250-plus pounds and is coming off an 18-point game in a quarterfinal win over A-C Valley … It will be interesting to see how North Clarion point guard Zander Hargenrader’s ankle is. Hargenrader turned it in the early minutes of Friday’s win and didn’t return. NC is one of the few teams deep enough to overcome a loss to a start going 11 deep … The styles of these two teams couldn’t be much more different. Johnsonburg averages 49.4 but gives up just 42.4 ppg. North Clarion averages 69.0 ppg and gives up 48.2 ppg … Johnsonburg, which beat Otto-Eldred in the quarterfinals, is looking to go back to the title game for the second straight years. The Rams lost to Elk County Catholic in last year’s championship game but won a PIAA postseason contest … North Clarion finished fourth in D9 last year losing to ECC in the semifinals. The Wolves haven’t been to a D9 title game since losing to ECC in 1999 after upsetting Cameron County in the semifinals. North Clarion hasn’t won a D9 title since winning its second straight in 1985 … Johnsonburg’s last championship game in 2013 when the Rams went to the PIAA Championship game.
(3) Cameron County (17-5) vs. (2) Elk County Catholic (20-5)
When and where: 8:15 p.m. at St. Marys High School
Players to Watch: ECC: Ryan Newton (17.6 ppg), Alex Breindel (9.0 ppg), Logan Hoffman (8.1 ppg). Cameron County (Adams Shaffer 18.1 ppg), Marcus Brown (11.9 ppg), Dino Brown (8.9 ppg), Caden Beldon (8.9 ppg), Ty Bauer (7.3 ppg).
Game Notes: ECC has won two straight 1A titles and has been to three of the last four D9 1A title games. The Crusaders have won 19 D9 1A titles since 1987 … ECC head coach Aaron Straub won his 800th game as the Crusaders boys’ coach earlier this year … Cameron County is looking to advance to the D9 title game for the first time since losing to C-L in 2015. The Red Raiders last won a D9 title in Class B in 1973 when they won their fourth straight title … Cameron advanced to the semifinals by beating Austin, while ECC rolled past Oswayo Valley.
Class 4A Championship Game
(2) St. Marys (12-11) vs. (1) Punxsutawney (17-5)
When and where: 6 p.m. at DuBois High School
Players to Watch: Punxsutawney: Leah Miller (15.9 ppg, 16.1 rpg, 1,019 career points), Kate Horner (11.7 ppg), Sarah Weaver (7.7 ppg). St. Marys: Kaylee Muccio (8.3 ppg), Megan Quesenberry (7.8 ppg), Bekka Bauer (7.1 ppg).
Game Notes: This is the third meeting of the year between these teams with Punxsutawney winning both, 47-35 at home and 59-37 at St. Marys. The 22-point win was the last meeting between the teams Feb. 6 … Miller has had an incredible career scoring over 1,000 points and grabbing over 1,000 rebounds in just three seasons. She has seven consecutive double-doubles while averaging 21.0 points and 19.0 rebounds per game during that stretch and has recorded 19 double-doubles on the year … Punxsutawney has won three straight D9 titles (two in 3A and last year in 4A) and has been to the title game in six straight seasons now having lost the first two appearances in 3A to Bradford … St. Marys is back in the championship game for the first time since 2012 and the Lady Dutch are looking for a title for the first time since their fourth in a row in 2011 with Kayla Ho’ohuli winning all four of those as a player. Hoohuli is now the interim coach for St. Marys taking over for her mom, Leona Ho’ohuli, who has been on family medical leave … The winner will get the WPIAL fifth-place team, which will be either Ambridge or Belle Vernon.
Class 1A Semifinals
(5) Elk County Catholic (16-9) vs. (1) North Clarion (24-0)
When and where: 5:45 p.m. at Brookville High School
Players to Watch: North Clarion: Tori Obenrader (24.5 ppg, 15.2 rpg, 2,027 career points), Abby Gatesman (10.5 ppg). ECC: Taylor Newton (14.3 ppg), Josie Smith (9.5 ppg).
Game Notes: This is rematch of a 2016 District 9 1A semifinal game where 11th-seeded ECC upset second-seeded North Clarion 46-43 … North Clarion is the defending District 9 1A champion having beaten Otto-Eldred last year to win its first-ever D9 title … ECC last won the D9 title in 2010 in 1A when it won the second of two in a row … Obenrader is one of the best to ever play in District 9 and has over 1,500 career rebounds while ranking sixth in D9 history in scoring. She needs four points to pass Geena Sneeringer of West Forest to move into fifth place. Interestingly, North Clarion head coach Terry Dreihaup’s daughter, Alyssa, played with Sneeringer at West Forest, which is Dreihaup’s alma mater … On the year, Obenrader has 22 double-doubles … Newton is one of the top sophomores in the district and has topped 20 points three times … North Clarion beat DuBois Central Catholic to reach the semifinals while ECC knocked off Northern Potter.
(3) A-C Valley (19-5) vs. (2) Otto-Eldred (20-3)
When and where: 6 p.m. at St. Marys High School
Players to Watch: Otto-Eldred: Camryn Thomas (17.0 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 1,312 career points), Ali Cousins (11.7 ppg). A-C Valley: Ellie Thomason (19.2 ppg, 1,443 career points), Kylee Eaton (9.5 ppg), Cami McNany (9.3 ppg).
Game Notes: Otto-Eldred was the D9 runner-up in 1A last year, while A-C Valley finished third. Both teams lost to North Clarion in the bracket. Otto-Eldred also won a PIAA playoff game beating West Greene. It was the first-ever trip to the D9 championship game for the Lady Terrors … A-C Valley has never been to a District 9 title game in girls’ basketball … Thomas is one of the better forward in D9 and was an all-state player last year. She has eight double-doubles on the season … Thompson is A-C Valley’s all-time leading scorer … The Lady Falcons have overcome the loss of point guard Olivia Boocks (9.8 ppg) in mid-January to reach this point. A-C Valley is 10-2 since Boocks got hurt with both losses coming to North Clarion. A-C Valley has also lost to Punxsutawney and Karns City on the year, both D9 finalists … Two of Otto-Eldred’s three losses have also come to strong D9 teams in Kane and Coudersport.