By Chris Rossetti
A pair of top seeds will look for repeats of District 9 girls’ basketball championships in Class AA and Class AAA, while a new champion will be crowned in Class A when the 2016 District 9 tournament gets underway this week.
No. of teams in bracket: 11
No. of teams that get state playoff bid: 4
Championship game: Tentative Feb. 27 at Clarion University’s Tippin Gym
Top seed: Coudersport (21-1)
Defending champion/current seed: Venango Catholic (Failed to enter playoffs after going 6-15)
While a traditional power, Coudersport, sits atop the seedings, there is a definite newness to the bracket even with the Lady Falcons, who haven’t been to the state playoffs since winning the District 9 title, their 13th since 1990, in 2011. Coudy hasn’t even won a postseason game since beating Austin in the opening round in 2012. The second seed, North Clarion, has never on a District 9 title and has only been to the D9 championship game once, falling to Union in overtime way back in 1986, while the third seed, Northern Potter has also never won a D9 title making its only title-game appearance in 1988, when it lost to Clarion-Limestone. In fact only fourth seeded Keystone, which has been to the title game in two of the last four years, has been to the championship game in the last decade among seeds two through eight. Clarion, who won back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014 and has been to the championship game the last four years, is the ninth seed.
- COUDERSPORT (21-1)
Notable – The Lady Falcons are the No. 1 seed for the first time since winning the title in 2011, and, if they win their first round round, they will face one of the teams that has eliminated from postseason play the last three years – DuBois Central Catholic or Keystone. DCC beat Coudy in a 9/8 game last year, while Keystone knocked off the Lady Falcons in the quarterfinals in both 2013 and 2014. Coudersport’s lone loss came to Bradford Dec. 18, and the Lady Falcons have won 17 in a row heading into the postseason. Coudy ranks third in D9 in both scoring offense (54.0 ppg) and scoring defense (35.8 ppg).
Top players – Haley Keck (12.9 ppg), Ally Easton (10.1 ppg), Emily Morey (7.0 ppg)
Why the Lady Falcons will win it all – They are deep. Like very deep. Head coach Chris Fink is using up to a 10-player rotation and six different players have led Coudersport in scoring in a game this season.
Why the Lady Falcons won’t win the title – Their schedule hasn’t been as challenging as some of the other top contenders like North Clarion and Keystone. Coudy only played four games against teams with at least 15 wins, and the North Tier League was down this season meaning the Lady Falcons were rarely tested, having just three games decided by single digits. They did win two games late in the year by two points – over Galeton and DCC.
- NORTH CLARION (20-3)
Notable – In winning the KSAC North championship, North Clarion clinched its first-ever conference/division title. All three of the She-Wolves losses have come to Class AA playoff teams including twice losing to Karns City, the top seed. Tori Obenrader and Abbie Schmader are double-double machines combining for 37 double-doubles including 20 from Obenrader, who is averaging 16.7 rpg and 17 from Schmader, who averages 10.3 rpg.
Top players – Abbie Schmader (18.7 ppg), Tori Obenrader (16.5 ppg)
Why the She-Wolves will win it all – Schmader and Obenrader are the top inside tandem in District 9, and North Clarion is rarely if ever outrebounded. The two are more than enough to carry North Clarion to the title.
Why the She-Wolves won’t win the title – The guard play is ok but not great. North Clarion can be pressed it making mistakes as Karns City did in the KSAC Title game. the She-Wolves also have a bad habit of not putting teams away, which in the postseason can be troublesome.
- NORTHERN POTTER (17-5)
Notable – It’s been a great turnaround for Northern Potter, which was just 2-20 two years ago and 8-15 last year. The Lady Panthers have already secured their first winning season since 2008, and with one more win they will have their most victories since winning 19 games in 2007, which was also the last time they won a playoff game. It is also a young team starting the year with just three seniors, and its top three scorers will all be back next season.
Top players – Kalie Cowburn (13.6 ppg), Gracie Hamilton (13.0 ppg)
Why the Lady Panthers will win it all – It’s just one of those years. Not much was expected from a program whose high-water-mark in wins in past eight years was eight and who had won fewer games (15) in the last three years combined than they won this year. They also possess District 9’s stingiest defense allowing a D9 leading 32.6 ppg.
Why the Lady Panthers won’t win the title – It may be a year too early. While it’s been a great turnaround season, Northern Potter is still a baby of a team lacking big-game experience. Getting to the state playoffs would be a big step in the right direction for this team. In addition, like their NTL counterpart Coudersport, the NTL was down this year meaning the number of big-time games played by the Lady Panthers wasn’t as great as some of their competition.
- KEYSTONE (15-7)
Notable – Put the Lady Panthers in any other conference in District 9 and they are possibly the top seed. But the KSAC South is loaded with five of the six teams in the postseason including four teams with at least 15 wins. Keystone lost twice to Karns City, once to Moniteau and Redbank Valley, in double overtime to North Clarion, to Class AAA top-seeded Punxsutawney and to District 10 Class AAA playoff team, Oil City. They also can score with anyone averaging 52.5 ppg, the fourth-best mark in District 9.
Top players – Amber Hess (13.5 ppg), Taylor Geer (13.3 ppg), Josselin Geer (11.7 ppg) – Note the Geers are not related.
Why the Lady Panthers will win it all – They are battle tested. As mentioned above, they play in one of the top conferences in possibly the state. Every night is a battle in the KSAC South, and playing tight games can be very beneficial come playoff time.
Why the Lady Panthers won’t win the title – They aren’t very deep. Keystone played most of the year without a junior varsity team, and its rotation only goes seven deep. They are also very young with Amber Hess being the lone senior. And they have trouble stopping people. Keystone allows 44.3 ppg, which ranks 25th in D9 and dead last among the Class A playoff teams.
- DUBOIS CENTRAL CATHOLIC (16-8)
Notable – The AML Champions are looking for their first District 9 title since 1999 and haven’t been to the title game since 2000. The Lady Cardinals seem to wear teams down in games and have won numerous times after trailing going to the fourth quarter. They have also played their fair share of close games having nine games decided by five or fewer point. Unfortunately for DCC, it’s just 3-6 in those contests.
Top players – Riley Assalone (12.4 ppg), Jordy Frank (8.4 ppg), Gabby Caruso (6.4 ppg)
Why the Lady Cardinals will win it all – The ability to wear teams down that aren’t as deep as mentioned above can come in handy at playoff time. In addition, the Lady Cardinals showed they could play with the top teams losing by just two to top-seeded a couple of weeks ago.
Why the Lady Cardinals won’t win the title – There isn’t a whole lot of scoring depth with only Assalone reaching double digits. Also, as good as DCC has been in coming back in games, that’s a dangerous life to live, especially in the playoffs when with one misstep your season in over.
- OTTO-ELDRED (13-9)
Notable – The Lady Terrors have had back-to-back winning season for the first time since 2009-10. They are looking for their first postseason win since 2010 when they finished fourth in D9 and went to the PIAA Playoffs. Otto, who lost to Clarion as the sixth seed last year, has never been to a District 9 title game. The Lady Terrors are one of the highest scoring teams in D9 averaging 48.7 ppg, which ranks eighth in the district.
Top players – Camryn Thomas (12.2 ppg), Allison Cousins (11.9 ppg).
Why the Lady Terrors could make a run – Thomas can be one of the most dominating players in District 9. While she hasn’t had quite the same season as she did last year, she is still capable of taking over a game. And Otto has shown in can play with the top seeds owning a win over Northern Potter while also losing by just five at home to Coudersport early in the season.
- SMETHPORT (13-9)
Notable – The Lady Hubbers are in the postseason for the third straight year and for the fourth time since 2012 but haven’t been able to get out of the quarterfinals during that stretch. Smethport has never been to a District 9 title game. They enter the postseason having won five of seven.
Top players – Abbey Woodard (14.4 ppg), Emily Treat (8.2 ppg)
Why the Lady Hubbers could make a run – They are a strong defensive team ranked fifth in District 9 in scoring defense allowing 36.6 ppg. At this time a year, the teams that can play defense usually find ways to win.
- JOHNSONBURG (12-11)
Notable – The Ramettes have had a nice turnaround season after going 6-16 in each of the last two seasons. An influx of young players helped Johnsonburg make a run to the AML playoffs, where it lost in the semifinals to eventual champion DCC. Johnsonburg last made the District 9 playoffs in 2013 when it finished fourth and went to the PIAA playoffs.
Top players – Nicole Myers (10.1 ppg), Cassidy King (9.6 ppg)
Why the Ramettes could make a run – They are playing some really good basketball. After starting the year 4-8, the young team started to gel and enters the playoffs having won 8 of 11 including wins over playoff teams Kane and Elk County Catholic. They are also a great defensive team and rank second in D9 in scoring defense allowing just 35.1 ppg.
- CLARION (12-10)
Notable – The Lady Cats, who have their third coach in three years, have had an interesting season starting strong – 5-2 – then fall off going 3-6 in the middle of the year before ending by winning 4 of 6. A lot to slowdown can be contributed to KSAC crossover play where they faced the gauntlet that is the KSAC South.
Top players – Anna Reed (9.0 ppg), Kelly Beveridge (8.2 ppg)
Why the Lady Cats could make a run – They’ve done this before. Last year, they were the 11th seed but ended up in the championship game before losing to Venango Catholic. And there is the experience factor with the school having been to the D9 title game four straight years. Also, everyone of their losses have come to playoff teams.
- UNION (10-12)
Notable – The Golden Damsels might be under .500 overall, but they finished the year 8-4 vs. Class A teams. If they had been in the KSAC North instead of the KSAC South, there is a good chance they would be a 15- or 16-win team.
Top players – Lexey Shick (14.1 ppg), Shaley Shick (11.0 ppg)
Why the Golden Damsels could make a run – As mentioned above, they have been pretty good against Class A teams this year, and even their late season losses to North Clarion (7 points) and Keystone (3 points) were close. They also own a two-point win over a DCC team that only lost to top seeded Coudersport by two.
- ELK COUNTY CATHOLIC (10-12)
Notable – After going 26-2 last year with an unbeaten regular season, the Lady Crusaders are going through somewhat of a rebuilding year with just one senior on the roster. They failed to make the AML playoffs for the first time since the AML started its playoff system in 2006. They also backed into the postseason in some regards losing 8 of their final 10 games.
Top players – Reilly Herzing (11.5 ppg), Cassidy Cunningham (8.2 ppg), Josie Smith (7.7 ppg)
Why the Lady Crusaders could make a run – Despite the losing record, they have played a ton of close games this year losing eight games by seven or fewer points. Turn a couple of those losses into playoffs wins, and ECC could be back in the PIAA playoffs.
No. of teams in bracket: 5
No. of teams that get state playoff bid: 2
Championship game: Tentative Feb. 27 at Clarion University’s Tippin Gym
Top seed: Karns City (21-2)
Defending champion/current seed: Karns City (1)
The top three teams in the bracket, Karns City, Moniteau and Redbank Valley, are all very familiar with each other as they are rivals in the KSAC South. Karns City is seeking its third straight D9 title, and the Lady Gremlins are one of just three schools – Cranberry and Brookville are the others – to win the D9 Class AA title since 2002. Moniteau back in 2001 was the last teams other than the three mentioned above to win the championship.
- KARNS CITY (21-2)
Notable – The Lady Gremlins are back in the top spot despite losing two key players – Shanel Preston and Annie Hegedus – to graduation last year. They are led by Slippery Rock recruit, LeeAnn Gibson, while the emergence of sophomore Emily Hegedus, Annie’s younger sister, has been a real key to Karns City’s success. The Lad Gremlins lead District 9 in scoring averaging 58.9 ppg and are ninth in scoring defense allowing 38.2 ppg.
Top players – Emily Hegedus (17.9 ppg), LeeAnn Gibson (16.8 ppg)
What it will take for the Lady Gremlins to win it all – Just continue to do what they have done all season. Karns City’s pressure defense has created easy scoring opportunities for both Hegedus and Gibson. They aren’t really big inside, but it usually doesn’t matter when they can run the floor.
- MONITEAU (15-7)
Notable – The Lady Warriors have been to the title game twice (2006 and 2012) since winning the championship in 2001. That 2001 team was coached by current coach Dee Arblaster, who returned to the bench for the first time since 2001 this year. Moniteau enters the postseason having won six of eight with the two losses being a two-point defeat to Keystone and five-point loss to Karns City. The Lady Warriors only other loss to a District 9 team was back in December to Karns City. Alazia Greaves has really come into her own this year going from defensive specialist to the second-leading scorer on the team. Moniteau beat Redbank Valley, its semifinal opponent, twice in the regular season by a combined 13 points.
Top players – Kristina DeMatteis (15.9 ppg), Alazia Greaves (15.1 ppg)
What it will take for the Lady Warriors to win it all – Get over the mental hurdle that is Karns City. Moniteau has the talent to play with the Lady Gremlins, and was beating their Butler County rival going to the fourth quarter Feb. 3 before losing. If Moniteau can get past the Karns City hex, the Lady Warriors could easily lift the trophy in a couple of weeks.
- REDBANK VALLEY (15-7)
Notable – Redbank Valley senior Brooke Hinderliter would love to have a lengthy run in the postseason, as she is just 26 points shy of becoming the sixth girls’ player in D9 history to score 2,000 career points. In order to have that run, the Lady Bulldogs will need the third time to be the charm against Moniteau, a team it has lost to twice by a combined 13 points including a 6-point loss in New Bethlehem Feb. 5. Despite finishing the season with back-to-back losses to Moniteau and Karns City, Redbank Valley won 12 of its last 16 games.
Top players – Brooke Hinderliter (21.9 ppg), Becca Dougherty (9.2 ppg)
What it will take for the Lady Bulldogs to win it all – Needing just two wins for the D9 title, which would be their first since 1998, Hinderliter is capable of carrying a team with a strong stretch of games. But life would be made a lot easier on her if her supporting cast of Becca Dougherty, Lexi Holt and Macy King play well.
- KANE (15-9)
Notable – The Lady Wolves have one of the top young big girl tandems in District 9 in 6-foot freshman center Ella Marconi and 5-10 sophomore Trinity Clark. This is a team that should be in the mix for the next few seasons. This year, they nearly won the AML title before falling in overtime Saturday to DCC. That loss was just their second in their final seven games with the other one being a 5-point loss at home to Redbank Valley. They will be looking for a bit of revenge in the first-round game against Brookville, a team that beat the Lady Wolves 38-28 Jan. 20 in Brookville.
Top players – Trinity Clark (12.1 ppg), Ella Marconi (10.1 ppg)
What it will take for the Lady Wolves to win it all – Continued strong play inside from Marconi and Clark will make them tough to deal with, but it will be the guards that really decide how far the Lady Wolves go. In a bracket dominated by quick guards at Karns City, Moniteau and Redbank Valley, the real question is can Kane’s guard rise to the occasion and take the pressure off the big girls?
- BROOKVILLE (12-10)
Notable – Brookville enters the playoffs going in the wrong direction. After an 11-5 start, the Lady Raiders lost 5 of 6 entering the postseason, although all the losses were close games. They really need Elaina Powell to rediscover her shooting touch. The senior sharpshooter scored just 25 points in her final three games but is capable of exploding for 20-plus at any give time. The first-round matchup with Kane could be favorable considering the Lady Raiders got a 10-point win over the Lady Wolves in January.
Top players – Hali Olson (11.1 ppg), Elaina Powell (10.5 ppg)
What it will take for the Lady Raiders to win it all – Powell sending her career out with a bang. If they senior can hit her shots, Brookville can be dangerous with the one-two punch of Powell and Olson. They will also have to limit their turnovers, especially if they get into the semifinals against Karns City.
No. of teams in bracket: 4
No. of teams that get state playoff bid: 0 automatic but the D9 champion plays the D8 champion with the winner going into the state bracket
Championship game: Tentative Feb. 19 at Clarion University’s Tippin Gym
Top seed: Punxsutawney (18-4)
Defending champion/current seed: Punxsutawney (1)
- PUNXSUTAWNEY (18-4)
Notable – The Lady Chucks are the defending champions and are looking for back-to-back titles for the first time since winning five in a row from 2002-2006. All four of Punxsutawney’s losses came to non-District 9 teams. Punxsy is loaded inside with 6-0 foot sophomore Leah Miller, 6-1 senior Hope Bridge 5-10 Ali Lunger. With that kind of inside size, the Lady Chucks will go as far as their guards take them. Punxsy beat it’s semifinal opponent, Clearfield, 55-43.
Top players – Leah Miller (11.1 ppg), Hope Bridge (10.5 ppg)
What it will take for the Lady Chucks to win it all – If the guards play up to their potential, then Punxsutawney will stand on the podium again and have a shot at the PIAA playoffs.
- ST. MARYS (14-8)
Notable – The Lady Dutch haven’t won a title since the Kayla Ho’ohuli era ended in 2011. But St. Marys has played their competition tough this year losing one of their two games to Punxsy by a mere six points while twice beating their semifinal opponent, Bradford. St. Marys, though, didn’t finish the season particularly strong losing five of their final seven games including two in a row at the end of the year.
Top players – Rachel Bauer (13.1 ppg), Rachelle Armanini (9.3 ppg)
What it will take for the Lady Dutch to win it all – Find the rhythm they had at the start of the year when came out of the gates strong going 10-2. Until early January, St. Marys looked like a team to beat in AAA. But since the middle of January, it’s been a struggle for the Lady Dutch.
- BRADFORD (10-12)
Notable – The Lady Owls have been in the championship game five straight years while winning three consecutive titles from 2012-14. To keep that streak alive, they will have to beat a St. Marys team that it has lost to twice, including a five-point loss in late January. Bradford’s season has been a streaky one with the Lady Owls starting slow (0-3) before winning five in a row. They then dropped 7 of 8 before closing out the regular season by winning 4 of 6.
Top players – Bri Wells (12.2 ppg), Lee Woodmansee (6.6 ppg), Morgan Roggenbaum (6.0 ppg)
What it will take for the Lady Owls to win it all – One of the role players like Woodmansee and Roggenbaum need to step up and give the Lady Owls a second player scoring in double figures. Bradford has shown an ability to play right with the top teams in the bracket but need to finish.
- CLEARFIELD (10-12)
Notable – The Lady Bison have been the epitome of a .500 team. They have never won more than two in a row and have never lost more than two in a row this season. Clearfield hasn’t
been to the District 9 title game since 2009 (AAA) and hasn’t won a title since winning the 2000 title in 2000.
Top players – Rachel Glenny (14.0 ppg), Emily Ryan (10.4 ppg), Margo Castagnolo (8.2 ppg)
What it will take for the Lady Bison to win it all – Find the consistency that has been missing all year. Clearfield has some athleticism and some players who can beat you. If they can find a tad bit of consistency, they could win the two games needed for the title.