The D9Sports Tournament of Champions is in full swing, and it’s time for the Girls’ West Region first round.
(Photo of the 2017 North Clarion girls’ basketball team, which won the D9 Class 1A title and advanced to the PIAA quarterfinals)
The top four seeds include No. 1 2004 Coudersport, No. 2 2017 North Clarion, No. 3 2012 Keystone and No. 4 2016 Karns City.
Here is how this works. You have until 11:59 p.m. Saturday to vote for which team you think is the best in each matchup. At that point, the winners will advance into the Round of 32.
GIRLS’ WEST REGION FIRST ROUND
(16) 2015 Punxsutawney vs. (1) 2004 Coudersport
Punxsutawney advanced to the Round of 64 with a 54 percent to 46 percent win over 2013 Brookville in the play-in round. The Lady Chucks finished 16-8 in 2015 and beat Bradford, 39-29, to win the Class 3A D9 title before losing in the first round of the PIAA playoffs. Randy Reitz-led Punxsutawney was a balanced offense led by Nicole DiPietro, Jensen Constantino, and Hope Bridge.
Matt Splain’s Coudersport team went 28-2 in 2004 beating Union, 53-31, in the D9 Class 1A title game before topping Saltsburg, 45-43, and Farrell, 51-39, in the PIAA playoffs to reach the quarterfinals where it lost to Monessen, 59-47. The Saltsburg game was won when Andrea Glassmire put back an offensive rebound off a missed free throw by Taisasha Brown with 1.1 seconds to play. Coudy rallied from a 37-32 fourth-quarter deficit to get the win. The 2004 Lady Falcons were led by first-team All-District 9 selections Glassmire (10.6 ppg) and Kellie Tingley (8.5 ppg) and second-team choices Maria Martin (9.8 ppg) and Brown (10.8 ppg). The team also featured sophomore Danielle Furman, who went on to be a 1,100-point scorer.
(9) 2010 West Forest vs. (8) 2011 Cranberry
West Forest, under the direction of Bob Wachob, went 23-5 in 2010 and lost to Elk County Catholic, 38-34, in the District 9 1A title game before bouncing back to beat Southern Fulton, 52-19, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs. The Lady Indians fell to Vincentian Academy, 54-32, in the second round of the PIAA’s. West Forest was led by senior Geena Sneeringer, a first-team All-District 9 choice who averaged 19.1 points, 10.1 rebounds, 5.7 steals and 3.0 assists per game and scored 2,030 career points, the most in school history. Also on that team was Alyssa Dreihaup (7.2 ppg), the daughter of current North Clarion head coach Terry Dreihaup, Amanda Carll (9.1 ppg), and Grace Wallace (8.0 ppg).
Cranberry went 24-2 in 2011 and beat Brookville, 44-31, in the D9 2A title game before falling to Greensburg Central Catholic, 49-42, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs. The Chrissy Shumaker-led Berries were paced by the D9Sports.com Rookie of the Year, Emily Merryman (12.4 ppg), who went on to score 1,914 career points, the third-most in school history. Merryman was also a first-team All-District 9 selection, while Lauren Hogue (12.3 ppg) and Kylie Mason (9.2 ppg) were both second-team choices, and Sarah Lutz (11.3 ppg) was a third-team selection.
(12) 2015 Karns City vs. (5) 2020 North Clarion
Karns City under Dave Kerschbaumer went 22-4 in 2015 and beat Redbank Valley, 43-27, in the D9 2A title game before losing to Burrell, 55-45, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs. The Lady Gremlins were led by a pair of all-District 9 selections in first-team choice LeeAnn Gibson (14.0 ppg, 8.3 rpg, shot 56.5 percent) and third-team choice Shanel Preston (12.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 48 made 3-pointers). Gibson went on to score 1,456 career points and just finished a four-year career at Slippery Rock University.
North Clarion under Terry Dreihaup was 26-1 in the COVID-19 virus put a halt to their season in the PIAA Quarterfinals. The She-Wolves lone loss came 42-40 to Coudersport in the District 9 Class 1A championship game stopping a string of three D9 titles in a row. North Clarion bounced back from that loss to beat Sewickley Academy, 47-36, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs before knocking off defending state champion Berlin Brothersvalley, 62-43, in the second round. They were slated to play WPIAL champion Rochester in the quarterfinals when the PIAA suspended play. North Clarion was led by four seniors including Abby Gatesman, a Clarion University recruit, who was an all-state selection as a junior. Gatesman was averaging 14.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 5.1 apg, and 3.1 spg while hitting 49 3-pointers when the stoppage occurred and had amassed 1,232 career points while being named the KSAC MVP. Mackenzie Bauer (11.6 ppg, 4.0 spg, 2.9 apg), Gabby Schmader (8.5 ppg, 2.6 apg, 2.2 spg, 32 3-pointers), and Haley Sherman (9.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 52.3 percent shooting) were the other three key seniors on the team.
(13) 2008 St. Marys vs. (4) 2016 Karns City
St. Marys finished 22-4 in 2008 and beat Punxsutawney, 51-14, to win the District 9 title before losing to Indiana, 58-41, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs. It was the Lady Dutch’s first D9 title since 1994. The Bob Swanson-led team was paced by sensational freshman Kayla Ho’ohuli, who was named the D9Sports.com District 9 Rookie of the Year and a first-team All-District 9 selection after averaging 21.1 points, 7.1 rebounds, 6.2 steals, 5.0 assists and 3.8 blocks per game. Her 549 points that season are believed to be the second most by a District 9 freshman only to Sheana Mosch of DuBois Central Christian (now Catholic), and Ho’ohuli’s 21.7 ppg were actually more per game than Mosch averaged her freshman year on her way to becoming District 9’s all-time leading scorer with 3,066 career points. Ho’ohuli, who went on to start at NCAA D1 Canisius, finished her career third all-time in D9 history with 2,604 points. Additional key players in 2008 for the Lady Dutch were Mandy Stinchcomb (8.9 ppg) and Gina Pelgrin (8.8 ppg).
Karns City under Dave Kerschbaumer went 24-3 in 2016 beating Moniteau, 40-23, to win the D9 2A title and then downing Carlynton, 59-37, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs before losing to eventual PIAA runner-up North Star, 50-30. The Lady Gremlins were led by a pair of NCAA Division 2 players in LeeAnn Gibson and Emily Hegedus. Gibson, a senior who went on to play at Slippery Rock University, was the D9Sports.com District 9 Player of the Year after averaging 16.8 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 2.6 assists per game. She finished her career with 1,456 career points. Hegedus, a sophomore, joined Gibson on the first-team All-D9 team after averaging 17 points, five rebounds, 3.2 assists and 3.0 steals per game. Hegedus went on to become Karns City’s all-time leading scorer with 1,735 career points and now plays for Clarion University.
(11) 2002 Karns City vs. (6) 2012 Bradford
Two years removed from a PIAA title, Karns City went 23-4 in 2002 and beat Elk County Catholic, 58-32, in the D9 2A title game before losing to Cranberry – then a member of District 10 – 52-50 in the first round of the PIAA playoffs when the Lady Gremlins nearly rallied from a 50-40 deficit with 1:50 to play. Karns City was led by head coach Chris Bellis, now the boys’ coach at Karns City. Bellis’ Lady Gremlins were paced by first-team All-District 9 selection Kellie Kepple (10.1 ppg, 4.5 apg, KSAC MVP) and third-team selection Katie Kepple (12.3 ppg), just a sophomore who went on to finish her career with 1,467 career points, the third-most in school history.
Bradford, under Ann Nuzzo, went from 7-18 in 2011 to 24-1 in 2012 and beat St. Marys, 58-39, to win the D9 3A title before falling to Blackhawk, 67-58, in the PIAA playoffs for its only loss of the year. Sophomore Ali Rinfrette (13.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.5 apg, 3.9 spg) was a first-team All-D9 selection for the Lady Owls, junior Kaserra Owens (13.7 ppg, 4.3 spg, 3.4 apg, 2.5 rpg) was a second-team All-D9 choice, and junior Alex Vinelli (10.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg) was a third-team selection. Rinfrette (1,201), who went on to star at NCAA D3 Pitt-Bradford, and Owens (1,018), who also went on to star at Pitt-Bradford and was the interim women’s basketball coach at the school in 2019-20, were both 1,000-point career scorers.
(14) 2010 Elk County Catholic vs. (3) 2012 Keystone
ECC, under Ken Pistner, went 23-5 in 2010 and beat West Forest, 38-34, in the D9 1A title game before losing in the first round of the PIAA playoffs, 34-32, to Rochester. The Lady Crusaders were led by senior Emily Detsch (17.6 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 4.0 spg, 2.0 apg), who was named a first-team All-D9 selection and finished her career with 1,253 points.
Keystone, under first-year head coach A.J. Johnson, went 26-2 in 2012 beating Clarion, 39-25, to win the D9 Class 2A title before topping Winchester Thurston, 74-33, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs and losing to North Catholic, 56-31, in the second round. The Lady Panthers only two losses came in the postseason with their first loss of the year coming to Cranberry, 57-53, in the KSAC title game after going 22-0 in the regular season. Keystone was led by A.J. Johnson’s two daughters, senior Morgan Johnson and freshman Madison Johnson, who both went on to successful college careers. Morgan (18.3 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 4.8 spg, 3.1 apg) was named the D9Sports.com District 9 Player of the Year and finished her career with 1,606 points. She went on to play NCAA Division I basketball at Rhode Island. Madison (11.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.5 apg, 2.9 spg) was named the D9Sports.com District 9 Rookie of the Year and a third-team All-D9 selection. She went on to finish her career with 1,551 points and first played at NCAA D1 St. Francis before transferring to D2 Slippery Rock, where she scored over 800 career points.
(10) 2005 Punxsutawney vs. (7) 2013 Bradford
Punxsutawney in 2005 under Randy Reitz, now the Athletic Director at the school and the D9 basketball chairman, went 21-6 and beat St. Marys, 56-34, to win the D9 3A champion and then knocked off Blackhawk, 50-28, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs before losing to Moon, 42-35, in the second round. The Lady Chucks were led by the D9Sports.com District 9 Player of the Year – her second consecutive POY award – Staci Heberling (17.6 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 3.3 spg, 1.9 bpg), who was also named third-team All-State. She finished her career with a school-record 1,579 points and went on to score over 1,000 career points at NCAA D2 IUP. Samantha Reitz added 9.5 ppg for Punxsy that season.
Bradford was under the direction of Ann Nuzzo in 2013 and went 21-3 beating Punxsutawney, 56-31, to win the D9 3A title for the second straight year before losing to eventual PIAA semifinalist Blackhawk, 86-46, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs. The Lady Owls were led by junior Ali Rinfrette (14.9 ppg, 5.8 apg, 4.8 rpg, 3.3 spg) and senior Kaserra Owens (17.3 ppg, 5.0 spg, 4.3 apg, 2.8 rpg), who were both named first-team All-District 9 selections. Rinfrette (1,201), who went on to star at NCAA D3 Pitt-Bradford, and Owens (1,018), who also went on to star at Pitt-Bradford and was the interim women’s basketball coach at the school in 2019-20, were both 1,000-point career scorers.
(15) 2018 Punxsutawney vs. (2) 2017 North Clarion
Punxsutawney, under Mike Carlson, went 18-6 in 2018 and beat St. Marys, 47-24, to win the D9 Class 4A title before losing to Ambridge, 36-21, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs. The Lady Chucks were led by first-team All-District 9 selection Leah Miller (15.3 ppg, 16.2 rpg, 4.0 bpg, 2.4 spg), who finished her career with 1,037 points and over 1,000 rebounds in just three season. Miller, a second-team All-State selection in Class 4A in 2018, just finished her sophomore season at NCAA D2 Chesnut Hill averaging 11.0 ppg and 8.6 rpg. Kate Horner added 11.7 ppg that year for Punxsutawney.
North Clarion went 26-3 in 2017 and won the school’s first D9 girls’ basketball title by beating Otto-Eldred, 53-40, in the 1A championship game. The She-Wolves then dispatched Sewickley Academy, 57-38, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs before beating Cornell, 68-58, in the second round and losing to Bishop Carroll, 58-49, in the quarterfinals. Tori Obenrader, a junior in 2017, won the first of her two D9Sports.com District 9 Player of the Year awards and was also named a first-team All-State selection in Class 1A after averaging 23.6 points, 15.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.0 blocks per game while recording double-doubles in 28 of North Clarion’s 29 games and shooting 51 percent from the field with 53 3-pointers. She set the school record for points in a game with 684 that season and had over 1,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds heading into her senior season. Obenrader, who just finished her sophomore season at D2 Gannon where she was named a first-team All-PSAC West player while earning the PSAC Tournament MVP award after leading the Golden Knights to the PSAC title, finished her career with a school-record 2,115 points and 1,560 rebounds. She-Wolves head coach Terry Dreihaup was named the D9Sports.com District 9 Coach of the Year. Cassie Wagner added 8.3 ppg for North Clarion in 2017.