The District 3 basketball playoffs have finally arrived.
Greencastle-Antrim will kick things off when it hosts Northeastern on Tuesday night, while Chambersburg has to wait until Wednesday to take the court against Cedar Crest.
Although this is just the first step, some teams already have their minds set on the ultimate goal - a state title.
"We know we need nine wins to win it all, and that's what we're trying to do," Greencastle coach Gary Martin said. "Someone is going to wind up being that champion, and we want that to be us."
No. 6-seeded Chambersburg is going to start with a huge target on its back. The Trojans are the District 3 Class AAAA defending champions, and they've had a ton of time to heal and rest before taking on the task of a repeat.
"The thing I think we needed was to be well rested," Chambersburg coach Beau Gantz said. "We practiced real well for three days in a row (last week), and we're going hard Monday and Tuesday to get ready."
The Trojans (14-8) have not played since Feb. 6, while the No. 11-seeded Falcons (16-9) lost in the Lancaster-Lebanon League championship Friday night.
Despite that loss, Cedar Crest is playing at a very high level, winning 11 of its last 13 and getting its first league playoff victory since 1976.
Gantz plans to use the Trojans' size and ability to press to his advantage.
"I think if we put the two teams on the foor, they will have trouble matching up with us," Gantz said. "We're much bigger than them."
The Falcons' biggest offensive threats are Killian Kloop and Clay Penchard. Kloop is Cedar Crest's best shooter, and the Trojans plan to put Kellen Williams on his tail.
"He's a good shooter, so he can't be left alone, but Kellen wanted that assignment," Gantz said. "It's going to be tough marking their best player and being our best player, but he said, 'Coach, I can do it and I want to do it.'"
The Trojans will need a big offensive night from Williams, who is their leading scorer with 15.1 points per game. Kane Snider will also make his return after not playing since the eighth game of the season due to injury.
Chambersburg is going to focus on being a more offensively potent team. This season, the Trojans are averaging 53.8 ppg, and Gantz thinks that's not going to be good enough during the playoffs.
"If we're going to do well in districts, we gotta be in the high 60s," he said. "We've been practicing getting the ball up and down the court more and not being so patient. We're trying to score from all points of the court, too, so we've been working on that in practice."
Cedar Crest also specializes in ball movement and an up-tempo style of play, which should make for a high-octane contest.
"They're good inside, they're good outside, and they've got a kid that can slash in the inside to the basket," Gantz said. "We're going to have our hands full."
In Class AAA, Greencastle is seeded No. 8 and will play host to No. 9 Northeastern, which beat the Blue Devils (16-5) twice last year. The teams were scheduled to play once during the regular season, but it was canceled due to wintry weather.
"Regardless of that, both teams are pretty familiar with each other," Bobcat coach Jon Eyster said. "We had a couple opportunities to see them this year, and we played them twice last year, so we're pretty familiar with coach Martin's system."
That system relies heavily on a 1-3-1 zone defensive scheme. Its focus in Tuesday's game will be Khalid Nwandu, who is Northeastern's leading scorer. The Mount St. Mary's commit is averaging over 20 ppg this season.
"If we can keep him under control, we should be pretty good," Martin said. "We're going to make sure we keep an eye on him, and everybody is going to try to stop him. It's going to be a total team effort; we're not going to put that assignment on any one person."
There are a few others the Blue Devils should be wary of. Derrick Hoffman and Braheem Rilley are both consistent scorers for the Bobcats, and Christian Eyster is the team's leading 3-point shooter.
Northeastern's main offensive strategy will be to remain patient and try not to get caught in Greencastle's trap.
"We don't want to settle," coach Eyster said. "They want to try to get us to settle for those quick shots. If we can somehow get them to change defenses, we feel pretty comfortable. We're a much more effective team against man than we can be against a zone."
For the Blue Devils, Joel Zola will be relied upon heavily. Despite Zola averaging 17.9 ppg, Eyster said he does not plan to home in on him too much.
"We're just going to play our defense," Eyster said. "If we spend too much time focusing on one of their players, someone else will score."
That's been nothing short of the truth for the Blue Devils this season. When Zola scored just nine points against Big Spring, Danny Stepler had a career-high 23; and in Zola's lowest-scoring effort this season - six points vs. Delone - both Zach Faulkner (18) and Stepler (17) filled the void.
Faulkner is playing some of his best basketball at the end of the season. He's on a three-game streak of hitting double figures, including a game-high 20 points vs. Carlisle in the last game.
"It's very important for Joel and Zach to have big games," Martin said. "You do look at our two big guys, and people want to stop them. But we've shown that if they do that, that's when someone else steps up."
Greencastle is also going to have court advantage. The Blue Devils have lost just once on their home floor this season.
"Our record speaks for itself at Greencastle; it's just a real nice environment," Martin said. "We're going to come out with confidence and play like we know we can."
Eyster said, "It's going to be our will against theirs."
Lizi Arbogast can be reached at 262-4788 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dist. 3 playoffs at a glance
Game data: Class AAA first round, Northeastern at Greencastle-Antrim, Tuesday, 7 p.m. ... Class AAAA first round, Cedar Crest at Chambersburg, Wednesday, 7 p.m.
Teams: Northeastern is 16-7 after losing in the YAIAA playoffs to York, 91-32 ... Greencastle ended its season on a 2-game losing streak to finish 16-5 ... Cedar Crest is 16-9 after losing the Lancaster-Lebanon League championship to McCaskey, 62-41 ... Chambersburg finished the season 14-8, falling in a marathon 4OT game to Mechanisburg, 51-47, in the final game of the regular season.
Media: There will be a live chat for both games on GameTimePA.com; the chats will open at 6:45 on their respective days ... Follow @EdGotwals and @liziarbogast for live updates ... Webcast for both games available on www.midpennbroadcasting.com
P.O. pick: Northeastern by 6 ... Chambersburg by 3.