Although, in general, it's been a less-than-stellar winter for local basketball teams, the start of District 5 playoff action will offer seven teams the chance to do something special.

On Thursday, the boys teams from Fannett-Metal, McConnellsburg and Forbes Road will play as underdogs in quarterfinal Class A games. On Friday, the Lady Spartans will carry Cinderella aspirations to Berlin for a Class A girls contest.

But the school used to treating these first-round games as more of a warmup is Southern Fulton.

Last year the SF girls won the District 5-A title by 13 points over Berlin, while the boys - seeded No. 1 - were upset by the Mountaineers 49-45 in the semifinals.

The bracket doesn't look much like it did last year for the boys, because they are now considered a Class AA school. They'll play at No. 4 Tussey Mountain on Friday as the No. 5 seed. That might be a blessing in disguise for the Indians (14-7). After limping to a 5-6 start, SF closed out its final 10 games by going 9-1.

The Indians split with Tussey this season. The Titans (15-7) won 76-75 in Warfordsburg, but SF bounced back for a 53-46 road win on the same court it'll travel to tomorrow.

"It's always an experience traveling up there," Indian coach Kent Hendershot said. "We feel very good about where we're at. We know they have a lot of bullets we'll have to neutralize, but if we can do that we'll be fine. We feel like we have a lot of strengths they'll have trouble handling. It's going to be a battle of wills."

In the one-point loss, SF's leading scorer, Nick Smartt, who averages 16.5 ppg, saw a 31-point night go to waste. In the Indians' win, Smartt scored a season-low three points.

Hendershot isn't reading anything into the inconsistency.

"He made a couple of stupid fouls," Hendershot said. "At our place he made a lot of shots. We're certainly not going to win if he only has three points this time. That being said, we proved we can win without him having to have a big game."

On the other hand, the Southern Fulton girls find themselves in familiar territory, seeded first just as they were last year. The Indians (21-2) won't carry the momentum of an Inter-County Conference title with them, though. Bellwood-Antis took advantage of SF's slow-starting first half to deny the defending champs another trophy.

The girls will play their first-round District 5-A game as the No. 1 seed at home vs. Fannett-Metal.

The Indians beat the Tigers (12-10) twice this season by a combined 52 points. If F-M hopes to pull off the area's biggest upset of the year, seniors Meghan Dougherty (17.0 ppg) and Blaire Lauthers (17.4 ppg) will need to play the games of their lives, and get help.

More importantly, the Tigers will have to find a way to slow down SF's leading scorer, Macey Hollenshead. The reigning P.O. Player of the Year has scored 36 points against F-M this year.

BOYS

No. 6 Fannett-Metal at No. 3 Hyndman: Fannett-Metal (11-11) played Hyndman on Friday in the regular season finale and lost 86-72. F-M was outscored 52-30 in the middle two quarters.

"We've got to play better defense than that," Tigers coach Greg Best said. "Maybe this will give our players a little burn and give them some motivation to beat them this time."

Hyndman (16-6) is led by Brad Torbet, who is averaging nearly a double-double with 18 points and 8.9 rebounds per game. Tim Leydig (15.2 ppg) and Chad Deneen (10.6) are also consistent scoring threats for the Hornets.

Likewise, the Tigers also have three players averaging in double figures. Jordan Hurrell leads with 16.3 ppg, while Walker Bannister (15.8) and Trevor Reisinger (13.5) follow. Bannister, who missed three games with an injury, scored more than 13 points in each of his last three games.

No. 8 McConnellsburg at No. 1 Shade: McConnellsburg (7-15) just slipped into the playoffs by closing out the season on a two-game winning streak. Prior to that, the Spartans had lost five in a row.

McConellsburg should have its hands full with Shade (22-1), which is the defending district champion. The Panthers are a force on the boards, averaging nearly 35 rebounds per game.

The Spartans will look for offensive firepower from Tyler Green and Tony White, who are averaging 15.7 and 13.3 points per game, respectively.

No. 7 Forbes Road at No. 2 Shanksville: Forbes Road (6-16) secured its spot in the playoffs by beating Class AA Southern Huntingdon in the penultimate game of the season.

Although the Cardinals had a troubling start to the season, they are playing some of their best basketball down the stretch, winning four of their last six.

Shanksville (19-3) will depend heavily on leading scorer Carter Slade, who is averaging 17 points per game. Ryan Platt and Jordan Wilt are also averaging just over 10.

Meanwhile, Forbes Road has just one player - Tristan Gelvin - in double digits for the season with 13.4 ppg. Recently, Kyle Schoen has been playing very well offensively, scoring a career high 18 against Southern Huntingdon.

GIRLS

No. 7 McConnellsburg at No. 2 Berlin: McConnellsburg (12-10) overtook Fannett-Metal in the rankings by winning its final three games of the season.

The Spartans have been very inconsistent this season, never going on a streak of more than three games either way. Berlin (20-3), on the other hand, notched 19 victories in a row before falling in the final game of the regular season.

Jessi Keefer will be looked at to be potent on offensive for McConnellsburg. She is the team's leading scorer with 12.3 points per game. Nikki Fleming is also a consistent scorer, although she had some of her lowest totals in the three games that finished the season.

- Lizi Arbogast contributed to this story.

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Jeff Kolb can be reached at 262-4819 or jkolb@publicopinionnews.com.

Dist. 5 playoffs at a glance

Boys Class A: Thursday, Fannett-Metal (11-11) at Hyndman (16-6), 7 ... McConnellsburg (7-15) at Shade (22-1), 7 ... Forbes Road (6-16) at Shanksville (19-3), 7

Boys Class AA: Friday, Southern Fulton (14-7) at Tussey Mountain (15-7), 7

Girls Class A: Friday, Fannett-Metal (12-10) at Southern Fulton (21-2) ... McConnellsburg (12-10) at Berlin (20-3), 7

P.O. picks: Boys - Hyndman by 8 ... Shade by 11 ... Shanksville by 10 ... SF by 4 ... Girls - SF by 18 ... Berlin by 9.