Heading into the first round of the District 3 Class AAA girls basketball playoffs, James Buchanan and Greencastle-Antrim could hardly be in more opposite situations.
No. 2-seeded Berks Catholic (20-4) will be the clear favorite when it hosts the Rockets (14-9) on Tuesday at 6 p.m., although the teams have never met.
The Blue Devils (20-3), on the other hand, are seeded fourth, and are hosting a game at home on Wednesday at 7 p.m. and have beaten their opponent, East Pennsboro (14-8), once already this season.
"I'm actually scared about how confident I am," G-A coach Mike Rhine said. "We had the Mid Penn all-star meeting today, and all the coaches were saying we got kind of a crappy draw. But I love playing at home, and our kids love playing at home. We don't want to practice anymore; we're ready to go out and play."
Although No. 18 James Buchanan is definitely an underdog, the Rockets already have one upset under their belts. In a play-in game against No. 15 Boiling Springs, James Buchanan came out on top, 40-33.
"It could work to our advantage," Rocket coach Jen Lauthers said. "As much as you tell your kids not to overlook someone, it happens. I'm just looking for a good game. Hopefully, we can make some changes and make them make some changes, and maybe we'll do some things to surprise some people."
In the win over the Bubblers, JB had a difficult time shooting the ball, finishing a mere 23.9 percent from the field. This has been a common theme for the Rockets throughout the season, but luckily, JB tends to shoot the ball a lot.
"We can look at that two ways: if you're off, you need to be passing the ball, but how will you score if you're not shooting?" Lauthers said. "They're starting to get it in their minds that we need to start finishing. We took some forced shots from the outside, and we did get some offensive rebounds, but we're not very strong with the ball after rebounds always."
The Rockets' top scorers, Jennae Piper (12.0 ppg) and Charity Miller (11.5), combined for just six points in the victory over Boiling Springs, but Lauthers said there are other contributions they could make, and others to fill the void, if those two have another off night.
"Right now, we're banking on all five of our starters possibly having a good night," Lauthers said. "Rachel (Martin) is totally capable coming off the bench, and Charity will hopefully be ready to go. They just need to play. If you're not scoring – like Jennae on Friday – she wasn't scoring, but she was doing everything in her power to get others open. They're all capable of scoring; they just need to help each other out."
That strategy is pretty similar in Greencastle's case. All five of the Blue Devil starters have finished in double figures at least once this season and both Jenay Faulkner (17.4 ppg) and Hannah Crist (11.3) are averaging in double figures. Katie Gelsinger (8.9) and Jane Herman (8.3) are also both consistent threats.
"If I'm on their side, I'm thinking, 'We have to stop Faulkner; she can't get what she wants,'" Rhine said. "So if they can take her away a bit, I guess I'll be looking to my seniors (Gelsinger and Herman), who are playing their last game on their home floor. I'll look at Katie, and say, 'Can you repeat what you did at Palmyra (14 points, 7 rebounds)?' And Jane always shoot well at home."
For Rhine's part, he will be focusing on shutting down Danielle Kreiger (11.4 ppg), a strong perimeter shooter, and Amber Grob (9.1), the Panthers' top post player.
"They're probably looking for Grob to have a really good game against us on the boards," Rhine said. "They should be concerned inside. Katie and Jenay both had nice games inside last time, so they're going to be looking to contain the interior."
And although the Blue Devils are a clear favorite, like James Buchanan, they're not counting anything as a guarantee.
"I like to think we're bigger, faster and maybe more skilled, but they certainly have our attention," Rhine said. "They're a very dangerous team. They have very good shooters, and they're scrappy. They play really hard and have an excellent, experienced coach (Bob Kelly), so we're definitely not talking about a rematch with Lancaster Catholic just yet."