Going into the first round of the PIAA Tournament on Saturday, the Greencastle-Antrim and Southern Fulton girls basketball teams couldn't be in different situations.
The Blue Devils (24-3 and the No. 1 seed out of District 3) will be the favorites against the fourth seed out District 12, Audenried Charter (17-8) in Class AAA, while the Indians (15-10), who are the third seed out of District 5, will be the big underdog in a Class A against defending state champ and top seed in District 7, Vincentian Academy (25-1).
Greencastle will once again have a height advantage – the Lady Rockets have just one girl at 6-feet – and will look to take advantage of that throughout the game.
"From what I've seen, they run a 2-3 zone," Blue Devil coach Mike Rhine said. "If they do that, hopefully we can shoot the three well and get the ball down to Katie (Gelsinger) in the post."
And if Greencastle keeps shooting the way it has, Audenried could be in for a long game. G-A has shot 29 of 77 (37.6 percent) on 3-pointers throughout the playoffs and has been led by guards Jenay Faulkner and Hannah Crist. Faulkner has led the team in scoring with 16.75 points per game, but Crist has been right behind, averaging 14.75.
"We've worked a lot on our shooting, but we really haven't had that much practice time," Rhine said. "We got out of school Tuesday so there was no practice, and Thursday was a wash. The biggest thing for us is to just get comfortable. When we get comfortable, we can really shoot well."
Defensively, the Blue Devils really don't know what to expect. Romeira Tucker leads Audenried with over 14 points per game, and Jaquay Williams is averaging just under 12. Tatyana Sao is also a big contributor, averaging 9.8 points per game.
Rhine said, "That's the thing about states, you really don't know what you're getting into. It's really about who shows up and plays better that day."
Southern Fulton seems to know exactly what its getting into, which is a very tough test.
The Lions are the defending PIAA Class A champs and have won the WPIAL Division the last four seasons
"They are an excellent team," Indian coach Terry Bard said. "It honestly starts with their defense. They bring the pressure right from the start, and even when they don't pressure, they play strong man-to-man defense."
But despite being huge favorites, Vincentian Academy is not looking past Southern Fulton.
"I haven't seen any film on them, but we're not going to overlook this game," Lion coach Ron Moncrief said. "Anytime you're in states, you're going to face a good team. We'll be ready."
The Indians know they're in for a battle, and their biggest focus will be to break Vincentian's press and put up points. Olivia Mottern leads the team with 17.2 points per game, and Celina Merchant and Shaye Smartt are averaging right around eight.
"We had former players and coaches come in to try and simulate their length and athleticism," Bard said. "It's going to be tough to beat their press, but if the girls focus and know where to find the holes, we could have some success."
But breaking the press is just part of the problem. Vincentian's Brenna Wise is another. Wise is averaging more than 19 points and nine rebounds per game, and is committed to play at Division I Pittsburgh next season.
Bard said, "She is definitely a great player, but they have so many good players that we can't just focus on one."
And while the Indians face an improbable task, it doesn't mean they won't give it their all.
"If we didn't think we had a chance to win, we wouldn't show up," Bard said. "I told the girls that if we play them 100 times, they might beat us 99. But that doesn't mean that Saturday can't be that one game we beat them. If we believe that, come out and play hard, you never know what could happen."
Game data: PIAA Class AAA girls basketball first-round game ... Greencastle-Antrim vs. Audenried Charter ... 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Dallastown.
Media: Follow @ShawnCMichael on Twitter for live updates from the game.
Teams: Greencastle (24-3) was the District 3 champion, beating Conrad Weiser in the final ... The Rockets (17-8) are the No. 4 seed out of District 12.
Implications: The winner will face the winner of Berks Catholic (21-6) vs. Pope John Paul II (19-6) in the second round on Wednesday.
P.O. pick: Blue Devils by 6.
Game data: PIAA Class A girls basketball first-round game ... Southern Fulton Indians vs. Vincentian Academy Lions ... 1 p.m. Saturday at North Catholic H.S.
Teams: Southern Fulton (15-10) is the third seed out of District 5, beating Shade in the consolation game ... The Lions (25-1) are the top seed out of District 7.
Implications: The winner will face the winner of Clarion (15-11) vs. Bishop Carroll (18-6) in the second round on Wednesday.
P.O. pick: Lions by 12.