G-A girls have rematch with Berks Catholic
The Greencastle-Antrim girls basketball team extends its post-season journey with an appearance at Giant Center on Wednesday for a District 3 Class AAA semifinal, in which the Blue Devils meet a team with which they have unfinished business, Berks Catholic.
Rewind to March 11, 2015, when Greencastle was knocked out of the PIAA state tournament with a second-round loss to the Saints in a 53-45 decision, ending its season.
"It will be nice motivation," Greencastle coach Mike Rhine said of last season's loss. "It is really nice to beat a team who beat us before, but no one is going to be thinking about that when the final buzzer sounds."
The Blue Devils (22-2) are most familiar with Devon Merritt, who scored 18 points in the teams' last clash, and sits in second in Berks County, averaging 16.5 points per game.
Merritt stands a 6-foot-2, anchoring a team worthy of its No. 1 ranking, according to Rhine.
"They're big, and they're long, and kind of deep, and really good," Rhine said. "They're No. 1 for a reason."
Despite their familiarity with Merritt, the Blue Devils' approach to Merritt and the Saints (20-5) this time around will be a bit different from a year ago.
"Merritt is a good basketball player, and her size and length give us trouble," Rhine said. "She brings something different than what we've really seen."
Last time around, Katie Gelsinger focused on Merritt, but since her graduation, the task of stopping the Saint's leading scorer will fall to Jenay Faulkner, who stands at 5-foot-11.
But Faulkner has proven to be able to handle it all as an offensive and defensive leader for Greencastle. She is one of the area's top scorers, averaging more than 20 points per game, and has a knack for making dramatic defensive plays. She had five blocks and five steals against Elco in Greencastle's quarterfinal win.
With that, Merritt is the only Saint with a double-figure average, while Faulkner and Hannah Crist (16.5 ppg) sit comfortably in double-figures, with Meghan Hirneisen inching closer with a 8.7 points per game.
If the game were decided based on season statistics alone, Greencastle would take the cake. Berks Catholic averages just 44.8 points per game, while the Blue Devils, average 57.75 points per game.
All of that can be explained, though, by the level of competition between Berks and Franklin Counties. Berks Catholic faces a slew of Class AAAA schools throughout the season that will likely make a good run in districts and states, which resulted in its only losses of the year. Greencastle's AAAA competition generally pales in comparison.
"This is going to be a very difficult, high-level game against top competition," Rhine said. "The common strategy is to pack it in and make them shoot outside shots."
Blue Devils vs. Saints at a glance
Game data: No. 5 Greencastle-Antrim Blue Devils vs. No. 1 Berks Catholic ... Wednesday, at Giant Center, 5:30 p.m. ... District 3 Class AAA semifinal.
Media: Follow @liziarbogast on Twitter for updates.
Teams: Greencastle is 22-2 entering the semifinal ... Berks Catholic earned the No. 1 seed thanks to a 20-5 record and an unbeaten conference run.
P.O. pick: Greencastle by 3.