PIAA girls hoops: 3 teams begin Saturday
Saturday, three area girls teams will continue their playoff journey in unknown territory.
The PIAA basketball tournament is often a melting pot for Pennsylvania schools, with the Franklin and Fulton teams represented in the tournament being no exception.
Greencastle-Antrim will clash against Scranton Prep, while McConnellsburg and Southern Fulton will take on two schools from the west, Quigley Catholic and Homer-Center.
Long road ahead for the Blue Devils
Greencastle will travel three hours to Scranton to take on the Cavaliers in a Class AAA game, which will be the team's longest road trip of the season.
Scranton Prep (15-11), which will travel about four minutes down the road to Scranton High School for the first-round clash, will bring a pair of top scorers in senior Jillian Paulus and junior Julia Sirotnak, who average 14.3 and 13 points per game, respectively.
Paulus enters Saturday's contest shooting 79 percent from the free throw line for the season.
"It looks like two main scorers and a bunch of role players. They look very quick," Greencastle coach Mike Rhine said. "They like to run in transition, but they do not have a lot of size that I've noticed."
Scranton Prep is the District 2 Class AAA runner-up, falling to Abington Heights in a 20-point game in the district final.
G-A's Meghan Hirneisen (9.8 ppg) had one of her best games of the season last week in the District 3 Class AAA consolation game, earning a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Hirneisen will be joined by Greencastle's go-to pair, Jenay Faulkner (19.8) and Hannah Crist (16.5).
Blue Devils at a Glance
Game data: 3-3 Greencastle-Antrim Blue Devils vs. 2-2 Scranton Prep ... Saturday, at Scranton High School, 6:30 p.m.
Media: Follow @LindseySquints on Twitter for updates. The game will be webcast on midpennbroadcasting.com.
Teams: Greencastle, 23-3 is the District 3 third-place team ... Scranton Prep (15-11) is the District 2 runner-up, falling to Abington Heights in the final.
P.O. pick: Greencastle by 8.
Tale of two tough scorers
The McConnellsburg girls basketball team's secret weapon isn't really a secret. With Bronwyne Mellott at the helm, the Spartans can breathe easy, knowing she will always turn it on in tough situations.
Saturday, McConnellsburg (17-8) will face a team with a clutch player of its own when the Spartans will take on Quigley Catholic, the third-place team from District 7 in Class A.
Quigley (19-6) travels to the University of Pitt-Johnstown with one of the Pittsburgh area's top scorers in Gabbie Smith, who averages an unbelievable 30.9 points per game. And to make her resume even more impressive, Smith is also a 6-foot-1 UPJ women's basketball commit.
"Basically you have to shut one player down," McConnellsburg coach Brent Seville said. "Gabbie looks like she's a similar player as Bronwyne (26.3 ppg). I think I know what to expect (defensively).
"(Smith) can get inside - from what I can see she likes to drive the ball in. So we need to eliminate her on the inside; we have to get her away from the rim."
For a Class A school, Quigley plays higher classes throughout the season with multiple Class AAA and AAAA opponents.
The Spartans enter the first round of the PIAA tournament as the District 5 Class A runner-up after a tough loss to Southern Fulton in the final, but Seville said the team will be taking a different defensive approach against Quigley.
Well-rounded contenders clash
District 5 Class A champion Southern Fulton has drawn the fourth-place District 6 finisher in Homer-Center, but it may not be easy street for the Indians.
Despite its district finish, the starting five for Homer-Center (18-8) are all flirting with a double-figure averages.
The Wildcats are led by sophomore guard Alexis Newhouse, averaging 13.2 points per game, and she is near a double-double average with 8.2 boards per contest. Emily Worcester follows as the offensive and defensive leader for Homer-Center with 11.3 points, 5.9 assists and 2.8 steals per game.
"They are a tough team," Southern Fulton coach Meagan Raville said. "It looks like they have four girls on any given night who can score double digits. I think we will have to buckle down and play defense."
The Indians have been propelled to success on an exciting postseason run thanks to total team toughness.
"We've played other teams this season where there have been girls we weren't expecting to step up who did," Raville said. "Olivia (Mottern) has really had a lot of help from her teammates, with a lot less pressure on her. Celina (Merchant) always gives 110 percent, and we expect her to make a huge difference."
Mottern leads the Indians with 19.7 points per game, while Merchant, Lakyn Morton Drew Hann and Shaye Smartt have all put up major contributions in the postseason.
Spartans, Indians at a glance
Game data: 5-2 McConnellsburg vs. 7-3 Quigley Catholic ... 5-1 Southern Fulton vs. 6-4 Homer-Center ... Saturday, at University of Pitt-Johnstown. McConnellsburg starts at 4:30 p.m., Southern Fulton at 6.
Media: Follow @liziarbogast on Twitter for updates on both games.
Teams: McConnellsburg (17-8) is the District 5 runner-up, and will take on Quigley Catholic (19-6), the District 7 third-place team ...The District 5 champion, Southern Fulton (20-5), will play the District 6 fourth-place team, Homer-Center (18-8).
P.O. pick: Quigley by 5, Southern Fulton by 9.