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Mid Penn notes: Conference races heat up

With GameTimePA’s primary District 3 high school basketball coverage focused on the Mid Penn Colonial Division and the YAIAA and Lancaster-Lebanon Leagues, we’ve decided to take a look at the rest of the Mid Penn Conference as the 2015-16 regular season nears its conclusion.

Here’s a look at which teams and players are hot, some statistical trends, and even a few offbeat nuggets. Have anything we should know? Send me a line at

CHARGED UP: Red Land’s Josh Snyder knows exactly how to win over a new coach.

First-year coach Jeff Sparrow raves about Snyder’s ability to stand in and take a charge. So far, Sparrow says, Snyder has drawn 33 charges in 17 games.

A charge can swing momentum like a big dunk or the splash of a 3-ball, but anybody can do it. And Snyder, who drew five in Friday night’s loss to Palmyra, keeps doing it. Over and over.

“It’s really crazy,” Sparrow said of Snyder, a junior who averages 6.8 points per game. “First open gym we ever had, he took one and hasn’t stopped since. He understands the gap and help-side principles of what we’re trying to accomplish. He’s always actively moving his feet. He always sees the ball and has the best understanding of the opposing team’s scouting report and player tendencies. Top that with being one heck of a competitor, leader and tough kid, and you have a special gift on the court.”

Red Land (8-9, 6-5 Keystone) has already surpassed last year’s win total (5-17, 1-13) and still has an outside shot at qualifying for the District 3-AAAA playoffs.

WONDER TWINS ACTIVATE: With their respective teams both fighting for division titles and high seeds in the district tournament, how about a shout-out for the Brown twins?

Tysha Brown, a 5-4 senior and Providence College commit, recently surpassed the 1,000-point plateau and has Dwan Lee’s Harrisburg Cougars (14-3, 8-3 Commonwealth) headed toward the postseason with her 21.3 points per game.

Tyron Brown, 5-10 senior at Milton Hershey, is averaging 11 points per game for Mark Zerbe’s Spartans (14-1, 8-1 Capital), who are chasing a division crown and a top seed in the 3-AAA playoffs.

Both sister and brother wear No. 3 for their respective teams.

BRAIN POWERY: Four-year starters are unique enough, but what about one who’s also trying to add valedictorian to his resume?

Meet East Pennsboro’s Sam Powery, averaging 12.2 points per game for Brett Sheaffer’s Panthers (10-8, 2-7 Capital), who are fighting for a 3-AAA playoff berth.

Powery, who’s about 150 points shy of 1,000, has already been offered a full academic ride to the University of Pennsylvania, Sheaffer says, and will consider trying to walk on to join the Quakers’ basketball team.

INSANE NUMBERS: OK, so Harrisburg Academy isn’t a Mid Penn school, but the tiny Midstate Athletic Conference program sits in the heart of Mid Penn country.

And starring for Steve Pancoski’s Spartans (5-11) is junior Jalen Gabbidon, a three-year starter who’s on an absolute scoring rampage.

With four 50-plus games this year – including a career-high 60 points Dec. 11 vs. Belleville Mennonite – Gabbidon is averaging 38.5 points per game. He’s already nearing 1,500 career points and is drawing interest from a number of NCAA Division I programs.

MORE SCORING STARS: Speaking of Division I talent, Hershey’s 6-10 Dylan Painter recently scored the 1,000th point of his storied career. The Villanova recruit did so for Paul Blackburn’s improving Trojans (9-8, 6-5 Keystone). He’s averaging 21.1 ppg. …

Two other seniors from the Keystone hit the 1,000-point mark this season: Red Land’s Morgon Keiser (20.8 ppg, York College recruit) and Cedar Cliff’s Derek Ford (18.8). …

On the girls’ side, there are currently seven Mid Penn girls who’ve hit the 1,000-point milestone: Harrisburg’s Brown (mentioned above), Cumberland Valley’s Kelly Jekot (20.4 ppg, Villanova recruit), State College’s Kyla Irwin (22.8, Connecticut), Middletown’s Ja’lynn Burton-Jones (19.8, Robert Morris), Camp Hill’s Leah Springer (19.4), and Greencastle-Antrim teammates Jenay Faulkner (20.9, Holy Cross verbal) and Hannah Crist (17.5).

HEATED RACES: With three or four division games remaining, nobody in the Mid Penn has yet clinched an outright title (and MPC playoff berth).

In the girls’ races, Camp Hill (15-2, 8-1) needs one more win to seal up the Capital … Boiling Springs (16-1, 8-0) and Greencastle-Antrim (14-1, 7-1) meet Wednesday with the Colonial still up for grabs … Cumberland Valley (14-1, 9-1) is trying to hold off Harrisburg (14-3, 8-3) and State College (11-3, 7-3) in the Commonwealth … And Lower Dauphin (14-4, 9-2) has a one-game edge on Bishop McDevitt (12-5, 8-3) in the Keystone.

The McDevitt boys (13-4, 9-2) are nearing a Keystone title, with Palmyra (14-4, 7-4) holding onto hope … Harrisburg (12-2, 9-1) leads the Commonwealth, but was just dealt its first division loss by CD East on Friday. Second-place Carlisle (12-4, 8-2) visits the Cougars on Tuesday in a vital matchup. Harrisburg has been playing without top scorers Chris Whitaker (24.1 ppg, ankle) and Anthony Johnson (18.2) … Shippensburg (10-6, 8-1) has a lead on fellow Franklin Countians Greencastle-Antrim (10-5, 6-2) and James Buchanan (10-5, 6-3) in the Colonial … Milton Hershey (14-1, 8-1) and Camp Hill (13-3, 8-1), who split two games, could be headed to a shared title in the Capital, while Trinity (11-5, 7-3) hopes for a double slip-up.

TOP OFFENSES & DEFENSES: No surprise that Zerbe’s up-tempo Milton Hershey boys squad leads the conference with 76.8 points per game.

The defensive points-per-game leader, though, is a surprise: Jason Creek’s Big Spring Bulldogs (8-10, 1-8 Colonial) might not be a playoff team yet, but they’re vastly improved from previous seasons and are allowing just 42.7 ppg.

On the girls’ side, Harrisburg is scoring a conference-best 65.1 points per game. And the hottest team in the Mid Penn, Boiling Springs (15-game winning streak), is also the stingiest with just 32.7 ppg allowed.

ANNIVERSARY ALL-STAR EVENT: Mike Gaffey, Bishop McDevitt’s boys coach, has long been organizing various postseason all-star games, including the Pennsylvania vs. Maryland classic.

This year celebrates the 40th anniversary of PA vs. MD, and Gaffey wants to spread the word for the alumni all-star game being held April 8 at Harrisburg Christian School.

Free-lance writer Geoff Morrow can be followed on Twitter @RageAgainstGMo.