So. Fulton girls, McConnellsburg boys face challenges
Sports reporters Lindsey Smith and Lizi Arbogast break down Franklin-Fulton chances in the first round of the PIAA basketball tournament.
The Southern Fulton girls basketball team didn't travel on an ideal road to the PIAA tournament, but claiming a consolation prize for District 5 could have been the motivation the Indians need to make a run for a state title.
"A few years ago we didn't win the district, and they went all the way to the final four," Southern Fulton's Lindsey Hollenshead said after the third-place game of the District 5 tournament. "So that is our goal this year."
Hollenshead was in fifth grade when the Indians made their historic state run in the 2012-13 season, but her sister Macey was the key component on the team that year. And besides one very familiar name, this year's first-round opponent was also a stepping stone on the Indians' PIAA journey four years ago.
Saturday, Southern Fulton (17-8) will take on District 3 Class 1A runner-up Halifax, a school Southern Fulton beat handily in the PIAA quarterfinal round in 2013. Southern Fulton will travel to Central Dauphin East H.S. for the first-round matchup, with the tip-off scheduled for 5 p.m. Halifax is coming off a loss in the district championship game to Lebanon Catholic, for the second year in a row taking silver in District 3.
Halifax (23-4) boasts an experienced squad loaded with all-stars, including two who are almost averaging double-doubles. Southern Fulton coach Meagan Mellott said her team will likely key in on Halifax's Brianna Turner, a 5-foot-11 center who is averaging 14.3 points and more than eight rebounds per game. Brynn Miller will also be a big key for the Wildcats offensively. She averages 12.3 ppg and 5.8 rebounds.
Southern Fulton's Olivia Mottern has played limited minutes in the last two games while recovering from an ankle injury, but according to coach Meagan Mellott, she's been practicing and is moving much better. However, the team will not decide if she will start until later in the week. Mottern is the team's leading scorer, averaging 18.8 points per game. Emily Bradshaw is on the cusp of a double-figure average with 9.6 points per game.
"I think seeing everyone back on the court is boosting everyone's confidence," Mellott said. "And we've been talking about how we can turn this season into a positive. We mentioned that we didn't get gold or even silver, that doesn't have to end with just District 5 play.
"But looking back on that moment (in 2012-13), having six seniors on the team now, a lot of them were there for that, and I'm sure that's still motivation for them. But these are two totally different teams, and we are still going to have to work hard."
McConnellsburg boys need bounce back
The McConnellsburg boys basketball team has had its fair-share of heartbreak in the District 5 tournament, but thankfully for the Spartans, a quick turnaround into the state playoffs will hopefully lessen the sting from a second-straight D5 silver.
But it's not going to come easy.
McConnellsburg will face District 6 runner-up Bishop Guilfoyle (17-7) on Saturday at Altoona H.S. at 5:30, and with the season on the line, Spartan coach Drew Washabaugh hopes for a big turnaround from the team's performance last week.
"We need to play better than last Saturday, that's the first step," Washabaugh said. "We are not a team that scores 80 points a game, so defense needs to keep us in the game. But if we shoot like we did last Tuesday (68.9 shooting percentage from the field, 66.7 percent from the beyond the arc against Northern Bedford) we can beat anybody, I don't care who you are."
But Guilfoyle will present its own set of challenges. Home to the reigning three-time PIAA Class 2A football champions, Guilfoyle has a roster full of athletic two-sport athletes. But thankfully for the Spartans, the Marauders do not boast too much height. The team averages just over 5-foot-11, with two tall post players in Luke Frederick (6-foot-5) and Justin Charlton (6-foot-4).
Despite the loss to Berlin in the district championship, McConnellsburg (20-5) put three players in double figures, including a career-high performance from Nic Culler (15). Chase Novak is leading the team with 16.8 points per game, Chase Hawbaker also scores in double figures, while Ethan Barclay is flirting with a double-figure average with 9.2 points per game.
Washabaugh will also look for sophomore Dominick Reed to have a big game. He scored a career-high 17 points against Northern Bedford.
"If Dom comes out like he did (against NBC) and shoots with confidence, that will say a lot," Washabaugh said.