Dist. 3 girls' hoops: 5 county teams in the mix
Let the madness begin. Even if it isn't March just yet.
It may as well be in the Central Pennsylvania high school hoops world, though, with the District 3 Basketball Championships set to take center stage over the next two weeks.
It's actually already begun, courtesy of preliminary round play over the weekend. But the local high school hoops "Big Dance" begins in earnest Tuesday at a gymnasium near you.
Just exactly how it all plays out remains to be seen, but let's take some educated guesses in the capsule previews of the four girls' brackets that follow. Feel free to disagree with the picks - there are plenty of different scenarios that could play out in the days ahead.
But one thing is certain: It will be fun and it will be entertaining.
So without further delay, let's dive into the madness:
Championship Game: Friday, Feb.26, 8:30 p.m., Giant Center
The top seeds: 1.Cumberland Valley, 2.Governor Mifflin, 3.Red Lion, 4.Central York. 5.Harrisburg
Lebanon County teams: No. 17 Palmyra (13-9), No. 6 Cedar Crest (20-3). The 17th-seeded Cougars earned a shot at top-seeded Cumberland Valley with Friday's 62-53 win at York, and will be hard-pressed to give the Eagles, led by Villanova recruit Kelly Jekot, the kind of fight they did a year ago in a last-second loss in the district title game.
But Palmyra, led by seniors Molly Gundermann and Josie Stovall and emerging freshmen Olivia Richardson and Amelia Baldo, has done itself proud this season by just getting to districts after losing four irreplaceable starters to graduation.
Cedar Crest, meanwhile, has two significant obstacles in its path while it bids for a return trip to the semifinals and to earn a subsequent state tournament berth. Section One rival McCaskey looms in the first round Tuesday night, with a possible quarterfinal matchup with York-Adams champ Red Lion.
But the Falcons' three losses have come by a grand total of five points, so it's clear they can play with anyone, particularly when the dynamic duo of junior point guard Ariel Jones and junior center and new 1,000-point club member Alyssa Austin are on top of their games.
Predicted order of finish (top 7 qualify for states: 1.Cumberland Valley, 2.Governor Mifflin, 3.Cedar Crest, 4.Central York., 5.Harrisburg, 6.Red Lion, 7.Lower Dauphin
Championship Game: Saturday, Feb. 27, 11:15 a.m, Giant Center
The top seeds: 1.Berks Catholic, 2.Northern Lebanon, 3.Bishop McDevitt, 4.Susquehannock, 5.Greencastle-Antrim
Lebanon County teams: No. 13 Elco (15-7), No. 2 Northern Lebanon (23-2). The Raiders have enjoyed a nice resurgence this season, and with senior Chandelle Keller and freshman Ryelle Shuey leading the way could give York County rep Susquehannock a tussle in the first round. Elco is likely a year away from doing any postseason damage but will benefit greatly from getting its feet wet this season.
No. 2 Northern Lebanon has had a thrilling 2015-16 season that includes its first L-L Section Three title in 30 years, but has a tough task ahead with its district draw.
If the Vikings can get by Milton Hershey in the first round, under-seeded L-L champ Lancaster Catholic awaits in the second. The Crusaders have handed Northern Lebanon both of its losses and could deny it a long district run.
However, NL still looks like a good bet to qualify for states, at the very least, assuming it survives Milton Hershey in the opener.
Predicted order of finish (top 7 qualify for states): 1.Lancaster Catholic, 2.Berks Catholic, 3.Greencastle-Antrim, 4.Bishop McDevitt, 5.Northern Lebanon, 6.Susquehannock, 7.Boiling Springs
Championship Game: Thursday, Feb. 25, 6:15 p.m., Giant Center
The top seeds: 1.Camp Hill, 2.Wyomissing, 3.York Catholic, 4.Delone Catholic, 5.Linden Hall
Lebanon County teams: None. The county's lone Class AA team, Annville-Cleona, did not qualify. This bracket has belonged to York Catholic for the last decade - the Irish are going for their 11th straight AA district crown - and it's tough to go any other direction when making the pick, given that fact. That said, Camp Hill is a formidable-looking No. 1 seed that won't be easy to knock off. If any team is going to end the York Catholic title party, it's the Lions.
And don't forget about Delone Catholic, which seems to always be in the mix. The Squirettes would face Camp Hill in the semis.
Predicted order of finish (top 3 qualify for states): 1.York Catholic, 2.Camp Hill, 3.Delone Catholic.
Championship game: Thursday, Feb. 25, 4:30 p.m., Giant Center
The top seeds: 1.Lebanon Catholic, 2.Halifax, 3.Harrisburg Academy, 4.Christian School of York, 5.Harrisburg Christian
Lebanon County Teams: Lebanon Catholic (17-6). The Beavers are the very deserving No. 1 seed and a good bet to bring home the program's 18th district crown, and second straight. A rematch with last year's runner-up, Christian School of York, looms in the semifinals, and No. 2 Halifax looks to be the likely finals opponent, but neither figures to have the firepower to take down Catholic.
The Beavers undoubtedly have the draw's best starting five in Neesha Pierre, Allie Warren, Celine Mars, Mariah Sholly, and Jayden Shellehamer, but more importantly have the most quality wins of any team in the field, thanks to victories over the likes of Manheim Township, and Ephrata, to name a few.
If Lebanon Catholic isn't the last team standing in Class A it will be a huge surprise.
Predicted order of finish (top 4 qualify for states): 1.Lebanon Catholic, 2.Halifax, 3.Christian School of York, 4.Harrisburg Academy