Girls' hoops preview: Every YAIAA division up for grabs
New look team has a veteran touch. Teddy Feinberg/GameTimePA.com
For the first time since the 2004-2005 season, the YAIAA didn't have a single District 3 girls' basketball champion in 2015-16.
The York-Adams league, however, should have several strong teams in 2016-17. Here are some storylines to follow this season:
Is a YAIAA title in Central’s future?
The Panthers challenged for a league championship last year, falling to Red Lion, 35-34, on two late free throws.
The team then lost to Harrisburg, 49-44, in the District 3 quarterfinals.
So what’s in store for Central York?
On paper, the Panthers return a solid team. Emma Saxton returns and is a standout on the wing. In the frontcourt, Nikki Valencik is no slouch herself. And the club is hopeful outside shooter Sarah Sepic returns to form after an ACL tear.
Said head coach Scott Wisner: “We were really close last year. … They know what it takes.”
Added forward Teirra Preston: “Each season has gotten better and we’ve gotten further. And we try to build off each season.”
— Teddy Feinberg
Fresh start for experienced Red Lion
The Red Lion girls’ basketball team will have a drastically different look in 2016.
Gone are head coach Don Dimoff, his more than 400 victories, and his daughter Courtney. Both are now with the Millserville University women’s basketball program. Don will serve as an assistant coach and Courtney as a freshman player for the Marauders.
With that being said, the Lions do bring back experience.
Bill Novak takes over as head coach, and he certainly is no stranger to the position. Novak was head coach at Northeastern High School for three years, and he spent last season as an assistant coach under Dimoff.
The team also brings back a strong senior core: Amy Maciejewski, Kynslee Shepherd, Hannah Wolf, Jena Shingler and Page Shingler are all back in the fold. Last year, the Lions won the YAIAA tournament championship and reached the state tournament.
“This year, there’s six returning players that are very experienced and we’ve been on the court throughout our high school career,” Shepherd said. “We all know what’s expected of us.”
— Teddy Feinberg
William Penn seeks a repeat
William Penn was one of the league’s pleasant surprises last season. The Bearcats won 14 games and earned berths in both the YAIAA and District 3 tournaments, the first time in more than a decade that the program had registered a winning season.
As those results showed, the question is no longer whether William Penn can succeed. It’s whether the Bearcats can do so consistently.
“We set the bar high for our girls this year,” head coach Larry Corbin said. “They know that we don’t want to be a one-hit wonder. We want to build off last season and continue to move our program forward.”
A key for William Penn will be roster continuity, which had been lacking during the program's long layoff between postseason appearances. But last season marked a turning point. By keeping the winning group together, the Bearcats started the year with a belief that hadn’t always been present. Seniors Madey Zania-Redman and Leah Hutchinson hope to instill the same type of confidence in this year’s squad.
“Since the beginning of the season we knew that team was special,” Zania-Redman said. “We had everyone who had played with us on our freshman team, as well as a couple that had come back to our school. We just knew that team was going to go far.”
— Brett Keener
South Western's Geiman following brother's footsteps
While the questions and comparisons are inevitable, South Western sophomore Taylor Geiman does not mind being the younger sister of former Mustangs standout Brock Geiman.
“I always look up to him as an older brother and a role model to me,” she said. “He was a three-sport athlete in high school, and he worked so hard to be where he is and I want to be like he was.”
Taylor certainly started off the way her big brother did. As a freshman last season, she hit shots from all over the floor, including from behind the 3-point line. She led the Mustangs in many categories, helping South Western improve to 11 wins.
Anyone who watched Brock drain shots won’t be surprised to see Taylor do the same. And she gives big brother a lot of credit for it.
“He’s helped me so much,” she said. “When I started playing basketball we always would shoot together, play one-on-one and it just helped my game so much.”
— Steve Navaroli
Courtside turnover abounds
Half of the division’s teams will be playing under new head coaches this year.
Dover will embark on its first season under Kevin Glover, the varsity team’s fourth head coach in the past four seasons. He’ll have some solid contributors to work with, but the early challenge is in getting the squad up to speed on yet another system.
“We have to work hard, and we have to be a defensive-minded team,” Glover said. “We’re going to be defense-first, but we’re going to push the pace. We have the luxury of playing eight or nine players, and Dover hasn’t had that flexibility in a while. We need to use that to our advantage.”
The challenges are different across each program. At Eastern York, Brad Weaver had to get up to speed quickly after being approved as head coach in mid-August. He’ll inherit a Golden Knights squad that does not have a single senior on its roster, but the Knighs bring back junior Hannah Myers, the division’s second-leading scorer a year ago.
“We played Sunday nights at Spooky Nook in their fall league,” Weaver said. “That was important for me to be able to see all the players for the first time in game situations. I’m excited to get started. It’s been a transition. I got started a little late, but the girls have worked very hard.”
Elsewhere in Division II, former York Suburban girls' coach Bob Rudisill takes the helm at Kennard-Dale, where the Rams field a young squad. Rudisill also had a successful stint at Kennard-Dale, when he coached the boys' team to a district championship in 1993.
Northeastern will turn to former boys' assistant Chuck Maxfield, who hopes to bring some stability to a Bobcat program that is under its fourth head coach in three seasons.
— Brett Keener
West York returns veteran core
Two years ago, the Bulldogs finished with a 29-2 record, headlined by high-end scorers Kari Lankford and Emily Wood.
The Bulldogs lost those two to graduation, and West York slipped to a 13-10 record.
The team returns a veteran unit in 2016-17, however.
Catie McCarty (senior forward), Aryon Williams (senior guard), Angie Hawkins (junior guard) and Paige Weekly (junior forward) all bring experience back to the playing court. Emma Tyndall, who was out last year with injury, also is slated to return as a senior small forward.
“It’s exciting,” said head coach Darrell Wildasin. “I really like this team. We have a little bit of everything.”
— Teddy Feinberg
York Suburban wants a banner
York Suburban’s seniors have played a big role in the program’s rise to league prominence. They would like to leave the school with some tangible proof of the Trojans’ renaissance.
Jess Barley’s Suburban squad has won 38 games spanning the past two seasons, a run that has included two YAIAA tourney appearances, two District 3 playoff berths and one PIAA tournament bid. But the Trojans haven't earned division or league championships in their run, something this experienced group would like to remedy.
“I think this group has a lot of their own goals in mind, because there still is a lot to accomplish,” Barley said. “We have yet to win a (league) playoff game. We would love to continue to get a little further in districts. We still need to hang some banners in the gym, and we would certainly like to play a little deeper into March. We still have a lot of room to grow and a lot of places that we still want to go.”
York Suburban brings back three starters — seniors Georgia DuMars and Parker Faircloth-Henise and junior Ali Reinecker — from last year’s state-qualifying team. That group has already ended some long droughts for the Trojans program, and now they have their sights set on obtaining Suburban’s first division crown and league tournament win since 1986.
“We’ve worked for it since seventh grade,” Faircloth-Henise said. “The grind has been really tough, but we’re going to continue to work hard to go where we want to go.”
— Brett Keener
Hanover learns to compete without Tracy
Recent graduate Soukaina Tracy was one of the best players to ever wear the Hawkettes uniform, so losing a player of that caliber could really hurt.
However, Tracy missed considerable time with ACL injuries across two seasons during her career, and Hanover had to forge ahead without her.
“We meshed well, and I think everybody is getting used to actually playing and not just depending on one person,” said junior Avery Martz.
Hawkettes coach Denny Garman agreed that in many ways his team will be ready to improve upon its 8-14 record from last season.
“That is the only positive that comes out of losing a player like that. Everyone else has to figure out how to get it done,” he said. “Having her out as much as she was, these girls kind of got a head start. If we were coming into this season for the first time without her, we would be a completely different team.”
Hanover is committed to figuring out how to win close games. The Hawkettes went 8-14 during the 2015-16 season, but six of those losses were by eight points or fewer. Turning around half of those games would have resulted in a .500 record.
— Steve Navaroli
York Catholic, Delone Catholic on collision course
York Catholic and Delone Catholic shared the YAIAA Division III title with 11-1 league records last season. York Catholic once again advanced to the District 3 Class 2A title game in the postseason.
Don't expect either program to fall off this season. In an interesting twist, Delone is expected to rely on its post players, while York Catholic will once again rely on all-state guard Kate Bauhof.
Coach Chris Myers' group more than held its own in Division III last season, finishing with a 9-9 league mark. The key will be continuing the upward trend.
The Thunderbolts return several players from the squad that finished third behind perennial league powers York Catholic and Delone Catholic last season. Janelle Kress has been a key component in the Thunderbolts' improvement over the last couple of years. She led the team in scoring most nights.
— Steve Navaroli