If Lourdes, Mount Carmel and Southern Columbia are going to get hot, there isn't a better time than right now.

It's the stretch run, make or break time for bubble teams when it comes to qualifying for the District 4 playoffs.

Shamokin Area (12-2) is already in. Line Mountain (2-13) is out.

Those are the known factors.

The Indians, adjusting to life without Austin Stine, injured when he hit the court hard in a fall against Pottsville, dropped a 64-58 decision on the road Monday night against Danville. But Danville is a pretty good team, as is the Pottsville team that scored a slim victory over Shamokin.

And those are the only two blemishes on the Indians' slate. Shamokin has been very consistent, despite remaining a very young team with a number of sophomores playing key roles as both starters and reserves.

Mount Carmel (6-5), with four consecutive victories, is already on

a roll. The Red Tornadoes don't have to get hot, they have to stay that way. Five wins in the second half of their season gains them a Class AA berth.

Southern Columbia, playing .500 basketball at 6-6, needs to at least split its final 10 games to qualify in Class AA under first-year head coach Joe Britto.

Lourdes, at 7-8 with seven games to play and four straight losses on the ledger would seem to have the toughest path to the postseason. The Red Raiders missed solid opportunities for victories at home in the past week or so, losing close games to both Shenandoah Valley and Marian Catholic. They'll have to close strong to make the Class A field.

They can get a jump on that strong finish and, as if the pressure of qualifying for the playoffs wasn't enough, pick up the 999th boys basketball victory in school history, Thursday at home against Northumberland Christian.

Leaders

Southern Columbia's Mike Klebon and Mount Carmel's Zach Tocyloski are neck-and-neck in the race to lead area scorers.

Klebon, a senior guard, averages 16.3 points per outing. Tocyloski is right behind at 16.2.

Tocyloski is also the area's leading 3-point shooter, making 28 from long range. Line Mountain's Kellan Masser, a bright spot in a disappointing season for the Eagles, is next with 20.

(Roth is sports editor of The News-Item)