Tigers have new look
The credentials for the impressiveness of last season are well known.
Four players (Mount Carmel's Kim Andruscavage and Ranotta Ahrensfield and Line Mountain's Kasey Long and Mikhail Whitcomb) eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for their careers and four teams (Shamokin, Lourdes, Line Mountain and Mount Carmel) made the PIAA playoffs in their respective classes.
It's the team that didn't make it to the state level that has experienced the biggest change since last season.
Southern Columbia brought in a new coach (former Lourdes' assistant Kevin Collins), finished its new gymnasium and moved up to Division II of the Heartland Conference.
Collins has brought in a whole new system than the one used by former head coach JoEllen Gallinot.
"I told them we were going to change everything," Collins said, "and I got a good response. I'm very happy with how they've been working."
As has become the norm in girls' basketball, the Tigers are going to be an up-tempo team, but with a premium on taking care of the ball.
Drills have been tailored to push the ball in the transition game, but with good basketball positioning at the forefront.
"It's very exciting for the girls," Collins said. "We're doing conditioning by running while we do the drills, but we're running with the ball in our hands to pass and get in position to shoot."
The Tigers have plenty of athletes to make that philosophy work, but also have the best pure shooter in the area.
Senior Kayla Lavella scored 15.5 points per game last season, tops among all returning players in the area.
Lavella has 615 career points and would need to eclipse last year's total of 357 to reach 1,000 for her career.
Seniors Mallory Tomaschik and Kirstin Blass will help the transition, as will Mackenzie Clark and a rotation of Haley Levan, Rebecca Lyash and Kelli Gilroy.
Mount Carmel Area
There will be a new face in the Red Tornadoes' lineup when Mount Carmel takes the floor.
Christina Perles, a 5-foot, 9-inch forward who played the first three years of her career at Lourdes and amassed 974 points, transfered to Mount Carmel.
There she'll team up with former teammate Anna Raybuck (5-9) and six-foot center Ellese Nestico to create what should be a dominating frontcourt for the Red Tornadoes.
"This team has the potential to utilize a height advantage," head coach Lisa Varano said in her preseason report.
The Red Tornadoes still have plenty of speed to hurt teams in the open floor. Ali Varano is still just a junior and was a key player in the Tornadoes' 27-1 (22-0 in the regular season) record last year. Varano averaged 12.9 ppg and has 409 career points in her first two years.
Paige Hornung, who was the first option off the bench last year, should step into the starting lineup this year and gain experience as the team gels.
"I am pleased with the way our team has been practicing," Lisa Varano said. "They are focused and determined to continue the success of the program. The girls have set their goals high and are working together well."
Mount Carmel is also in the HAC-II with Southern and will look to defend its league title for the second straight year, but could be pushed by Lewisburg, and Loyalsock is always tough.
Lourdes should be just fine without Perles.
The Red Raiders have seniors Nikki Komara and Sarah Getchey, who have each started since their freshman year. Komara averaged 6.2 ppg and Getchey 9.2 ppg, but those averages are going to need to increase in order to replace Perles' production.
To help the two senior starters, head coach Mike Klembara and the Red Raiders will look to junior Rachel Schultz and sophomores Bailey Trell and Caitlyn Funk, who each averaged nearly seven points per game in junior varsity play.
With five girls who can run and shoot on the floor, Lourdes, as always, will turn up the pressure on teams and live and die with the press. The Red Raiders are excited by the chemistry of this group.
"The team has a great blend of personalities, and shows a great deal of poise and character," Klembara said.
"We must stress defense, reduce turnovers and bring some players into the game to gain experience."
Lourdes will have to contend with Tri-Valley and Minersville in Division II of the Schuylkill League. The Bulldogs return Tara Nahodil and Juli Weber, while Minersville's all-state player, Reighly Melochick, is back.
At Shamokin, Bill Callahan resigned after the Indians' Cinderella run last season. The Indians were unable to fill the vacated position and Callahan came back for another season.
The outlook for the Indians is about the same as last year when they had to win as a team and did so until a loss in the first round of the PIAA Class AAA state playoffs.
The Indians will rely on their three returning starters - seniors Kelsey Yacko and Sami Schiccatano and junior Olivia Bonshock.
Yacko is the most likely candidate to replace Steph Pancher, who led the team in scoring with 11.8 points per game. Yacko averaged 6.1 ppg last year but showed she was capable of more when she was asked to bring the ball up the floor in the playoffs after an injury to Schiccatano.
Bonshock was the team's second leading scorer with 8.2 per game and Schiccatano added 5.7. The battle for the last two starting spots will be between Catelin Pancher, Kelsey Forbes and Shaylee Pesarchick.
"We hope to keep the tradition going," Callahan said. "The returning starters have to step up and show leadership and if Kelsey comes to play every night she can be tough to stop."
Line Mountain went undefeated in the regular season and claimed the Tri-Valley League championship but lost to Lourdes in the District 4 title game and then to Marian in the first round of the state playoffs.
Most likely, there aren't immediate replacements for Long and Whitcomb, but if the Eagles can stick to the same recipe, they should make most games interesting.
"We must continually scrap and hustle all game long to get to the ball," Line Mountain head coach Mike Reed said. "We will utilize our speed and quickness at both ends of the floor to be successful."
Senior Jade London and junior Madison Lagerman are the only players with appreciable experience for the Eagles and averaged 3.1 and 4.6 ppg, respectively.
Head coach: Mike Reed
Last season: 24-2
Roster: Seniors - Jade London, guard; Sarah Lahr, guard. Juniors - Madison Lagerman, forward; Colleen Troutman, forward; Madeline Reed, forward; Allison Wolfe, guard; Olivia Poltonavage, guard; Jessica Zimmerman, forward. Sophomores - Sherylyn Wilkinson, forward; Caitlin Scott, guard.
Outlook: Line Mountain will miss 1,200-point scorers Kasey Long and Mikhail Whitcomb after the duo helped the Eagles to a 24-2 record, a Tri-Valley League title and a second consecutive state playoff berth. The Eagles won't be as fast on the break, but are expected to be just as aggressive. With just two seniors on the roster, Jade London and Sarah Lahr, the underclassmen will need to fill big shoes fast to keep the Eagles competitive. Head coach Mike Reed lists Halifax and Juniata as the teams to beat in the Tri-Valley League.
Head coach: Mike Klembara
Last season: 22-4
Roster: Seniors - Nikki Komara, guard; Sarah Getchey, guard; Kortni Koshinskie, forward. Juniors - Rachel Schultz, forward; Gabbi Long, forward; Alexa Wheary, forward; Angelique Pennypacker, forward. Sophomore - Jessica DeLong, forward. Freshman - Krissy Komara, guard; Maya Khanna, guard; Maya Yoder, forward; Erika Kapushinski, forward.
Outlook: Lourdes has a solid nucleus returning from the squad that won a fourth straight District 4 Class A title. Nikki Komara and Sarah Getchey, both seniors, have started since they were freshmen and will need to pace the offense. A trio of athletic, but inexperienced, girls in Rachel Schultz, Bailey Trell and Caitlyn Funk will round out the starting lineup when the Red Raiders open the season at home in their own tournament. The Red Raiders' schedule gives them a big advantage in the playoffs. Lourdes should get one for the thumb.
Head coach: Lisa Varano
Last season: 27-1
Roster: Seniors - Christina Perles, forward; Marisa Montgomery, guard; Marissa Klinger, forward; Ellese Nestico, center; Bridget Dunkel, forward. Juniors - Paige Hornung, guard; Alison Varano, forward; Darla Hood, forward; Anna Raybuck, forward. Sophomores - Jen Bolick, guard; Jordan Winhofer, guard; Isabella Stellar, guard.
Outlook: The loss of Kim Andruscavage, Ranotta Ahrensfield and Heather Bolick from a 27-1 District 4 hurts less with the addition of Lourdes-transfer Christina Perles. Perles joins a formidable lineup with juniors Alison Varano and Anna Raybuck, who scored 12.9 and 7.4 points per game, respectively. Paige Hornung and Ellese Nestico will step into starting roles. You can't teach height or speed; the Tornadoes have both and will be tough to stop.
Head coach: Bill Callahan
Last season: 19-6
Roster: Seniors - Sami Schiccatano, guard; Kelsey Yacko, forward. Juniors - Olivia Bonshock, forward; Jasmine Breslin, guard; Kelsey Forbes, forward; Catelin Pancher, forward. Sophomores - Carley Nash, forward; Shaylee Pesarchick, guard; Brittany Pope, forward; Taylor Tobias, guard; Cierra Zimmerman, forward. Freshmen - Gabby Erb, forward; Cierra Koons, forward; Chelsea Nolter, forward; Caitlyn Pope, guard; Becca Wargo, forward.
Outlook: With three starters back, Shamokin has frontline experience in forwards Kelsey Yacko and Olivia Bonshock and a guard to handle the ball in Sami Schiccatano. The Indians surprised a lot of people with a 17-5 regular season and a 15-2 run after Christmas. Either Yacko or Bonshock are going to have to take the next step to replace Steph Pancher, who averaged a double-double last season as a senior. The big three for the Indians should be more than enough to get the Indians back to the playoffs.
Head coach: Kevin Collins
Last season: 19-4
Roster: Seniors - Kayla Lavella, guard; Kirstin Blass, guard; Mallory Tomaschik, forward; Kim Allen, guard; Megan Chaundy, forward; Kelli Gilroy, forward. Juniors - Teanna Shutt, guard; Mackenzie Clark, guard; Shannon Daubert, guard; Angela Vought, forward; Avory Pantalone, forward. Sophomore - Taylor Hoffman, forward. Freshmen - Mackenzie Chaundy, guard; Jillian Oley, guard; Haley Levan, forward.
Outlook: There's a lot of change at Southern Columbia - new coach, new gym and new Heartland division - and a lot that hasn't changed. Kayla Lavella scored 15.5 ppg last season with 38 3-pointers and is back for her senior campaign, as are Mallory Tomaschik (6.1 ppg) and Kirstin Blass (5.7 ppg). If the Tigers can post a 19-win season in Division II of the HAC it will be a major accomplishment.