As the first week of basketball practice wraps up for L-L League girls’ hoops squads, here are some notables — including a look at the schedule and some trends, and more things to watch as the Dec. 6 season-openers approach …
* Hempfield will have one of the longest road trips this season; coach Kendra Merrifield and her Black Knights will gas up the bus and head to State College for the Little Lions’ holiday tourney Dec. 27-28. Hempfield gets State College in the first round; the other game is Freire Charter out of District 12 in Philly against North Schuylkill.
* Manheim Township is breaking up its holiday tournament. Coach Sean Burkhart and the host Blue Streaks will play Palmyra and West York will take on Twin Valley in first-round matchups on Dec. 27. After a 2-day hiatus, the consolation game and title tilt will be contested on Dec. 30 back in Neffsville.
* District 1 heavyweight Central Bucks West — led by sleek Penn State commit Maddie Burke — will be in town on Dec. 27-28 for Lancaster Catholic’s holiday event. The Bucks will take on Red Land — coached by former Crusaders’ standout Beth (Holt) Cook — while Lancaster Catholic will square off against Ephrata. If you’re in the neighborhood, you don’t want to miss Burke; she’s a player. … Lancaster Catholic is playing in New Oxford’s tip-off tourney, although there are only three teams involved: The Crusaders will play Bermudian Springs on Dec. 6, and then play host New Oxford on Dec. 7. … Lancaster Catholic is also playing in a pair of showcases: Dec. 21 vs. Downingtown East in the Crossover Hoops event at Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell, and Jan. 11 vs. Trinity in the Catholic Shootout at York Catholic. Skipper Charlie Detz and Lancaster Catholic also have D3 rival Berks Catholic (Jan. 18) and Class 4A state-champ Bethlehem Catholic (Jan. 25) on the schedule.
* Warwick’s holiday tournament fell through, so the Warriors will play a single nonleague game vs. Wilson as part of a boys/girls doubleheader holiday event on Dec. 27 in Lititz. As a result, second-year coach Danny Cieniewicz and Warwick will play a 21-game schedule; the PIAA max is 22. Lancaster Catholic is also at 21 games, after the Blue Chip event at Jefferson University in Philly didn’t pan out. The only other L-L League team with 21 games is Lancaster Country Day; coach Hilary Waltman and her Cougars usually have to finagle their schedule because many of their students are away from campus over the holiday break. Country Day is idle between Dec. 29 and Jan. 7, while everyone else is back playing by Jan. 3.
* The only L-L League team not playing in a holiday event — and we’ll get to Lancaster Mennonite in a second — is Cocalico. Coach Andrew Garrett and his Eagles will be idle from Dec. 21 to Jan. 3.
* Lancaster Mennonite has perhaps the funkiest schedule in the league this season. In lieu of a holiday tournament, the Blazers will go to Imhotep Charter in Philly on Dec. 21 to play Constitution out of District 12 in the Cream of the Crop Showcase event. Then, in mid-January, Mennonite will gas up the bus and head west to Pittsburgh for a 2-day event: Second-year coach Trevor Orr and his Blazers will play Woodland Hills on Jan. 18 and Mount Zion Christian Academy from Durham, North Carolina, on Jan. 19 at Woody Hills in the MLK Stand Against Violence Showcase event. Mennonite, the third-place finisher in D3-3A and a state-qualifier last season, also has Camp Hill and reigning district champs Trinity and Linden Hall on the slate, and the Blazers will open the season on Dec. 6 in Twin Valley's tip-off tourney against longtime District 1 power Mount St. Joe's.
* Three L-L League teams will play in West York’s showcase event on Jan. 4 — Manheim Central vs. Red Lion, Conestoga Valley vs. Eastern York and Solanco vs. New Oxford. ... Interestingly, there will be a pair of first-year coaches in action that day: Tyson Hayes for Central and Bill Moore for CV.
* Octorara is playing a home-and-home nonleague series vs. Rising Sun (Maryland). The Braves visit the Tigers in North East, Maryland, on Jan. 17; Rising Sun goes to Atglen to cap the regular season on Feb. 3. Those schools are separated by 22 miles. Coach Scott Forman and Octorara are set for their second season as full-time L-L League members, and they're looking to break through after going winless last winter.
* Columbia will also play a home-and-home nonleague series vs. reigning D3-2A winner Linden Hall. Coach Karl Kreiser — who is just five wins shy of 200 in his career — and the Tide will host on Jan. 6, and Columbia heads to Lititz on Jan. 28. ... FYI: Linden Hall has a new head coach, as Ellen Bair has stepped into those duties for the Lions.
* Lebanon Catholic will also play a home-and-home nonleague series, against Executive Charter Academy — home of the Raptors. ECA is in Allentown; they’ll host coach Patti Hower and her squad on Jan. 13, and travel to Lebanon Catholic on Jan. 29. It looks like ECA is playing mostly against District 11 teams, and the Raptors are participating in Eastern York’s tip-off tourney.
* Berks County heavyweight Wilson will be a popular nonleague opponent for L-L League teams: The Bulldogs are set to face Cedar Crest (Dec. 10), Hempfield (Dec. 21), McCaskey (Dec. 12) and Warwick (Dec. 27).
* Hempfield, Manheim Central, Elizabethtown, Penn Manor, Northern Lebanon, Cocalico, Columbia and Lancaster Country Day are hosting tip-off tournaments. … Manheim Township, Lebanon, Solanco, Lancaster Catholic, Lebanon Catholic and Annville-Cleona are hosting holiday tournaments.
* Just two L-L League teams are not participating in a tip-off tournament: Lebanon Catholic and Octorara are playing single nonleague games on Dec. 7 to open their seasons: The Beavers vs. Veritas Academy; the Braves against Antietam.
* Most intriguing opening-night game: Warwick at Cocalico in the first round of the Eagles’ tip-off tourney on Dec. 6. Hey, it’s late November, we get it. But come the first week of February, we expect the Warriors and the Eagles to be in their respective section chases, and in line for D3 playoff bids.
* There is one 3-game-week budgeted into the league schedule this season: Everyone plays M-W-F, Dec. 16-18-20. Beyond that, it’s kind of a hodgepodge. Once again, Section 1 is playing Section 2 and Section 3 is playing Section 4 in crossover games — and league play will indeed start with crossover play on Dec. 13. After four crossover games, the holiday break hits. Once everyone is back the first week of January, there are some crossover games sprinkled in during pockets of head-to-head section games. Keep your schedules handy for sure. The Section 5 teams play 10 league games; no crossovers. Those six teams have as many as 12 nonleague games on their slates, so their schedules are all over the charts. Other than the holiday break, there will be a game in the area pretty much every Monday through Saturday for a bulk of the winter. Which is cool if you’re a hoops fan.
* Refresher course: Cedar Crest (Section 1), Elizabethtown (Section 2), Solanco (Section 3), Lancaster Catholic (Section 4) and Lancaster Mennonite (Section 5) are the defending section champs. … Lancaster Catholic (over Elco) is the reigning league champ. … Cumberland Valley (6A), Palmyra (5A), Lancaster Catholic (4A), Trinity (3A), Linden Hall (2A) and Lancaster Country Day (1A) are the reigning District 3 champs. … Peters Township (6A), Chartiers Valley (5A), Bethlehem Catholic (4A), Delone Catholic (3A), Bellwood-Antis (2A) and Berlin (1A) are the reigning PIAA champs. ... Bellwood-Antis — which features outstanding Notre Dame recruit Alli Campbell — is the back-to-back 2A champ; Bethlehem Catholic has won two state titles in the last three seasons, and Becahi is led by Villanova recruit Taliyah Medina, who will return to the court this season after missing her junior year with a knee injury. Her dad is Golden Hawks' coach Jose Medina. Becahi came to Lancaster Catholic last season and gave the Crusaders all they could handle.