Previewing L-L League Section 2 girls basketball for the 2019-20 season; teams are listed alphabetically …
CONESTOGA VALLEY BUCKSKINS
PIAA CLASSIFICATION: Class 6A.
COACH: Bill Moore (1st season; Moore is the former boys’ head coach at Solanco and Pequea Valley, so he knows his way around an L-L League sideline).
LAST SEASON: 4-9 in Section 2, 6-16 overall.
KEY PLAYERS LOST: Sydney Bouder (6.4 points per game, Section 2 honorable mention all-star), Kenzie Reed (14.2, Section 2 1st-team all-star, 758 career points), Lauren Thrush (4.5).
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Ashley Andrew (3.6), Savannah Byers (4.9), Alexis Goldsborough (1.2), Taylor Hehnly (6.0, 2 3-pointers), Chassidy Henriguez (1.9, 2 3’s), Laela Robinson (0.8).
NEWCOMERS TO WATCH: Hannah Almodovar, Ashley Cirilo, Destiny Ellerbe, Haileigh Fraud, Lola Garcia, Rebecca Hartraft, Rhiannon Henry, Taicha Hertzog, Kassandra Horning, Camdyn Mahler.
OUTLOOK: Moore takes the reins in Witmer, and while three stalwarts — floor general Bouder, low-post machine Reed and scorer Thrush — departed, he has a nice nucleus of vets and youngsters to work with, as the Bucks try and wedge their way into the lead pack. We’ll definitely have our eyes on Hehnly, who was off to a quick start last winter before she suffered a season-ending knee injury and missed the final 15 games. If she’s healthy, CV will have a budding shooter/slasher to spark the offense. Andrew and Byers have both logged a lot of varsity minutes, and they’ll step into larger roles this time around, and the Bucks must find a paint presence to step in and step up for Reed, an all-star pick the last two seasons. Moore reports that his young pups are eager to learn his new system, so here’s to a smooth transition in Buckskin Country.
CRYSTAL BALL: That “newcomers to watch” list is pretty big, so Moore will be mixing in some fresh faces at the outset, as he begins to X and O and put his fingerprints on the program. Having a healthy Hehnly will be key, because she can score the ball. And again, Andrew and Byers must provide leadership; they’ve been through plenty of L-L League wars. It seems like we say this every year about Section 2, and we’ll say it again now: This section is here for the plucking. Elizabethtown will be out to defend its title, but the Bears are retooling a tad. With teams like Ephrata and Warwick ready to take a leap, CV should definitely have a say in who wins — and the Bucks, even with their youth and new schemes under Moore, would love to elbow their way into the conversation come early February.
QUOTABLE: Moore — “We’re focusing each day on playing hard, playing smart and playing together.”
PIAA CLASSIFICATION: Class 5A.
COACH: John Myers (7th season; 68-79 overall).
LAST SEASON: 11-2 in Section 2 (champions), 17-11 overall (lost to Lancaster Mennonite 58-46 in L-L League quarterfinals; lost to Spring Grove 57-45 in D3-5A 7th-place game; lost to Villa Maria-Malvern 66-23 in first round of PIAA-5A state playoffs).
KEY PLAYERS LOST: Marena Lonardi (21.6, 25 3’s, Section 2 MVP, Section 2 1st-team all-star, 1,359 career points), Sydney Pierson (8.9, Section 2 1st-team all-star, 820 career points).
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Emma Blyler (3.1, 11 3’s), Elise Hassinger (1.4), Jade Love-Morris (1.5), Ainsley Raybold (5.0, 29 3’s, Section 2 2nd-team all-star), Macy Seaman (1.6), Carly Sedun (3.0, Section 2 honorable mention all-star).
OUTLOOK: Tip of the cap to those two “key players lost” kids; Lonardi exited E-town as the program’s all-time leading scorer, and she was a back-to-back LNP section MVP pick. Pierson was dynamite in the paint and carved out her niche blocking shots, dribble-driving to the hoop, and scoring on stick-backs. Needless to say, they’ll both be missed. But the cupboard is not bare in Bears’ Country, as Myers returns a veteran nucleus out to defend their section championship and postseason run, which took E-town deep in the D3-5A bracket and into the state tourney last March. It all starts with Raybold, the Bears’ crackerjack soph point guard. She can distribute and penetrate and dish, and the deeper the season went last winter, the better her long-range marksmanship got. E-town also returns a pair of glass-crashers and dirty-workers in Sedun and Seaman; Sedun was one of last season’s unsung heroes, and she’s one of those get-on-the-floor, black-and-blue elbows kind of kids. Seaman, like Pierson before her, has the height and wing span to battle in the key. And more good news: Blyler and Hassinger, key contributors and instant-offense kind of kids the last couple of years, are now vets, and should be ready to take on even more minutes and responsibility. E-town saw 2,179 points walk out the door on graduation night, so finding some reliable scorers is a top priority here.
CRYSTAL BALL: A lot of people will probably look at the Bears and think, hey, no Lonardi and no Pierson, no problem. But the group that returns is mighty chiseled from back-to-back deep postseason runs, and plenty of L-L League crunch-time, section-race battles. Of course Lonardi and Pierson will be missed, but it says here that E-town definitely returns enough talent to defend its crown, especially if Raybold can direct traffic, if Seaman and Sedun can control the paint, and if Blyler and Hassinger can up their scoring averages and make shots. Myers reported that his Bears will have some more depth this season, and that’s a great thing; E-town didn’t play a JV schedule last winter. And this: The Bears should get a boost with the return of Alicia Underkoffler; she chipped in off the bench two years ago, and missed all of last season with an injury. She’s back.
QUOTABLE: Myers — “I’m most looking forward to seeing this group jell together, on the court and off. We expect to be competitive in every game, and represent ourselves in our section again this year.”
PIAA CLASSIFICATION: Class 6A.
COACH: Brian Cerullo (2nd season; 9-14 overall).
LAST SEASON: 8-5 in Section 2, 9-14 overall (lost to eventual runner-up Elco 61-44 in L-L League play-in game).
KEY PLAYERS LOST: Kandice Liebl (6.1, 23 3’s), Brooke Ludwig (2.0), Julia Rios (1.5), Katherine Sola (4.3, 3 3’s).
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Gabbie Gerola-Hill (10.4, 29 3’s, Section 2 1st-team all-star, 640 career points), Carly Holochuck (3.7), Reagan McCarty (1.3), Hannah Plowmaker (3.4), Jocelyn Umana (6.1, 3 3’s, Section 2 2nd-team all-star).
NEWCOMERS TO WATCH: Jasmine Griffin.
OUTLOOK: Without getting all melodramatic, the time for Ephrata is now. The Mounts played in the L-L League play-in game last February, so the returning nucleus has a postseason game under its belt — plus last season’s slug-it-out section race, which saw a little bit of everything, as Ephrata, Warwick and E-town were all in first place at one time or another, before the Bears pulled away late and won the crown. But Ephrata was in the race from start to finish, and returns multiple key kids from that run, including Gerola-Hill, a legit go-to scorer and spot-up shooter. Her key: Staying healthy; Gerola-Hill missed four games early last season, when the section race was starting to take shape. When healthy, she can score the ball with anyone in the league. Umana, a floor-general type who thrives in the open court, also returns, plus Holochuck, a slasher kid who made a nice splash in her debut varsity season last winter. Ephrata is also covered in the paint with Plowmaker, a glass protector and baseline threat. She’s committed to Albright College in Reading. Perhaps the best news of all for the Mounts: Griffin is expected to step in and contribute immediately as a ninth-grader. We’ve heard about her prowess coming up through Ephrata’s system. She arrives on the varsity this season. Remember her name moving forward.
CRYSTAL BALL: Talent and motivation is here for the Mounts to make a serious run at section gold. They were neck-and-neck with E-town and Warwick until the bitter end last season, so that should drive this group, which would love a deeper postseason trip — including a D3-6A bid. Again, it certainly seems like the time is now for this bunch — all the right pieces are here — so keep both eyes on Cerullo’s crew.
QUOTABLE: Cerullo — “Last year we made the league playoffs, and this year we’re hoping to build off of that success. I’m looking forward to seeing how quickly our younger players can blend in with our seniors, in order to develop on-court chemistry. I expect our team to be very competitive in Section 2, and in vying for a district playoff spot.”
PIAA CLASSIFICATION: Class 6A.
COACH: Jaime Walborn (4th season; 5-61 overall).
LAST SEASON: 2-11 in Section 2, 4-18 overall.
KEY PLAYERS LOST: Mikayla Bowman (0.7), Annabelle Deufel (1.6), Destiny Infante (10.2, 37 3’s, Section 2 2nd-team all-star).
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Maddy Bishop (4.7, 8 3’s), Sophia Blouch (3.2, 14 3’s), Giahny Correa (12.0, 16 3’s, Section 2 2nd-team all-star), Zaelys De’Arce (1.0), Olivia Sforza (0.7), Olivia Uffner (0.8), Dorthie Zechman (3.2).
NEWCOMERS TO WATCH: Maddy Gates, Allie Parr.
OUTLOOK: The loss of jitterbug guard Infante will sting; she could flat-out score the rock and drew plenty of defensive attention on the perimeter. But the good news is that her backcourt running mate, Correa, returns; she can also run the floor, handle, score in transition, and shoot the 3-ball. Correa should draw plenty of junk defenses moving forward. But she’ll have plenty of help, as the Cedars return an experienced crew, including Bishop, another arc threat, and Zechman, who can score and board in the paint. Walborn has been fighting like heck to turn this program around, and she made some big strides last season, when Lebanon snapped a 28-game L-L League losing skid, won four games overall, and kept everyone honest.
CRYSTAL BALL: Gut hunch is that Lebanon continues to take big steps in the right direction. There’s a good nucleus here — not a ton of height, but plenty of speed to burn — including Correa, who will be fun to watch. Can the Cedars muscle their way into the lead pack with the E-towns, Ephratas and Warwicks of the world? Can’t say yes for sure. But Lebanon will make you earn it, as the Cedars continue their upward climb.
QUOTABLE: Walborn — “This group has played a lot of basketball together, and I’m excited to see how they perform. They’ve worked really hard and they’ve remained positive throughout the last couple of seasons. They’re hungry for some wins.”
PIAA CLASSIFICATION: Class 6A.
COACH: Danny Cieniewicz (2nd season; 8-13 overall).
LAST SEASON: 5-8 in Section 2, 8-13 overall.
KEY PLAYERS LOST: Abbey Finkill (0.7), Julia Forsythe (4.7), Abby Rodgers (6.9, 7 3’s, Section 2 2nd-team all-star), Sydney Weismandel (3.0, 10 3’s), Emily Williamson (1.8, 4 3’s).
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Tanner Armstrong (1.8), Elise Balmer (1.0), Lailani Batty (5.5, 6 3’s), Haley Delgiacco (1.2), Lauren Pyle (11.2, 25 3’s, Section 2 1st-team all-star), Jess Williamson (2.4, 3 3’s).
NEWCOMERS TO WATCH: Megan Kurtz, Kendall Morgan, Nevaya Warfel.
OUTLOOK: Cieniewicz hit the ground running in his first season on the job last winter, as the Warriors had a first-place lead in the section in early January. And then all heck broke loose; Warwick went 1-7 down the stretch, missing out on a playoff bid. That should absolutely, positively motivate this group, which has some key pieces back, including Pyle, who firmly established herself as one of the top backcourt performers in the L-L League last winter. She can distribute, weave her way through traffic, score off the bounce, defend and shoot the trey. And she has a reliable scorer running mate in Batty, a glass-attacker who is also dangerous from the arc. We’re anxious to see what Cieniewicz implements in his second full season, as the Warriors continue to get everyone’s attention.
CRYSTAL BALL: Gotta believe that Warwick will challenge once again. But the Warriors can’t afford another 1-7 stretch-drive finish. It’s tough learning lessons that way, but the returning crew now knows what it takes to run with the lead pack. Now they have to finish the job. The talent is here — we really like the Pyle/Batty 1-2 punch — so don’t sleep on Warwick, especially if the Warriors play with more of an edge after the way last season ended.
QUOTABLE: Cieniewicz — “We’ve grown a lot individually over the summer, but how we come together as a team is the true test. We have athleticism, but we’ll need to have consistent play and steadiness in close games. We expect to be in many games, and the ability to execute with pressure and finish is going to be our primary focus.”