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Pequea Valley's Bethany Bills is one of four key returning starters for the Braves for the 2019-20 season.

Previewing L-L League Section 5 girls’ basketball for the 2019-20 season; teams are listed alphabetically

ANNVILLE-CLEONA LITTLE DUTCHMEN

PIAA CLASSIFICATION: Class 3A.

COACH: Lisa Shucker (2nd season; 8-14 overall).

LAST SEASON: 2-8 in Section 5, 8-14 overall.

KEY PLAYERS LOST: Arianna Clay (9.5 points per game, 18 3-pointers, Section 5 2nd-team all-star), Lauren Schrader (8.4, 5 3’s, Section 5 honorable mention all-star), Katie Shaak (4.2).

KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Emily Brightbill (3.9, 2 3’s), Makenzie Drane (3.7), Brittany Nye (3.7, 3 3’s), Alyssa Ulrich (3.7).

NEWCOMERS TO WATCH: Josie Clay, Claire Hoover, Sarah Speraw.

OUTLOOK: Injuries hampered the Dutchmen a ton last winter, as several key players missed chunks of the season, including Drane, who is someone A-C can definitely build around moving forward. The Clay-Schrader-Shaak trio will be missed; Clay took her game to another level last season, becoming a legit perimeter threat and go-to scorer. Schrader was a wily vet and longtime team leader, and kids like that are tough to replace. With Drane, Brightbill, Nye and Ulrich back in the fold, that’s a nice nucleus right out of the chute for Shucker, who said the Dutchmen might switch gears and play a faster-paced brand of basketball this time around. “We’ve been playing twice as fast as we were last year, and it’s shown in practices so far,” Shucker said. “We also have better court vision this year compared to last year. If we can transfer those two elements into our games, then we’re going to surprise a lot of people this year.” Youth will also be served in Annville; Shucker is excited about the Clay-Speraw-Hoover ninth-grade trio, so expect that group to get some varsity run.

CRYSTAL BALL: If the Dutchmen stay healthy — and that’s a must after last season, especially with some young-pups on board this time around — they’re going to keep everyone honest. We’re anxious to see the continued maturation of Drane, and if Brightbill, Nye and Ulrich can become serious arc threats and reliable scorers. A double-digit-win season is not out of the question for this group, as Shucker continues to put her fingerprints on the program.

ANNVILLE-CLEONA ROSTER, SCHEDULE

QUOTABLE: Shucker — “This is the second year that our coaching staff has been here at A-C, so the girls are more comfortable with the style of play we’re asking them to achieve. They’re also quicker and stronger from a good off-season in the weight room. We’re excited to see how that translates to the basketball court.”

COLUMBIA CRIMSON TIDE

PIAA CLASSIFICATION: Class 3A.

COACH: Karl Kreiser (4th season in 2nd stint as Columbia’s coach; 195-111 overall).

LAST SEASON: 4-6 in Section 5, 8-13 overall.

KEY PLAYERS LOST: Janeah Neal (20.6, 36 3’s, Section 5 first-team all-star, 1,559 career points).

KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Morgan Bigler (6.8), MacKenzie Burke (11.5, 40 3’s, Section 5 honorable mention all-star), Jada Dyson (2.3), Lesasia Hardy (0.6), Daizha Tucker (2.1, 2 3’s).

OUTLOOK: Safe to say the Tide will miss Neal’s scoring prowess; she departed the program with 1,559 points, and you just don’t replace that. Good news: Burke and Bigler had breakout ninth-grade seasons last winter, so they already know their way around a Section 5 showdown game. Burke can handle and shoot — hence her 40 treys. Dyson, Hardy and Tucker are also varsity vets, and that will help on a team that won’t have a ton of depth or height.

CRYSTAL BALL: Not a ton of height — and minus a 20-point scorer a night, right out of the chute — but there are some nice pieces in Tide Country; Burke and Bigler made a big splash last season, and their numbers should go up. This team is two years removed from a D3 finals trip. If the underclassmen continue to improve, there’s no reason Columbia can’t win double digits and get back to the postseason. Keeping the Section 5 lead-pack honest and qualifying for the playoffs should be attainable goals for this group.

COLUMBIA ROSTER, SCHEDULE

QUOTABLE: Kreiser — “I’m looking forward to our team getting better with every practice and game. With the right attitudes, this can be achieved.”

LANCASTER COUNTRY DAY COUGARS

PIAA CLASSIFICATION: Class 1A.

COACH: Hilary Waltman (10th season in 2nd stint as Country Day’s coach).

LAST SEASON: 6-4 in Section 5, 19-6 overall (beat Greenwood 35-30 in D3-1A championship; lost to Benton 45-41 in first round of PIAA-1A state playoffs).

KEY PLAYERS LOST: Cyani Cabassa (2.8), McKayla Forman (4.0), Abby Gardner (2.6).

KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Annabelle Copeland (14.5, 32 3’s, Section 5 2nd-team all-star, 774 career points), Maggie Copeland (2.7), Ashanti Duncan (15.2, Section 5 1st-team all-star, 950 career points), Maddie Feddock (0.9), Julia Mocny (2.3, 7 3’s), Alison Ngau (1.2), Anna Sotirescu (5.6), Kaela Stankiewicz (10.1, 7 3’s, 672 career points).

NEWCOMERS TO WATCH: Genesis Meadows (Conestoga Valley) and Kiana Wakefield (Penn Manor) have joined the program.

OUTLOOK: Plenty to like at Country Day, as the Cougars open defense of their D3-1A championship in their debut L-L League season. Vets galore dot Waltman’s lineup, including: Duncan, a powerful force on the boards, and she should be the first L-L League player to hit the 1,000-point plateau this season; the Copeland sisters, including wing threat Annabelle, who can swoop and score and run the floor, and she’s also a candidate to join the 1,000-point club this season; and Stankiewicz, the Cougars’ gritty point guard, who missed the final 16 games last season with a knee injury. If she can get back to 100 percent, watch out — she’s a fantastic floor general who thrives in the open court. Sotirescu is also a dependable scorer, and Feddock, Mocny and Ngau have all logged plenty of key varsity minutes, in crunch-time games.

CRYSTAL BALL: Country Day won the D3-1A title without Stankiewicz directing traffic. With so much talent returning, and — knock on wood — Stankiewicz staying healthy and getting back to doing what she does best, the Cougars should have very big expectations, especially when mid-February rolls around. They should also challenge for the Section 5 crown, with Pequea Valley and defending champ Lancaster Mennonite also in that crowded mix. If you’re still familiarizing yourself with Waltman and the Cougars’ program, make sure you drop in on some Country Day games this winter; this is a fun, talented bunch — and they’ll really turn some heads if Stankiewicz is healthy.

LANCASTER COUNTRY DAY ROSTER, SCHEDULE

QUOTABLE: Waltman — “I’m looking forward to having a fantastic group of seniors, and the leadership they provide to our younger players. I’m looking forward to the immediate contributions of our newcomers. We’ll be challenged early with two formidable Section 5 opponents right out of the gate —Pequea Valley and Lancaster Mennonite — so we’ll stress not looking too far ahead, and taking care of the things we can control — effort, attitude, commitments — each day, on and off the court. We believe the outcomes will be favorable, as long as we keep our focus on these things.”

LANCASTER MENNONITE BLAZERS

PIAA CLASSIFICATION: Class 3A.

COACH: Trevor Orr (2nd season; 21-7 overall).

LAST SEASON: 10-0 in Section 5 (champions), 21-7 overall (lost to eventual champ Lancaster Catholic 59-41 in L-L League semifinals; lost to eventual champ Trinity 62-46 in D3-3A semifinals; beat Susquenita 41-36 in D3-3A 3rd-place game; lost to Imhotep Charter 65-44 in first round of PIAA-3A state playoffs).

KEY PLAYERS LOST: Anyzha Gibson (8.1, 7 3’s, Section 5 2nd-team all-star), Amber High (11.6, 32 3’s, Section 5 2nd-team all-star), Marissa High (7.9, 47 3’s, Section 5 honorable mention all-star), Cyleigh Hurst (6.9, 18 3’s, Section 5 honorable mention all-star), Chloe King (4.7).

KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Tiana Delgado (0.7), Kaeleigh King (1.5), Rebecca Lane (1.6), Mariah Wilson (18.3, 20 3’s, Section 5 MVP, Section 5 1st-team all-star, 760 career points).

OUTLOOK: That “key players lost” column is pretty daunting; that’s a lot of points, 3-pointers and all-star performers out the door. But the fantastic news for the Blazers is that Wilson, the reigning section MVP and blue-chip recruit, returns for her much-anticipated junior season. She’s worth the price of admission alone, and you won’t want to miss her in your travels this winter. But Wilson will need help, and there aren’t many vets back in Mennonite’s camp, as Orr will have three freshmen, three sophomores, three juniors and just one senior on his varsity roster. Delgado, King and Lane all chipped in off the bench last year, and Delgado will be the point guard and floor general. King and Lane can scrap in the paint, and the Blazers will need those two on the boards, because there isn’t a lot of height here. Safe to say things will look a tad different at the outset for Mennonite this time around.

CRYSTAL BALL: Another 10-0 league run and a repeat Section 5 championship performance for the Blazers? It’ll be a tougher go at it for this group, especially with vet-laden Pequea Valley and Lancaster Country Day squads out there lurking. Wilson will be a highlight reel, but the gut-hunch here is that the Blazers come back to the pack a little bit; again, just study that “key players lost” column. That’s a lot of firepower gone. But give Orr major props for a nonleague schedule that includes: Twin Valley’s tip-off tournament, with a first-rounder against District 12 kingpin Mount St. Joe’s, plus potentially Berks County power TV on the second day; a trip to Imhotep Charter in Philly on Dec. 21 for a game against Constitution in the Cream of the Crop Showcase; a 2-day road trip to Pittsburgh in mid-January for the MLK Stand Against Violence Showcase with games against Woodland Hills and Mount Zion Christian Academy (Durham, NC); and other nonleague games vs. reigning D3 champs Trinity and Linden Hall, plus Camp Hill. Whew. Perhaps that gauntlet will prep for the Blazers for a return playoff trip. We shall see. But enjoy Wilson. 

LANCASTER MENNONITE ROSTER, SCHEDULE

QUOTABLE: Orr — “I’m most looking forward to seeing my two junior captains, Mariah Wilson and Kaeleigh King, lead a young team. And how my young team responds to a loaded schedule, and how fast will they learn what it takes to win at the varsity level. I’m probably most anxious to see how the young team responds to pressure moments. I’m just ready to see them play and develop as the season goes on, and our expectation is to compete night in and night out, and make sure our effort-level is always high.”

LEBANON CATHOLIC BEAVERS

PIAA CLASSIFICATION: Class 1A.

COACH: Patti Hower (42nd season; 747-382 overall).

LAST SEASON: 0-10 in Section 5, 7-16 overall (lost to New Covenant Christian 33-31 in first round of D3-1A playoffs).

KEY PLAYERS LOST: Makenna Purcell (5.1), Mikayla Woodward (2.2).

KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Katie Davis (3.0), Sami Hatzfeld (5.4, 2 3’s), Avery Hupp (11.2, 4 3’s, Section 5 honorable mention all-star), Alyssa Loser (4.3, 7 3’s), Maria Pastal (3.5, 4 3’s).

NEWCOMERS TO WATCH: Grace Kline, Caitlyn Patton.

OUTLOOK: Was odd seeing the Beavers struggle though a 0-10 league season last winter, after coming off four incredible seasons, which included a PIAA-1A state championship, a second state-semifinals appearance, and four D3 titles. Alas, that class moved through, and the newbies got their feet wet last winter, with all seven of their victories coming in nonleague games. And Lebanon Catholic bowed out of districts in the first round, another oddity with this program. Hey, it happens. The good news is that Hower returns a pretty good nucleus from last season, including Hupp, an all-star, who has some solid paint skills and scoring ability. Plus, Davis, Hatzfeld, Loser and Pastal have been through plenty of L-L League wars, and they have a year of varsity minutes and big-game experience under their belts. But here’s the key number with Lebanon Catholic these days: 11. Hower has just 11 kids in her program. Total. Health — and staying out of foul trouble — will be a must for the Beavers.

CRYSTAL BALL: Here’s thinking Hower’s crew will snap that league losing streak and be bigger players in Section 5 circles this time around. And you know the Beavers are jonesing for a better postseason showing after last year’s first-round exit. A lot of things will have to go right for Lebanon Catholic to bring any gold trophies to Assumption Hill this winter. But you know Hower will always have her team ready to play, and with some much-needed experience on the court this time around, the Beavers should be much more competitive.

LEBANON CATHOLIC ROSTER, SCHEDULE

QUOTABLE: Hower — “We expect to be improved over last year. Players’ positive attitudes and hard work hopefully will payoff.”

PEQUEA VALLEY BRAVES

PIAA CLASSIFICATION: Class 3A.

COACH: Jason McDonald (8th season; 71-88 overall).

LAST SEASON: 8-2 in Section 5, 16-6 overall (lost to Lampeter-Strasburg 50-41 in L-L League play-in game; lost to Susquenita 45-43 in D3-3A quarterfinals).

KEY PLAYERS LOST: Kyrstin Jarvis (1.8), Marlena Ferry (9.8, 51 3’s, Section 5 1st-team all-star).

KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Bethany Bills (8.9, 5 3’s, Section 5 honorable mention all-star), Rebecca Cox (0.9), Caroline Horst (11.4, Section 5 2nd-team all-star), Lauren Kovalick (0.8), Abbey Leslie (13.3, 46 3’s, Section 5 1st-team all-star), Clara Neff (7.8, 14 3’s, Section 5 honorable mention all-star).

NEWCOMERS TO WATCH: Sarah Arment, Brooke Graham, Brooke Liney.

OUTLOOK: Insert Section 5 bull’s-eye here. Tons to like in Kinzers, where McDonald returns four key starters from last season’s 16-win, playoff-qualifying squad. Ferry and her floor-general, arc-range capabilities will definitely be missed. But the Braves are in wonderful shape with the return of all-stars Bills, Horst, Leslie and Neff, who are all gamers, scorers and tireless in the open court. Bills is a jackrabbit who can beat you in transition. Leslie is a major sniper with great range. And Horst and Neff are wing and paint threats. Finding someone to pick up the slack for Ferry’s distribution abilities will be a must. But this we know: PV will drive you batty with relentless open-court defense and transition skills. And that entire returning crew can shoot and score off the bounce.

CRYSTAL BALL: The talent and experience — and definitely the motivation — is here for the Braves to capture the Section 5 banner. They couldn’t quite catch Lancaster Mennonite last winter. But with so many talented, veteran kids back, PV gets our nod as preseason favorite. And this: The Braves have had several close calls in the D3 playoffs over the last couple of years, and this group has yet to qualify for the PIAA playoffs. That goal is very attainable this time around thanks to a battle-tested, confident senior class. It should be an interesting winter for this crew. Keep your eyes peeled on PV.

PEQUEA VALLEY ROSTER, SCHEDULE

QUOTABLE: McDonald — “We have great dynamics on this team, as the girls are close-knit and enjoy spending time with one another, and that goes a long way on the basketball court. We have an awesome group of seniors that are setting an incredible example for our freshmen to keep the fun, family and winning culture that they’ve helped build and instill during their four years at Pequea Valley. As a team, they’re looking to build off the success we’ve had the last three seasons. Our goals, like most teams, are to compete for section, league and district titles. We have a ton of varsity experience returning, but we need to develop our young players to create a bench, so we can achieve our goals.”

TWITTER: @JeffReinhart77

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