Previewing L-L League Section 1 girls basketball for the 2019-20 season; teams are listed alphabetically …
CEDAR CREST FALCONS
PIAA CLASSIFICATION: Class 6A.
COACH: Jim Donmoyer (9th season; 140-71 overall).
LAST SEASON: 12-1 in Section 1 (champions), 19-9 overall (lost to eventual runner-up Elco 43-28 in L-L League semifinals; beat Wilson 48-41 in D3-6A 7th-place game; lost to eventual state runner-up Garnet Valley 52-34 in first round of PIAA-6A playoffs).
KEY PLAYERS LOST: Molly Bucher (4.3 points per game, 16 3-pointers), Kaitlin Kline (3.9, 3 3’s), Madison Rambler (2.5, 9 3’s), Raven Morgan (11.6, Section 1 MVP, Section 1 1st-team all-star, 781 career points), Morgan Thomson (5.2, 36 3’s, Section 1 2nd-team all-star), Hannah Woelfling (5.4, Section 1 honorable mention all-star).
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Sarah Batra (1.0), Reese Glover (5.2, 18 3’s), Emily Hocker (1.0), Liz Knapp (0.6), Sarah Laney (2.5), Meghan Sholley (2.2, 4 3’s).
NEWCOMERS TO WATCH: Kiya Camasta, Brooke Shutter, Nikki Wise.
OUTLOOK: The Falcons barreled to the Section 1 crown last winter behind Morgan, who earned section MVP honors after a solid season in the post. She will be missed, along with snipers Thomson and Bucher, and paint contributors Rambler and Woelfling. That’s a lot to replace. But the good news for Cedar Crest is that there is a nice nucleus returning, spearheaded by Glover, who is poised — we think — for her breakout campaign. She’s played a complimentary role the last couple of seasons, but the floor is now hers to blossom into a legit, go-to scorer and wing shooter. She’ll have plenty of help in the backcourt/wing area from Hocker, Knapp, Laney and Sholley — who all got big varsity minutes last winter — and Batra in the paint. Donmoyer really likes Batra’s post potential, and he’s high on the newbie trio of Camasta, Shutter and Wise, who could all push for varsity minutes from the jump.
CRYSTAL BALL: Despite a lengthy “key players lost” list, there is still a lot to like in Falcons’ camp. And Donmoyer has raised the bar in this program, so Cedar Crest will be ready to compete, no doubt. Some familiar faces, yes. But those holdovers will have larger roles and higher expectations this time around. There will be no Morgan, Woelfling or Rambler crashing the boards, and no Bucher or Thomson at the ready on the perimeter. But if this group can pick up where it left off — and if Glover can, in fact, become that double-digit, go-to scorer — the Falcons have the goods to defend their section championship. And here’s the crazy thing about this bunch: Donmoyer has just one senior (Knapp) on his roster. That’s it. So get used to this group; they’re going to be around a while.
QUOTABLE: Donmoyer — “I’m looking forward to this year, and working with this new group of players. I’m looking forward to seeing how they grow and improve as the season unfolds. This group has the potential to be good, and it will be interesting to see how they develop both individually, and as a team.”
HEMPFIELD BLACK KNIGHTS
PIAA CLASSIFICATION: Class 6A.
COACH: Kendra Merrifield (3rd season; 12-31 overall).
LAST SEASON: 6-7 in Section 1, 7-15 overall.
KEY PLAYERS LOST: Abby Burdyn (1.0), Lauren Dague (2.0, 4 3’s), Melissa Grube (5.0, 6 3’s).
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Lindsey Durkota (8.4, Section 1 honorable mention all-star), Sophie Herman (3.5), Molly McGarry (4.9, 8 3’s), Lauren Riggs (1.5, 2 3’s), Jess Weinholdt (4.0, 5 3’s).
NEWCOMERS TO WATCH: Orianna Edmond, Lauren Moffatt.
OUTLOOK: The Knights took some steps forward last season, hanging tough in the section race at a game under .500. But it’s been a few years since Hempfield has been a major threat and playoff-caliber outfit. Merrifield (the former Kendra Beittel) is hoping this is the crew to get the Knights over the hump and back into contention. They’ll have a go-to kid in Durkota, a whirling-dervish, open-court player who can attack from the wing and score in transition. McGarry can handle and distribute and direct traffic up top, and Herman, Riggs and Weinholdt all have plenty of big-game, Section 1 combat under their belts. That can only help.
CRYSTAL BALL: Cedar Crest and Manheim Township have dominated here lately. If Hempfield wants to chip away, the Knights, in Merrifield’s eyes, need to develop chemistry and cohesion on the floor. “As the season progresses,” she said, “it’s imperative we learn how to set our teammates up for success.” There will be a mix of vets and fresh faces in Landisville, so jiving and getting on the same page will be key. Merrifield likes her squad’s defense, depth and versatility. Now it’s a matter of putting it all together and giving Crest and Township a run for their money.
QUOTABLE: Merrifield — “I’m most looking forward to seeing our team develop. We’re a young team with girls who haven’t played together much. We have four seniors who have seen the varsity floor, but they’re complimented by girls who don’t have much varsity basketball experience. However, they each bring a lot of different talents. We have depth and a lot of kids who can work in and out at different positions. As a coach, that’s an exciting position to be in, because there are many combinations that we can work in and out of with various people on the floor.”
MANHEIM TOWNSHIP BLUE STREAKS
PIAA CLASSIFICATION: Class 6A.
COACH: Sean Burkhart (9th season; 145-61 overall).
LAST SEASON: 11-2 in Section 1, 15-8 overall (lost to eventual champ Lancaster Catholic 83-51 in L-L League quarterfinals; lost to Wilson 53-40 in first round of D3-6A playoffs).
KEY PLAYERS LOST: Alijiah Bonano (6.7, 33 3’s, Section 1 2nd-team all-star), Alexcia Bryant (6.7, Section 1 1st-team all-star), Lauren Sprague (2.7).
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Katie Bushong (18.6, 10 3’s, Section 1 1st-team all-star, 876 career points), Ali Quinn (5.5, 6 3’s).
NEWCOMERS TO WATCH: Ginanna Smith, Missy Welch.
OUTLOOK: The Streaks will miss Bonano’s sharpshooting prowess, and Bryant’s grit and board work. But in Bushong, Township returns one of the top talents in the league. Bushong has committed to Wilmington to continue her volleyball career. But she also knows her way around a basketball court. A tireless worker, Bushong can beat you off the bounce, score at the rim and in transition, and she has 3-point range. She also wears out a path to the foul line on a nightly basis, driving defenders batty with her array of spin moves around the glass. She’s in line to score her 1,000th career point early in the season. Stay tuned for that. Bushong will be flanked by Quinn, a hard-nosed defender and glue kid. After those two, there isn’t much varsity experience on Township’s bench. Burkhart is excited bout Smith and Welch, who are in line to get more varsity minutes ahead. And here are two more names to remember: Gracie Martin (Veritas Academy) and Bella McCoy (Lancaster Catholic) have transferred into the program, and could vie for time.
CRYSTAL BALL: With Bushong making buckets and Quinn defending like crazy, Township will definitely contend. It’s what they do. It just might look a little different at the outset, with no Bryant crashing the boards and no Bonano launching 3’s. Burkhart loves his team speed — meaning the Streaks could go up-tempo a little more, perhaps — but he’s very aware of the lack of varsity experience. But this is Township, and regardless of what the roster says, the Streaks always find a way to wedge themselves into the lead pack. Tack on a grueling schedule, and this crew — even with some new faces — will be battle-tested when it really starts getting interesting in late January.
QUOTABLE: Burkhart — “We hope to compete for the section and the league, we hope to earn some home district games, and see where things take us. I’m excited about our mix of returning and new varsity players.”
McCASKEY RED TORNADO
PIAA CLASSIFICATION: Class 6A.
COACH: Brian McCloud (13th season).
LAST SEASON: 0-13 in Section 1, 0-22 overall.
KEY PLAYERS LOST: None listed.
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Alani Bosque (4.1, 13 3’s), Ahni-yah Parker (11.3, Section 1 2nd-team all-star), Deziray Rosario (4.7, 5 3’s), Malia Taylor (12.4, 24 3’s, Section 1 1st-team all-star), Alijah Thornton-Bey (1.1).
NEWCOMERS TO WATCH: Amya Brock, Teijhae Corbin, Anisha Sepulveda.
OUTLOOK: The only way to go for the Tornado is up. Goose eggs are never any fun, and McCaskey went 0-22 last season, and is absolutely jonesing for a victory. And more than anything, just some success and a better competitive nature moving forward. The good news is that McCloud returns basically his entire squad from last winter. There is nobody listed in the “key players lost” column, so there is plenty of familiarity and camaraderie in the Tornado’s locker room. That’s a room that includes a pair of legit, go-to scorers in Taylor and Parker, who kept playing and kept attacking the rim last winter, despite some tough losses. Taylor is a sleek slasher with a solid wing J, and Parker can spin and score in the key. Tack on Bosque, who can run the floor and make 3’s, and Rosario, another open-court player who can shoot and score in transition, and McCloud has a good nucleus here. He’s also excited about the Brock-Corbin-Sepulveda combo, as they work their way into more varsity minutes.
CRYSTAL BALL: Too much vet talent — and heart and determination — for this bunch to go 0-for again. But will the Tornado fly all the way up to the lead pack? Sometimes that’s not the most important thing. Sometimes it’s about coming together, playing as a team, and making your program better. After that, the wins take care of themselves. Now, this group definitely needs some victories to get some better mojo flowing. But it says here that if McCaskey can just keep taking steps forward, and keep everyone on the same page working for the same common goal, then it won’t be very long before McCloud and his troops are back to scaring the daylights out of everyone, and running with the lead pack. Be patient, Tornado Alley.
QUOTABLE: McCloud — “We’re looking for growth as a unit, gaining some wins, and restoring our pride.”
PENN MANOR COMETS
PIAA CLASSIFICATION: Class 6A.
COACH: Megan Collins (5th season; 35-57 overall).
LAST SEASON: 6-7 in Section 1, 8-14 overall.
KEY PLAYERS LOST: Tyzae Ballard (3.2), Emma Hamaker (1.2), Tara Kinser (0.8), Kate Levato (7.4, 4 3’s, Section 1 2nd-team all-star), Kayla Mills (1.4, 4 3’s), Ashley Sanchez.
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Ella Hart (9.0, 2 3’s, Section 1 2nd-team all-star), Kimmy Miller (1.0), Morgan Miller (10.2, 28 3’s, Section 1 1st-team all-star), Sydney Shepos (3.2, 2 3’s), Lily Sugra (3.1).
NEWCOMERS TO WATCH: Kamia Goodley, Izzy Kligge, Emily Riggs, Evelyn Weaver.
OUTLOOK: Looking for your Section 1 sleeper team? Then definitely keep both eyes peeled on Millersville, where Collins returns a lot of talent, and in all of the important areas. Morgan Miller returns after her breakout freshman season to lead the scoring brigade. She can shoot from deep and run the floor. Meanwhile, Shepos and Sugra should see their minutes increase, and they know their way around the lane and the wing area. Plus, Hart is back, and she’s a multi-purpose, multi-functional kid, who can play underneath, on the wing, and run the floor, finish in transition, and block shots.
CRYSTAL BALL: Levato overcame some injuries to be the leader and big-sister of last season’s group. The Comets could definitely use someone to step up and fill that role. Hart, perhaps? She’s been through a lot of wars — and she was a part of Penn Manor’s big playoff run two years ago. Miller, Shepos and Sugra all got big minutes as newbies last winter, and they delivered. With a year under their belts, the thinking here is that the Comets should be even better — with a pack of youngsters behind them, ready to fight for minutes in Collins’ rotation. If Cedar Crest and Manheim Township are the favorites, we should probably slot the Comets no lower than on the 3-line. And if Penn Manor does indeed keep improving, and if the fresh faces play well quickly out of the chute, watch out.
QUOTABLE: Collins — “I’m excited to see where are our hard work, grit and determination take us. I see big things for this group in the upcoming seasons. We have to leave it all on the floor each game we play, and hopefully the rest takes care of itself.”