Previewing L-L League Section 3 girls basketball for 2019-20 season; teams are listed alphabetically …
PIAA CLASSIFICATION: Class 5A.
COACH: Andrew Garrett (4th season; 33-36 overall).
LAST SEASON: 7-6 in Section 3, 14-9 overall (lost to Spring Grove 55-35 in first round of D3-5A playoffs).
KEY PLAYERS LOST: Hanah Greenly (9.2 points per game, 35 3-pointers, Section 3 2nd-team all-star), Katie Heck (5.0, Section 3 honorable mention all-star), Addie Landis (2.7), Corrie Lescoe (7.1, 36 3’s, Section 3 2nd-team all-star), Adalyn Steiner (3.7), Megan Weir (0.3), Shelby White (4.7).
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Hannah Custer (9.3, 9 3’s, Section 3 honorable mention all-star), Izzy Mack (1.0, 2 3’s), Naleah Sauder (0.7), Olivia Sensenig (1.0).
NEWCOMERS TO WATCH: Ally Richwine, Kiersten Shipton.
OUTLOOK: Your eyes almost always shift first to the “key players lost” line, and that list is pretty daunting for the Eagles, with three all-star performers out the door, including glass-crasher Heck, plus Greenly and Lescoe, a pair of dead-eye shooters and perimeter threats. But life goes on, and Garrett has some nice pieces to build around, first and foremost Custer, a junior floor general, distributor and transition scorer. The lacrosse standout also knows her way around a backcourt, and she’ll make Cocalico tick as the lead guard. After that, there will be some fresh faces, although Mack, Sauder and Sensenig got some time off the pine last winter. Expect their minutes to go way up, and Garrett is excited about Richwine — back out for the first time since eighth grade — and Shipton.
CRYSTAL BALL: Lampeter-Strasburg and Solanco have dominated this section lately, and we have a sneaking suspicion that Manheim Central is about to leap into the lead pack. In other words, this has the potential to be a crowded race, and the Eagles would love to muscle their way into it. It won’t be easy — those graduation hits will sting early on — but with Custer directing traffic, and a hungry pack of young pups ready to contribute, do not count out Cocalico.
QUOTABLE: Garrett — “We have a young team with a lot of potential for success on the court. The key to realizing that potential — sooner rather than later — will be hard work, togetherness and leadership from our older girls.”
GARDEN SPOT SPARTANS
PIAA CLASSIFICATION: Class 5A.
COACH: Kevin Gensemer (13th season; 94-164 overall).
LAST SEASON: 1-12 in Section 3, 6-16 overall.
KEY PLAYERS LOST: Megan Fisher (14.9, 28 3’s, Section 3 1st-team all-star, 1,052 career points), Paige Kemper (5.7, 5 3’s).
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Erin Gonzalez (4.5, 4 3’s), Caroline Martin (1.7, 2 3’s), Taylor Soehner (1.7), Karli Stoltzfus (8.3, Section 3 2nd-team all-star), Olivia Usner (3.8, 5 3’s).
OUTLOOK: The loss of Fisher — one of the top scorers in program history — will sting. But the Spartans have a nice nucleus to build around moving forward, as they look to improve on last season’s one league win. And Garden Spot went into last season with a lot of big expectations. But the Spartans never found their groove. That could change with the return of Gonzalez, a defense-first, dive-on-the-floor kinda kid who can also score in transition. And Stoltzfus is back to patrol the paint. She’s undersized in the middle, but has quick hops to snare boards, blocks shots and get stick-backs. Gensemer also likes Soehner, another kid who can do some damage in the wing/baseline area. And welcome back Usner, another open-court, wing-slasher kid, who is back on the roster after missing the final 10 games last season. Garden Spot isn’t going to replace all of Fisher’s points with one kid; the Spartans will need a balanced, team effort to pick up the slack in the scoring department.
CRYSTAL BALL: There’s not a ton of depth here — and Gensemer pointed that out quickly during the preseason — but the top of the Spartans’ rotation has some experienced, skilled players. If Garden Spot can find some reliable bench kids, they’ll definitely keep everyone honest, especially with Gonzalez digging in on defense, and with Stoltzfus crashing with authority. We won’t put a bigger bull’s-eye on this crew like last year. But that certainly doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be paying attention; Garden Spot will make you earn every ounce.
QUOTABLE: Gensemer — “I’m looking forward to a very competitive Section 3, and I’m anxious to see how this team comes together, with a lot of new faces with the underclassmen. If we can find that depth, and if some of the underclassmen can catch on quickly, it could make for a very interesting season. I love the team camaraderie, and the attitudes to start the season. If that continues, this team will have some success.”
PIAA CLASSIFICATION: Class 5A.
COACH: Tony Fink (8th season; 126-54 overall).
LAST SEASON: 9-4 in Section 3, 17-8 overall (beat Pequea Valley 50-41 in L-L League play-in game; lost to Cedar Crest 43-28 in L-L League quarterfinals; lost to eventual champ Palmyra 41-35 in first round of D3-5A playoffs).
KEY PLAYERS LOST: Emma Gochnauer (15.6, 26 3’s, Section 3 1st-team all-star, 1,466 career points), Haley Phenegar (1.3), Brittany Zameroski (5.3, 15 3’s).
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Emma Drouillard (4.7, 9 3’s), Annabeth Groff (1.3, 3 3’s), Nora Holmes (7.0, 38 3’s, Section 3 honorable mention all-star), Jackie Martin (4.9, 29 3’s), Jackie Shultz (1.3), Olivia Vranich (3.8).
NEWCOMERS TO WATCH: Katie Ranck, Maggie Visniski.
OUTLOOK: First things first, a tip of the cap to Gochnauer, who departed the Pioneers’ program last March as one of the top scorers in school history. She was dynamite, and will be missed. Unfortunately, L-S will also miss glass-crasher and shot-blocker Vranich, who will start the season on the shelf with an ankle issue. She’ll be out for a while, leading Fink to scramble for a full-time post player in Vranich’s absence. But the good news is that the Pioneers are set to return a stable of sharpshooters, including all-star Holmes, Martin, Drouillard and Groff, who can all hit from deep. We’re anxious to see who settles into the lead-guard duties with Gochnauer and Zameroski gone. They were both reliable distributors. Fink is excited about newbies Ranck and Visniski, and with Vranich out, the coach said he might have as many as four underclassmen in his starting lineup on opening night. Stay tuned. Either way, we’re fully expecting L-S to be in this race for the long haul.
CRYSTAL BALL: L-S will have to tread some water in the paint until Vranich is healthy. She’s a matchup nightmare around the glass, and she’s made a prep career out of swatting shots and scoring on stick-backs. The Pioneers will miss her. But there is certainly enough firepower back in the mix for L-S to hold down the fort. With defending champ Solanco in reloading mode, and with Manheim Central still young but coming on strong, the section — we think — is there for L-S to take back. But they’ll have to make shots, defend like crazy, and hang in there on the boards.
QUOTABLE: Fink — “Our expectations, as always, are to compete for the section and league playoffs and for a district-playoff appearance. We have a brutal nonleague schedule that sets up as one of the toughest in District 3 Class 5A. Our young players must grow up fast, and our returning, battle-tested players must play up to expectations. Our girls want to challenge themselves to be better every day.”
MANHEIM CENTRAL BARONS
PIAA CLASSIFICATION: Class 5A.
COACH: Tyson Hayes (1st season).
LAST SEASON: 3-10 in Section 3, 4-18 overall.
KEY PLAYERS LOST: Kamryn Miller (2.3, 5 3’s), Gracie Stoltzfus (0.8).
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Summer Bates (4.2, 10 3’s), Laura Good (12.0, 8 3’s, Section 3 2nd-team all-star), Kassidy Michael (7.0, 5 3’s, Section 3 honorable mention all-star), Leah Minnich (2.0, 4 3’s), Rachel Nolt (7.2, 24 3’s, Section 3 honorable mention all-star), Paige Snyder (4.0).
NEWCOMERS TO WATCH: Addie Doerschuck, Cadence Getz, Maddie Knier, Kaylie Kroll, Abbie Reed, Mia Reed.
OUTLOOK: Welcome aboard, Coach Hayes. You might remember him as a multi-sport athlete at Annville-Cleona, or from his hoops days at Lebanon Valley College. Now, he’s at the helm of the Barons’ ship, and there are plenty of positive vibes in Central’s program. First, because of the return of Good and Michael, a pair of wily vets, floor leaders and — perhaps most importantly — big-sister types who have seen a little bit of everything on the floor. Second, because last season’s successful young nucleus — Bates, Minnich, Nolt, Snyder — have a year under their belts, and they’re ready for more. Nolt had a fantastic breakout ninth-grade season, becoming a go-to wing threat and finisher. Thirdly, Hayes is ready to unleash another pack of young Barons’ pups, including Knier. Remember her name, won’t you. Will there be some more growing pains and some lumps? Probably. But with Good and Michael directing traffic, and all of these newbies getting major minutes, Central will be one to watch. “We will have some players with a lack of varsity experience, who will need to contribute immediately,” Hayes said. “Getting them ready to play at the varsity level, and integrating them with our returning varsity players is certainly a challenge. But also it’s an opportunity for us to improve as a team.” Don’t sleep on Central. You’ve been warned.
CRYSTAL BALL: We’ll go ahead an insert the sleeper tag on the Barons’ backs. Yes, there will be an awful lot of 9th- and 10th-graders on the floor. But they’re a talented bunch with a bright future, so with vets like Good and Michael leading the way, the time is now for Central to make a splash and see what it has moving forward. Just a hunch, but nobody is going to want to play the Barons the second time around the league schedule. If this crew can push for a postseason bid, it would be a big deal in this program.
QUOTABLE: Hayes — “We’re anxious to get the season started, so that our younger players can grow, develop and begin to contribute. I’m most looking forward seeing our players competing and gaining confidence, with their abilities and with each other. Kassidy and Laura are a coach’s dream; they are everything you want your program to be about.”
SOLANCO GOLDEN MULES
PIAA CLASSIFICATION: Class 5A.
COACH: Chad McDowell (6th season; 60-63 overall).
LAST SEASON: 11-2 in Section 3 (champions), 20-8 overall (lost to eventual runner-up Elco 55-38 in L-L League quarterfinals; lost to eventual champ Palmyra 54-51 in OT in D3-5A semifinals; lost to Twin Valley 45-37 in D3-5A 3rd-place game; lost to Mount St. Joseph 49-39 in first round of PIAA-5A state playoffs).
KEY PLAYERS LOST: Aleksa Berger (10.1, 7 3’s, Section 3 1st-team all-star, 900 career points), Jess Cabrera (11.7, 47 3’s, Section 3 MVP, Section 3 1st-team all-star, 1,093 career points), Mackenzie Gladfelter (2.1), Grace Kreider (10.5, 39 3’s, Section 3 1st-team all-star, 857 career points), Kara McClune (3.5, 7 3’s).
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING: Jenna Dombach (5.1, 14 3’s, Section 3 honorable mention all-star), Jade Eshelman (5.2, Section 3 2nd-team all-star), Paige Phillips (4.0, 22 3’s).
OUTLOOK: First, a tip of the cap to that crew in the “key players lost” column. Wow. That’s a lot of points. A lot of 3-pointers. A lot of all-stars (plus a section MVP). And a section championship-winning team that has raised the bar in Quarryville. So what will the Mules do for an encore? McDowell divulged that there are a lot of unknowns as the season-opener approaches. But this we do know: Dombach is a sniper with great range, and after coming off the bench in the earlier part of her career, she’ll need to slide into a starting role and become a consistent, go-to, double-digit scorer. Eshelman had a breakout season in the post last winter, causing all kinds of matchup headaches with her rebounding, shot-blocking and glass-protection abilities. Phillips was instant offense off the bench last season, with terrific pick-and-pop instincts and great range. Like Dombach, she’ll need to play a bigger role this time around. And this good news for the program: Alana Yoder, a backcourt performer with scoring prowess, has returned to the team for her senior season after sitting out last winter. She should also be a nice fit. But there’s a lot of firepower to replace in Quarryville.
CRYSTAL BALL: Is a Section 3 repeat in the cards for Solanco? We’ll never say never with Dombach, Eshelman and Phillips — key cogs from last year’s state-playoff qualifier — back in the fold. But McDowell has some holes to fill, and some newbies will be logging some key varsity minutes in crunch-time games — with that payback bull’s-eye from last season’s success following the Mules around. With a key injury at L-S, and with Manheim Central ready to make some noise, this section could be there for the taking. If Solanco can keep the good vibes going, they very well could be with the lead pack come early February.
QUOTABLE: McDowell — “Coming off of two very successful seasons, we’re looking to continue to build off those successes as we form a new team identity. We’re looking to continue the high expectations and the culture that our program has established, and to continue to move forward.”