Hello, basketball season.
Hoops practice officially started last Friday, and most L-L League girls basketball outfits are back in the gym — following coronavirus protocols while getting their campaigns started. There are a few random schools that pushed the start of winter practice back a week or so, and that’s OK; there will be no games before Dec. 11, so everyone has time. And now, more than ever, safety is the top priority.
The league announced last week that the head-to-head section games won’t begin until the first full week of January, but that teams can start scheduling nonleague games on the first PIAA play-date, which is Dec. 11.
We should have everyone’s master schedules punched into our database in the very near future. Stay tuned. The league also recommended that teams schedule 17 games this winter — down from the usual max 22. Don’t be surprised if some teams book more than 17 games, in case there are postponements or even cancellations moving forward. Brace yourselves; it’s probably going to happen at some point.
Safe to say that no matter what the schedules look like — the league said it will tackle any potential playoff brackets at a later date — this season will look mighty different than usual. Expect smaller crowds because of protocols and mandates. Expect postponements. Expect make-up games. Expect tip-off and holiday tournaments to be bagged or even switched up on the fly. In short, expect the unexpected. But here’s the silver lining: The L-L League, PIAA and District 3 have green-lighted practice and a season, so the kids will get to play.
Some L-L League girls basketball notables to get you set for the 2020-21 season …
* When we last left the local girls basketball scene, three teams were still alive back in March: Section 4 rivals Lancaster Catholic and Northern Lebanon were slated to play in the PIAA Class 4A state quarterfinals, and back-to-back District 3 Class 2A champ Linden Hall — which is set to join the L-L League in 2022 — was set to play Mahanoy Area in the state quarterfinals. And then along came COVID-19, and after waiting out a long postponement, the PIAA finally pulled the plug on the season on April 9. And that was that. No state quarterfinals. And, sadly, no spring sports across the board.
FYI: Linden Hall senior Mercy Ademusayo made a verbal commitment to Northwestern University in the B1G. … Ademusayo and Lancaster Mennonite senior Mariah Wilson, who committed to Towson University in the Colonial Athletic Association, are returning all-state picks from last season.
* Say hello to three new coaches: Alex Stam at Octorara, Will Wenninger at Cedar Crest and Matthew Warner at Donegal. … Stam played prep hoops for Cardinal O’Hara before a college career at Millersville, and she recently served as an assistant for the Marauders. … Wenninger is back for his second stint at Cedar Crest, and he inherits a team with a lot of returning firepower. … Warner is a York County guy who has a lot of coaching experience at the AAU level.
* Returning talent aplenty this season, with 24 league all-stars — including 12 first-team picks — and one reigning section MVP due back. Here’s the list …
Section 1 first-team: Reese Glover, Cedar Crest; Morgan Miller, Penn Manor … Section 1 second-team: Sarah Laney, Cedar Crest; Lily Sugra, Penn Manor; Jess Weinoldt, Hempfield … Section 2 first-team: Giahny Correa, Lebanon; Elise Hassinger, Elizabethtown; Lauren Pyle, Warwick; Ainsley Raybold, Elizabethtown … Section 2 second-team: Jasmine Griffin, Ephrata; Jess Williamson, Warwick … Section 3 first-team: Hannah Custer, Cocalico; Emma Drouillard, Lampeter-Strasburg; Maddie Knier, Manheim Central (Section 3 MVP) … Section 3 second-team: Jade Eshelman, Solanco; Izzy Mack, Cocalico; Kiersten Shipton, Cocalico; Nikki Trout, Solanco … Section 4 first-team: Katelyn Rueppel, Elco; Amanda Smith, Elco … Section 4 second-team: Kailey Eckhart, Elco; Naomi Zulueta, Lancaster Catholic … Section 5 first-team: Mariah Wilson, Lancaster Mennonite … Section 5 second-team: MacKenzie Burke, Columbia.
* All four section Coaches of the Year are back: Hempfield’s Kendra Merrifield; Ephrata’s Brian Cerullo; Solanco’s Chad McDowell; Elco’s Ashli Shay; and Lancaster Country Day’s Hilary Waltman.
* It doesn’t look like this will be a grand season for 1,000-point scorers. And hey, that’s cool. First, because a lot of teams — fingers crossed — are only going to play 17 games, and nobody can say for sure what the playoff brackets will look like. Second, because there aren’t many L-L League players closing in on 1,000 points. … One current player is already in the 1,000-point club: Lancaster Mennonite senior Mariah Wilson is at 1,358 career points; Wilson needs 295 points to snap Missy Hostetter’s program record. … There are four current players with 600-plus career points: Lebanon senior Giahny Correa (853), Warwick senior Lauren Pyle (639), Elco senior Amanda Smith (639) and Cocalico senior Hannah Custer (619). … Correa (147 points shy of a grand) is probably the only safe bet to hit the milestone this winter. We’ll monitor and update.
* Two names to remember: Columbia ninth-grade twin sisters Brie and Brooke Droege. Can’t wait to see those two up on the hill. I have a feeling I’ll be typing their names a ton over the next four years.
* This change: Octorara asked the league if it could shift from Section 4 to Section 5 this season, and the L-L obliged. The Braves will join Annville-Cleona, Columbia, Lancaster Country Day, Lancaster Mennonite and Pequea Valley for a 6-team section. Of course, Section 5 was down a team after Lebanon Catholic closed its doors last spring. Section 5 teams will not play crossover games, just head-to-head section games. … Section 4 now consists of Donegal, Elco, Lancaster Catholic and Northern Lebanon — just a 4-team section. Those teams will have crossover games vs. Section 3, and can tack on extra nonleague games to fill out their schedules — again, down to a recommended 17 max this winter. ... FYI: Octorara's boys' team will remain in Section 4.