The second season awaits a handful of Centre County basketball teams.
The District 6 playoffs open Monday night, with three teams ready to tip off their postseason dreams. Two more teams get started Tuesday, and two others will have to wait another week, all with dreams of a district title and a chance at a state championship.
While some teams will be battling for the first time, or for a rare meeting, the first two teams to tangle will be extremely familiar with one another and have a fairly thorough scouting report.
The Penns Valley and Philipsburg-Osceola girls kick off the postseason with a 6 p.m. contest at Huntingdon High School — a mere four days since they met in Spring Mills in a Mountain League game.
“Getting a peek at them before we play them will help us,” Lady Rams coach Karen McCaffrey said Thursday night after her team’s 62-51 win. “We know what we have to do a little differently on Monday.”
The game is the first of a Penns Valley doubleheader in the Class AA first round. The boys will step on the court in Huntingdon at about 7:30 p.m. to meet Bishop McCort. The Rams are the No. 3 seed in the bracket, while the Crimson Crushers are seeded 14th.
On Tuesday, St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy will get a taste of the district playoffs for the first time as the No. 10 seed in Class A, meeting No. 7 Glendale at 7:30 p.m. at Bishop Carroll High School in Ebensburg.
Meanwhile, at Tyrone Middle School, No. 15 Bald Eagle Area will face second-seeded West Branch in a first round Class AA matchup.
For the Lady Rams and Lady Mounties, familiarity will certainly play a role. The Lady Mounties saw two tough aspects of Penns Valley’s game they will have to neutralize.
The Lady Rams rebound very well, even if the lineup is on the smaller size. They also have very balanced scoring. In Thursday’s game, four girls hit double figures in points, meaning P-O can’t focus on just one or two girls.
“They screen well, they cut well,” Lady Mounties coach Doug Myers said after Thursday’s loss. “We’ve just got to speed our game up. I think we’re a little bit slower than they are. They move fast and pass the ball sharp. We have to figure out a way to do things a little bit faster.”
“Everybody on the team can score,” McCaffrey said, “which makes it tough to key on one or two of them, because they all have the capability to put it in the hoop — not only our starters but even our bench. Balanced scoring, we’ve had that all year long.”
P-O does have a little size inside, but their biggest advantage is a pair of speedy, athletic guards in senior Abby Showers and sophomore Haylee Hayward. The duo combined for 39 points in that game on Thursday, and had 49 of the team’s 61 points in a loss to Central to close the regular season Friday.
No matter what, the plan is to survive and advance.
The winners Monday and Tuesday head to the quarterfinals later this week. Either the Lady Rams or Lady Mounties will face No. 3 Tyrone, while the Rams or Crushers will face either No. 6 Bellwood-Antis or No. 11 Penn Cambria in the quarterfinals.
The winner between No. 7 Juniata and No. 10 Ligonier Valley awaits BEA if it wins, and No. 2 Homer Center will be the quarterfinal opponent for St. Joseph’s if the Wolves earn their first district playoff win in the young program’s history.
While both have completed their regular-season schedules, State College’s girls’ and boys’ teams will have to wait a little while to learn its bracket and play a game. The Class AAAA schedules will be announced Thursday, with the first games in the semifinals to be played likely Monday.