MERCER CO. ATHLETIC CONFERENCE
Commodore Perry (A) Schedule/season preview
Greenville (AA) Schedule/season preview
Grove City (AAA) Schedule/season preview
Hickory (AAA) Schedule/season preview
Kennedy Catholic (A) Schedule/season preview
Mercer (AA) Schedule/season preview
Reynolds (AA) Schedule/season preview
Sharon (AAA) Schedule/season preview
Sharpsville (AA) Schedule/season preview
Slippery Rock (AAA) Schedule/season preview
West Middlesex (A) Schedule/season preview
Wilmington (AA) Schedule/season preview
WPIAL SECTION 1
Farrell Schedule/season preview
FRENCH CREEK VALLEY CONFERENCE
Jamestown Schedule/season preview
Lakeview Schedule/season preview
TRUMBULL ATHLETIC CONFERENCE-8
Brookfield Schedule/Season preview
Hubbard Schedule/Season preview
Published Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2002
Changes seen in girls hoops
By The Herald Sports Staff
New coaches, Darlings'shift part of '02-'03
Along with blanketing the area with the customary ice and snow, the cold December gusts blowing through western Pennsylvania are ushering in the start of a girls basketball season that promises to be one of opportunity for many unlikely teams, as change and uncertainty are abound in the Mercer County Athletic Conference.
A pair of new coaches, District 10's biannual enrollment review and re-classification, and a number of rebuilding teams should lend parity to the 2002-03 campaign, as the bulk of league crowns and playoff berths are likely to be fiercely grappled over until season's end.
In the wide-open triple-A division, the two teams that slugged it out for the top spot a year ago -- Sharon and Grove City -- seek to replace significant graduation losses, while Sharon also brings in a new coach, Maureen O'Brian, to replace 9-year taskmaster Mary Jo Staunch. Expected rebuilding years for Grove City and Sharon present a precious opportunity for postseason play for both Hickory and Slippery Rock, the latter hoping to sneak into a playoff berth.
Hickory is the consensus favorite in AAA, as six letterwinners return from a year ago including promising sophomores Deandra Evans and Cheré Marshall. But the Hornettes face questions of their own, the foremost of which is whether Jeanette Whitehead's talented but inexperienced corps can mature quickly enough to carry them through the pressure-cooker of conference and postseason play.
Intrigue and uncertainty surrounds the MCAC's AA circuit, which adds a wild card in Sharpsville to a deck already stacked with solid teams, a move that seems certain to shake up the league's playoff picture.
Last season, in mentor Jeff Hanley's inaugural campaign, the Blue Darlings erased a 4-61 three-year mark by posting a 13-13 ledger and patching together an improbable postseason run that finally concluded in the first round of the PIAA playoffs. Returning most if its starters, this year Sharpsville will find out if it has what it takes to compete in a very difficult MCAC-AA league that includes a highly-regarded Reynolds entry that will feature a quintet of 11th-graders getting significant playing time to complement lone senior Heather Miller.
Meanwhile, Greenville must find a way to replace the leadership and scoring of its seven departed seniors, and second-year coach Mike Murray is likely to employ a balanced, rotating lineup in order to compensate for the deficiencies created by graduation.
Art Amos, former baseball coach at Mercer, returns to take over the reins of Lady M's hoops in an attempt to bolster interest in the program. Another coach seeking to build up a program is Katy DeMedal of Wilmington, who hopes her club's veteran nucleus is able to block out the painful memories of last year's 4-20 record. Led by senior pivot Kylie Mackaness, the Lady Hounds hope to field a competitive club and take a big step up for the future of Wilmington girls basketball.
One conference title that should not present any surprises is the single-A crown, as the Lady Golden Eagles of Kennedy Catholic should once again assume their customary perch at the top of MCAC-A. Also, in single-A, Commodore Perry has its sights set on an at-large playoff invitation, but will certainly not accomplish its goal without stiff opposition from Butch Garrett's West Middlesex Ms. Reds, who also are trying to rebound from a disappointing year.
In the French Creek Valley Conference, injuries could be Lakeview's most threatening adversary, as the Lady Sailors have just 11 players on their roster to open the season. Jamestown is similarly short-handed, but must also adjust to the program's third coach in as many years, Kevin Reese, who takes over a program that was winless a year ago. He is hoping that instilling a unified mentality will be the key to unlocking the Lady Muskies' success.
In WPIAL Section 1, the Farrell Steelerettes of coach Ed Turosky seek to return to respectability after last year's difficult 3-19 season, and Farrell is looking to build on the winning spirit ingrained in a number of the Steelerettes who have tasted PIAA gold playing for coach Harriett Morrison's volleyball squad.
In the Trumbull Athletic Conference, Brookfield coach Tim Filipovich's emphasis will be on fundamentals as he steers his Lady Warriors back on track after an uncharacteristic sub-.500 season. Dave Konczal's Hubbard Lady Eagles, however, should compete for the TAC-8 crown, fueled by 10 returning upperclassmen.
Regardless of league or classification, 2002-03 is a season of opportunity. But in sports as in life, opportunity is as fleeting as it is appealing, and only those teams able to play their best consistently and more importantly, in crucial conference play, will advance to the postseason. In the playoffs, a lucky few will be presented with the most tantalizing and elusive of all opportunities -- the chance to play for a state crown. -- By Russell Adkins, sports writer
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