Last updated: February 20. 2013 3:55AM - 325 Views

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We're at the point where first-half champs would be congratulated and teams would start Wyoming Valley Conference play with a clean slate.

Instead, the halves have been tossed aside and the season carries on. While Wyoming Valley West and Pittston Area played for one divisional championship, and Lake-Lehman and Nanticoke squared off for another last season after each won half-season titles, this season teams simply march on toward the District 2 tournament.

It changes the coaching dynamic for many of the bench bosses in the WVC, who don't get to wipe away a deficit in the standings or those in first place who can't relax because they've already clinched something.

Perhaps no team made the most of the change of season during the 2011-12 campaign than Hazleton Area. The Cougars had a losing record in the first half, but stormed to a 4-0 start in the second. They finished in second place in Division I in the second half of last season, erasing the memory of a start where they lost 10 of their first 12 games.

This season, Hazleton Area has 10 wins and is in the thick of the Division I race – which is loaded with quality teams.

Here's a look at where teams stand heading into the defacto second half:

Division I

Dallas leads the division with a balanced squad. The Mountaineers have had five different leading scorers in their last five games through Friday, with three of those players posting career highs this month (Tanner Englehart 18 vs. Hazleton Area, Talia Szatkowski 28 vs. Valley West, and Jess Hiscox 21 vs. Crestwood).

Pittston Area, another contender for the division just a game behind Dallas, faces the Mountaineers on Thursday.

It feels good (to lead the division), Dallas coach Kelly Johnson said last week. However, we have some very tough teams ahead of us. Anything can happen.

The Patriots and Crestwood sit a game back. Mia Hopkins is the league's top scorer, but Pittston Area is getting key secondary scoring from Liz Waleski, who averaged 15.3 points in her first six games this month. Allie Barber (11.1 points per game) helps make gadget defenses wither against the Patriots.

Pittston Area's depth – Eastin Ashby, Jackie Rabender, Ali Brady and Cales Owens all contribute offensively -- makes them the league's top scoring club at 60.3 points per outing. Nobody has held the Patriots below 48 points this season.

Crestwood, second in the WVC in three-pointers (4.6 per game), also boasts a potent 1-2 punch inside with Sydney Myers and Rebecca Rutkowski, who combine for about 28 points per night.

He has so many good players there, Johnson said of Isiah Walker's Comets. They can shoot the lights out some nights.

Hazleton Area and Wyoming Valley West have fallen back to two games behind Dallas.The Cougars are starting to get healthy, as Keanna Schoennagle and Briannie Silva have returned to the rotation.

We're a different team at home, Hazleton Area coach Joe Gavio said after a loss at Valley West. In this division, you've got to come to play every game.

Center Olivia Hoffman has been dominant recently for Wyoming Valley West, averaging 17.4 points in her last five games – including 30 against Dallas.

She's a player who is going aggressively to the basket and rebounding great, Valley West coach Paul Appel said. Her dedication has shown through.

Taylor Montana's career-best 16 points against Pittston Area on Thursday points to a bright future for Berwick, as the freshman is second on the Bulldogs in scoring. Berwick remains the WVC's top defensive team, something coach Bill Phillips' teams are known for.

Senior Kanesha Bonner has emerged as a key contributor for Tunkhannock, averaging 9.0 points in her last four games after going for 3.7 in her first 11 tilts.

Coughlin remains winless, but the freshmen class has contributed 59 percent of the team's points this season.

Division II

Holy Redeemer travels to Nanticoke today for a game with division title implications.

The Trojanettes are the only unbeaten team in WVC play. While some of the faces remain the same from last year's state tourney team, Heidi Kile had become an additional threat for opponents to consider. The junior is averaging 12.3 points in her last four games – including a career-high 20 against Hanover Area last week.

With four other players in double figures for three-point scoring – paced by WVC leader Kayley Schinski's 33 – Nanticoke remains dangerous inside and out.

The Royals have had six players (Alexis Lewis 29 vs. Wyoming Area, Alana Wilson 18 vs. Hanover Area, Brianne Frascella 10 vs. Wyoming Seminary, Lydia Lawson 5 vs. Hanover Area, Chelsea Skrepenak 11 vs. Hanover Area and Kayla Hons 5 vs. Wyoming Seminary) all set career highs in the past two weeks, indicating the team has more to offer than just Lewis' 19.7 points per game.

Lurking nearby is Lake-Lehman, just two games behind Nanticoke with games at Redeemer and Nanticoke still on its schedule.

Known for Cayle Spencer and Emily Sutton (a combined 33.7 points), Danae Sutliff has emerged as yet another scoring threat, posting games of 25, 12 and 16 in the past three weeks to raise her average to 8.4 per game.

Sophomore Salimah Biggs is averaging 13.3 points during the month of January for Meyers.

Wyoming Area welcomed Val Bott back to the lineup, as the senior posted 12 points in her first three games back for the Warriors.

Division III

Thursday, Feb. 7, looks like the biggest day of the season in this division.

Second place Hanover Area travels to GAR, the division leader. The teams are currently separated by a game in the standings.

But a lot can happen between now and then.

The Grenadiers have already exceeded last season's win total, as they are one of eight teams averaging at least 50 points per game.

Brea Seabrook (17.2 ppg in last five games) and Marena Spence (12.8 ppg in last five games) have helped coach Hattie Caruso's team improve its offense by 15 points per game this season.

A young Hanover Area squad has continued to battle through the long season and older opponents.

Freshmen Haylee Bobos (15.4 ppg in last five games) and Asdone Hooper (14.0 ppg in last four games) continue to lead the Hawkeyes' offense.

Gabbie Volpetti has scored nearly 50 percent of Wyoming Seminary's points. The Blue Knights are 2-1 when a second player reaches double figures in scoring, and 0-9 when they don't have two player net at least 10.

Gabriella Lobitz is back for MMI Prep, adding depth for the stretch run. The Preppers have had only six players take the floor for more than half of their games.

The outside shooting of Kelsey Yustat and Brina Sotelo has helped Northwest into the win column. The Rangers have 17 threes in their last seven games, after making 13 in their first eight.


Individual player stats are shown at left, while WVC standings and leaders are below. All stats are from games reported to The Times Leader through Friday.

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