LEHMAN TWP. - Don’t look now, but Cayle Spencer’s starting to feel good again.
And that could be bad news for Lake-Lehman’s postseason opponents.
Spencer warmed up for the postseason by burning Nanticoke Area for 33 points Tuesday as Lehman clinched one of the top eight spots - and at least one more home game in its District 2 Class 3A playoff opener - with a 61-44 trouncing of the Trojans.
“We have a home playoff game now,” Spencer said. “And it’s always easier at home.”
Not much has come easy for Spencer lately.
After averaging nearly 22 points through Lehman’s first 11 games, Spencer suffered a deep knee bruise that knocked her off the floor for two weeks.
“Then I got really sick,” Spencer said.
That lingering case of the flu kept her production down, but Spencer started lighting up the scoreboard again as the regular season wound down. She put up 30 points against Wyoming Seminary last week, scored 21 in a mild upset of Hanover Area on Monday finished with a flurry of 33 against Nanticoke Area in the regular season finale at Lehman High School.
“She’s a force, a real force,” Lehman coach Charlie Lavan said. “Right now, it looks like she’s getting back to where she should be. Offensively, she can hit the three, get to the rim, whatever we need.”
Spencer showed all of that in the first half and beyond in Wednesday’s battle for a home playoff berth, consistently driving the lane for overpowering layups - and stepping outside the arc to pop three 3-pointers as the Black Knights stormed out to a 38-22 halftime lead.
That was critical against a Nanticoke Area team known for storming back with late rallies, but the Trojans were stung a bit by the injury bug, too. They were missing sharp-shooting scoring leader Deanna Thomas, who is hoping to be cleared to play when the Trojans open District 2 Class 3A play on the road as the 10th seed next week.
Even without her, Nanticoke Area showed off its comeback ability, chopping a 20-point deficit to 10 points when Gianna Roberts got on a roll while fueling a 12-2 run that lasted two minutes into the fourth quarter.
But Spencer responded with two free throws and a 3-pointer, putting Lehman right at home for the postseason.
“She’s a phenomenal player,” Nanticoke Area coach Alan Yendrzeiwski said. “She can take the ball to the basket and shoot the perimeter jump shot now. She’s that duel threat for them.”
Spencer’s outburst couldn’t have come at a better time for the 9-4 Black Knights, who needed the victory over Nanticoke Area to avoid dropping into an eighth-place tie with 8-5 Honesdale - leaving tiebreaking scenarios to determine if the Black Knights would start the playoffs at home or on the road.
Now they know they’ll be back in their own gym for the first round of districts.
“We talked about it for weeks,” Spencer said. “The support from your family and friends and just the atmosphere’s a lot different at home.”
“You feel much more comfortable, and we definitely have a home court advantage,” Lavan said. “We play better on our home court. Plus, there’s the atmosphere - great atmosphere.”
The only mystery remaining for the Black Knights is who they’ll face.
Lehman finished in a tie for sixth place with Meyers and Abington Heights, and will rely on the District 2 seedings meeting to determine where they’ll be seeded and who they’ll welcome for their playoff opener. Depending on where the chips fall, Lehman could be awaiting a rematch with Nanticoke Area.
“We knew we were going to be on the road for districts,” Yendrzeiwski said. “We might be back here next week.”
At least they both know they’re in.
After finishing in the bottom fifth of the Class 3A bracket, a few WVC teams will try to play their way into the District 2 playoffs this weekend.
Tunkhannock, which finished 1-13 in WVC play, will face Valley View at 6 p.m. Saturday. At the same time, 3-13 Wyoming Area will play 1-13 Coughlin in a girls-boys home doubleheader for the Warriors in a rematch of a preseason showdown won by Coughlin.
“I’m really looking forward to getting a second chance to right some of the wrongs in that game,” Wyoming Area coach Ryan Kennedy said. “I’m excited to have a home game to make the playoffs. It gives us a chance to win one more game at home.”
Lake-Lehman 61, Nanticoke 44
NANTICOKE (44) – Riley Klepaldo 1 0-0 3, Amber Grohowski 1 0-0 2, Abbey Zaykoski 2 0-0 6, Heidi Kile 2 2-4 6, Gianna Roberts 6 1-2 15, Cassie Novakowski 2 4-6 8, Chaquanna Zendarski 1 0-0 2, Kayla Auferio 0 0-0 0, Kiera Brown 0 0-0 0, Riley Dunn 1 0-0 2, Alexis Pyzia 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 7-11 44.
LAKE-LEHMAN (61) – Danae Sutliff 5 1-2 11, Cayle Spencer 13 3-6 33, Miranda Pace 2 1-2 5, Amy Williams 0 0-0 0, Emily Sutton 4 2-4 10, Julie Eneboe 1 0-0 2, Devin Lindley 0 0-0 0, Molly Storz 0 0-0 0, Katie Bartuska 0 0-0 0, Janelle Cawley 0 0-0 0. Totals 25 7-14 61.
Three-point goals – NAN 5 (Zaykoski 2, Roberts 2, Klepadlo); LL 4 (Spencer 4).