After clipping Athens in the final minute Saturday in Williamsport, Holy Redeemer advances to play the team that ended Nanticoke’s season last year.
Villa Maria, the District 1 champion, is known to the area as a field hockey nemesis. The Hurricanes are also a girls basketball roadblock, having shut out the Trojanettes in the second quarter of their game last season — also in the second round of the state tournament.
But the Hurricanes team that the Royals face in today’s 6 p.m. PIAA Class 3A quarterfinal at Freedom High School in Bethlehem is not the same one that stunned Nanticoke a year ago. Sure, Villa Maria won the District 1 crown for a third consecutive season. And this is the Hurricanes’ 12th straight trip to the state playoffs.
Even so, only one starter is back from last season — 5-foot-9 guard Lisa Mirarchi. The lone senior starter is Villa’s top scorer this season, a campaign that featured her 1,000th career point.
The rest of the Hurricanes lineup is juniors, ranging in size from 5-5 guard Devon Tirney to 5-11 Jackie Carlin and 5-11 Mora Fetterolf. Carlin is also a main scoring option for Villa, as is 5-10 guard Molly Namiotka.
The Hurricanes are not know for their scoring, though. Villa is built on defense, as evidenced by its ability to hold opponents under 30 points in 11 of its 27 games. Just once this season did a team put up more than 45 points on the Hurricanes (by comparison, the Royals scored at least 57 points in 11 games, while holding four opponents to less than 30 points).
The teams have one common opponent in Allentown Central Catholic. Villa defeated ACC 39-25 on Jan. 5. Three weeks later, ACC downed the Royals 49-35.
Holy Redeemer is led by standout forward Alexis Lewis, who’s averaging 21 points per game during the postseason. Alyssa Platko is netting 10 points in the last three playoff tilts, mainly in the paint, and Alana Wilson is putting up nine per game in the same stretch.
“When (someone) isn’t doing so well, we’re right there trying to pick her up,” Wilson said of the improved production throughout the lineup.
Contributions from players off the bench could be the difference today. Redeemer went eight deep against Athens, with seniors Sara Warnagiris and Brianne Frascella filling key minutes. First off the bench was sophomore guard Chelsea Skrepenak.
ALSO ON TAP: If you didn’t get your fill of basketball Tuesday — the closest high school games were in Pottsville — there are more opportunities to take in games tonight.
If you go down to Bethlehem to watch the Royals bid for a spot in the girls quarterfinals, they will be followed by District 2 Class 2A boys champion Holy Cross. The Crusaders will play Delaware Valley Charter, the fifth-place team from District 12, in the nightcap at Freedom High.
Pottsville’s Martz Hall will host a doubleheader for a second straight day, as Scranton Prep, the District 2 runner-up, will meet District 3 champ Palmyra, one of the favorites for a state title, at 6 p.m. They will be followed by Class 4A boys play featuring District 4 champ Williamsport and state-power Chester, the District 1 winner.
Hazleton Area High will have two District 2 champions in action as Class A Old Forge plays District 11’s top team, Tri Valley, at 6 p.m., with Honesdale meeting District 11 Class 3A titlist Bethlehem Catholic.