Dallas girls basketball coach Kelly Johnson never embraced the term “rebuilding year.”
With 10 freshmen and sophomores on a roster of 15 players a year after winning the Wyoming Valley Conference Division 1 championship, Johnson didn’t want her team thinking it lacked the potential for success during the 2013-14 season.
The Mountaineers improved as the season went on, winning their final three regular-season games and staying within five points of higher-seeded Abington Heights on the road until the final 5:01 of the District 2 Class AAA tournament game before having their season come to an end Feb. 20.
Caitie Nealon scored the first nine points of a 13-point streak in the fourth quarter to carry Abington Heights to a 42-26 victory.
“I do like the progress that I saw,” Johnson said. “I think the preseason polls had us ranked seventh (in Division 1) coming into the season.
“I knew we were better than seventh.”
The Mountaineers lost their first three games by a total of 69 points and started 3-8. They managed to win half of their division games, finishing fifth out of eight teams with a 7-7 record on the way to a 10-13 overall mark.
“We knew what we were returning and we knew how hard the kids worked over the summer and into the fall,” Johnson said. “We knew we were young and lacked experience, but we knew we still had potential to do some things.
“ … We didn’t want it to be called a rebuilding year.”
Dallas did manage to make the future look bright because of the contributions of young players to the varsity and the performance of the others on the junior varsity level. The ability to improve during the season, however, was a credit to the leadership of their more experienced teammates.
“We had four seniors who have been playing basketball for years,” Johnson said of Samantha Missal, Maggie Michael, Steph Cybulski and West Chester University recruit Katy Comitz. “They were good role models, good leaders and good teammates.
“I’m really proud of them. We had no drama this season and that was a direct reflection of our seniors.”
Comitz led Dallas in points (11), rebounds (12) and steals (three) in the season finale. Michael added eight points.
Abington Heights made the most of a height advantage while holding a 50-29 rebounding advantage, reminding Dallas that there is still work to do on the season-long issues with boxing out as the team moves forward.
All four Back Mountain teams had their seasons come to an end in the first week of the District 2 playoffs.
Lake-Lehman earned the home-court advantage to open the playoffs but landed a tough draw and lost to two-time defending champion Honesdale, 61-53, in another first-round Class AAA game.
Katie Miller (17), Stacey Hart (12), Morgan Birmelin (11) and Amber Watkins (10) all scored in double figures for Honesdale, which opened a 32-25 lead in the first half.
Cayle Spencer led Lake-Lehman with 23 points. Emily Sutton added 19.
Sutton shot 7-for-14 from the floor and 4-for-4 from the line in her final game with the Black Knights. She also grabbed a team-high nine rebound.
Spencer had eight rebounds while Danae Sutliff added five rebounds and a team-high four steals.
Steven Wempa hit four 3-pointers but Dallas was unable to dig out from an 18-point halftime deficit while having its season end in the Class AAA quarterfinals Feb. 21 with a 76-61 loss to GAR at Holy Redeemer High School in Wilkes-Barre.
WVC Division 2 champion GAR hit nine 3-pointers, including get four each from Isaiah Francis, who scored 24 points, and James Holmes.
Allen Fell matched Wempa for the team lead with 16 points while also grabbing 11 rebounds. Suk Mathon had eight points and 18 rebounds and Chad DeBona had 11 points.
Dallas, which knocked off Holy Redeemer in the opening round, finished 10-14.
The Black Knights suffered a similar fate, falling behind by 18 at the half of a quarterfinal game with top-seeded Abington Heights after winning an opening-round game at West Scranton.
Abington Heights, the Lackawanna League Division 1 champion, rolled to a 68-36 victory at Scranton Prep’s Xavier Center.
Bucknell recruit J.C. Show scored 23 points, becoming the all-time leading scorer at Abington Heights in the process, with more than 1,850 points.
Pete Borum had 13 points and six rebounds for the Black Knights.
Lake-Lehman finished 12-12.