THE INEVITABLE was coming. It happens every year. Wyoming Valley West coach George Reimiller just beat everyone to the punch.
You guys know, we were picked to be third or fourth this year, Reimiller said after last Friday's 58-54 victory over Pittston Area. I told my kids from then on ‘You have to be prepared to play every game day in and day out.'
That's what the papers were saying. I think it was the Times Leader.
Sure was. And I was the guy who picked the Spartans – currently atop the Wyoming Valley Conference Division I standings at 7-0 – to finish in third place. And they still could because the second part of the season could have more intrigue than the first seven games. They probably won't finish third, but still could.
Four teams have a chance to make Valley West sweat it out down the stretch. (Remember, there are no first-half and second-half champions anymore).
Hazleton Area (5-2): The Cougars give up a lot of points, especially to teams with winning records. They'll need to shore up the defense to make a run.
Pittston Area (5-2): The Patriots are the surprise team with their top four scorers from last season no longer on the roster. They played Hazleton Area tougher than their 17-point loss would indicate, and a small hiccup led to the loss at Valley West.
Crestwood (4-3): The Comets don't always light up the scoreboard, but they don't let their opponents do it too often. If they can get a little more offense in the paint, they would be much more dangerous.
Tunkhannock (4-3): After finishing 1-6 in their pre-conference schedule, the Tigers were written off as an also-ran. A 31-point loss to Hazleton Area to start conference play didn't help their cause. But since then, their only losses have been 59-54 to Valley West and 52-49 to Pittston Area.
I always do my sport season previews by listing teams in predicted order of finish rather than simply alphabetizing them. It gives readers a better feel for the sport and coaches some motivation material.
Of course, I've never had a coach say, You picked us sixth and we finished sixth. Good job. And Reimiller wasn't mean-spirited with his comment; he was just stating a fact.
But the most important thing Reimiller said was about being prepared because there are four major hurdles awaiting his team.
GAR and Holy Redeemer are within walking distance, yet Tuesday marked the first time the teams played in four seasons.
The Grenadiers and Royals faced each other three times in 2007-08 and once in 2008-09.
Hazleton Area coach Mike Joseph wasn't very pleased with his team's defense in a 76-70 loss to Crestwood last Friday.
We've given up 60, 69 and 76, Joseph said after the loss. Until we commit five guys to rebounding and playing defense …
The Cougars have surrendered 60 or more points seven times this season through 14 games. That's the same amount of times they did in the last two seasons combined – a total of 48 games.
It had been quite awhile since Wyoming Valley West reached at least 90 points until Tuesday's 90-52 victory over Dallas. The last time the Spartans did was in the 2004-05 season – a span of 172 games.
Jason Mikus had 22 points and Kurt Mattes had 19 as Valley West defeated West Side Tech 91-47 eight years and a day prior to Tuesday's victory. The Spartans led Tech 57-31 at halftime.
Next weekend's games in both boys and girls basketball are designated for the Coaches vs. Cancer fundraiser in the WVC and Lackawanna Conference.
The games and other fundraisers raised $72,000 last season. The goal this season is $100,000.
Crestwood's Chris Fazzini is averaging 20.5 points in his last two games. … Pittston Area's Mason Gross hasn't missed a foul shot since Jan. 8 vs. Dallas. … Northwest's Devon Mazonkey scored a season-high 34 last Friday vs. Lake-Lehman. … Hanover Area's Jorge Colon shot 42 free throws in the Hawkeyes first three divisional games, but only 10 in the last three. …
Wyoming Area's Bart Chupka is the only Warriors to score in double digits in all six WVC games. … Holy Redeemer has just one player (Mike Boutanos, 14 vs. Wyoming Area) who scored in double digits in its last three games. prior to Thursday.
Tonight's Wyoming Valley West at Coughlin game will be broadcast by FOX Sports Radio THE GAME at 1340 AM and 100.7 FM.
If you want to check out some action up north, Scranton home games have been available on channel 21 on Comcast.
Overall records do not include any games played Thursday. Number in parentheses is last week's ranking.
1. (1) Meyers…13-1
2. (2) Abington Heights…12-2
3. (3) Scranton…13-2
4. (4) Holy Cross…11-3
5. (5) Mid Valley…13-2
6. (7) Riverside…10-5
7. (8) Scranton Prep…10-5
8. (9) Wyoming Valley West…10-5
9. (6) Delaware Valley…11-4
10. (10) Hazleton Area…9-5
Given consideration: Crestwood (9-6); Dunmore (9-5); Elk Lake (11-3); GAR (8-7); Honesdale (10-4); Old Forge (9-6); Pittston Area (9-6).