Girls basketball all-stars: Makowski made the difference for Crestwood

By Paul Sokoloski - [email protected]
Aimee Dilger | Times Leader Julia Makowski did it all for Crestwood, leading the team in points, rebounds and steals — not to mention a WVC Division 1 girls basketball title and on trips to the school’s first District 2 title and state playoff appearance in 34 years. - Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

The Crestwood Comets weren’t supposed to win this big, let alone challenge history.

Somewhere deep in her heart, though, Julia Makowski just knew they could.

The leader of an undersized but over-achieving team had her sights set on success long before the Comets accomplished the school’s second-ever District 2 championship game and state playoff apperances and she wasn’t going to fall short of attaining them.

Other talented players in Crestwood’s recent history had similar dreams dashed in the past.

Makowski just wouldn’t stop until she made them come true.

“Every game, I knew what roles I had and what needed to be done for us to accomplish what we wanted this season,” Makowski said.

The 5-foot-5 senior guard did just about everything for Crestwood on her way to becoming the Times Leader girls basketball player of the year.

She took the Comets to the Wyoming Valley Conference Division 1 title, to their first district title game and Crestwood’s first PIAA playoff game in 34 years while fighting through double teams and gimmick defenses to score in double figures in all 26 games.

“It was a lot of hard work,” the daughter of Stanley and Linda Makowski of Wapwallopen said. “There were three people on me at some points in games. I needed to work hard to get open.

“I just had it in mind that I knew I needed to score for our team to be successful.”

Score she did, as Makowski averaged 21.5 points while leading the Comets to a 12-4 league record and their first WVC title in five years.

But it was more than her ability to put the ball in the basket that separated Makowski as a difference-maker.

“She led the team not only in scoring, but in rebounding and in steals,” Crestwood coach Ed Stepanski said. “She was second on our team in assists and, as a defensive player, I don’t know how many games she shut down the top scorer on the other team.

“Oh, she was huge.”

Her big numbers — scoring the 1,000th point of her high school career to go with her 227 rebounds (nine per game) and 68 steals — didn’t come by accident.

“It was just her overall hustle,” Stepanski said. “When she played, she’d never stop, really. She’d miss a shot, chase it down, get her own rebound and score. And she was able to play inside and outside.”

Makowski showed that by hitting 29 3-point field goals during the league season, shooting 76 percent from the foul line and doing some of her best work while dashing through the paint.

She scored 18 points in a district semifinal victory over Wyoming Valley West to put the Comets in a District 2 final for the first time since 1984 and second time in school history. She scored a team-high 10 points in a District 2 Class 5A championship loss to Scranton and finished with 16 points in a nail-biting first-round state playoff loss to Susquehannock.

Despite that personal success, the team goals were what drove Makowski and that shared success made for the fondest memories of her illustrious career.

“We had a goal in mind — it was definitely (making) the district championship game and the state playoffs,” said Makowski, who will head to play for Arcadia next season after carrying a 4.2 GPA at Crestwood. “It wasn’t talked about, but we all knew what we wanted. Everyone worked toward that. The group of girls and class we had this season, it was just a special group.

“It was a memory that was a great way to end my high school basketball career with.”

TIMES LEADER FIRST-TEAM ALL-STARS

JULIA ANDREJKO

Holy Redeemer

5-9 Jr. F

The steady and versatile ballhandler shook off a late-season concussion to put up 13 points and eight rebounds per game as a key contributor to a Royals team that won the Wyoming Valley Conference Division 2 title for its ninth league championship in 10 years. She scored a team-high 20 points in a district semifinal victory over Holy Cross that put Redeemer into the District 2 title game for the third time in four seasons. Andrejko added five assists, three steals and a blocked shot per game while helping the Royals a 23-5 record. She hit 26 3-point field goals while helping the Royals reach the second round of the PIAA playoffs for a sixth straight season.

BRENNA BABCOCK

Northwest

5-6 Jr. G

The spunky Class 2A third-team all-state scorer put up 418 points, including her career 1,000th, as the leading scorer for a Rangers team that made the school’s first District 2 Class 2A championship game and PIAA playoff appearances. She finished with 88 steals and 83 assists as the key weapon on a team that won the WVC Division 2 title for a second straight year. Babcock scored 22 points against Mountain View in the District 2 semifinals to secure a spot in Northwest’s first district title game. She shot 52 percent from the floor for the season and made 20 of her 61 attempts from 3-point range.

SARAH HOLWEG

Wyoming Area

5-6 Sr. G

The West Chester recruit had another banner season, finishing her splendid high school career with a school-record 1,560 points. The Class 4A third-team all-state guard averaged 15.9 points as a natural point guard-turned prolific scorer, despite sacrificing some points to get more production from her teammates. It worked, as Wyoming Area ran off a school-record 11-game winning streak to start the season. Holweg buried 28 3-point goals in the regular season, and her shooting ability showed up one last time in the Battle of the Valley girls all-star game with a game-high 27 points.

SARA HOPKINS

Crestwood

5-4 Sr. G

The heady point guard was the engine that made the Comets go, and she helped them go all the way to the District 2 Class 5A finals and to their first state playoff game in 34 years. Hopkins averaged 11.8 points as Crestwood’s second-leading scorer and showed a penchant for popping 3-pointers at critical moments. Bbut her real value came at creating opportunities for the rest of the Comets. Her drive and kick penetration kept opposing coaches awake at night, and her ability to break down pressure defenses hyad Crestwood off and running to a WVC Division 1 championship and into a historical season.

REESE MENSINGER

Berwick

5-6 Sr. G

The King’s College-bound scorer used a marksman’s aim lead the Bulldogs to back-to-back state playoff appearances for the first time in 20 years. Mensinger scored her 1,000th career point this season and led the WVC by averaging 21.8 points through 15 regular-season games. She hit 37 3-point field goals and shot 85 percent from the foul line. Mensinger scored a game-high 19 points in the District 2 Class 4A third-place game as Berwick earned a second straight state berth, and wound up as the only player to average double figures on a team that won 20 games for a second straight year.

MADDIE MROCHKO

Hazleton Area

5-7 Sr. G

One of the deadliest outside shooters in the league, Mrochko finished with 29 3-point field goals while pacing a balanced scoring attack. The steady guard averaged 16.6 points per game for a Cougars team that captured the District 2 Class 6A title and was the only squad from the WVC to win district gold this season. Mrochko had a big hand in that, as she buried five 3-pointers and finished with 23 points to lead Hazleton Area’s victory over Williamsport in the District 2 semifinals. With one of the last shots of her career, Mrochko also went over 1,000 points for her career in the state playoffs.

ALEXA NOONE

Pittston Area

5-8 Sr. G

The hot-shooting leader was the spark behind Pittston Area’s late-season run that made the Patriots a threat in the District 2 Class 5A playoffs. Noone led the WVC with a whopping 86 3-point field goals and averaged 20.1 points and led Pittston Area to five victories in its last six regular-season games — including one over Division 2 champ Holy Redeemer and another that knocked Hazleton Area out of the running for a Division 1 title. Noone was just as deadly at the foul line, where she shot 85 percent, and her determination helped the Patriots reach the district quarterfinals.

LISA RADZIAK

Nanticoke Area

5-2 Sr. G

Despite being smothered by defenses designed to stop her and giving away more than a few inches to players trying to cover her, Radziak had the Trojanettes rocking again. Her game was built arond the 3-point line, where Radziak found enough room to drill 82 3-pointers — including a career-high seven in a victory over Lake-Lehman — while averaging 14.1 points. She took the Trojanettes on a 17-game winning streak, into a second straight District 2 Class 4A title appearance and to the state playoffs for a third straight season.

SAM YENCHA

Holy Redeemer

5-11 So. C

The big girl in the middle for Holy Redeemer made sure the Royals kept doing big things. Redeemer’s versatile center averaged 14.5 points and 10 rebounds per game while paving a path to the WVC Division 2 title, the school’s ninth league title in 10 years. But points and prowess in the paint were only part of Yencha’s game. She also averaged two assists, two steals and three blocked shots and overcame a broken nose late in the season to score a game-high 16 points in a division championship victory over Nanticoke Area, then had a team-high 13 in the District 2 Class 3A title game.

SCOTT MINER

Northwest

Coach of the Year

The one-time Northwest girls basketball coach returned to the program from Penn State this season and took the Rangers on a trip through history. Under Miner’s guidance, Northwest won its second straight WVC Division 3 title for the first time, made the District 2 Class 2A championship game for the first time and reached its first PIAA Class 2A playoff tournament. That was hardly an easy endeavor, much less a sure bet, when the Rangers were sputtering with a 4-10 record at the start of Miner’s return. But he tweaked a few things and engineered a 10-game winning streak that nearly took the Rangers to a district championship.

SECOND TEAM

Name`School`Grade`Pos.

Toni Amato`Valley West`So.`G

Victoria Benning`Hanover Area`Sr.`F

Nicole Boutanos`Valley West`Jr.`G

Katie Butczynski`Nanticoke Area`Sr.`G

Reagan Harrison`Northwest`So.`G

Leah Hodick`Pittston Area`So.`C

Alyssa Lewis`Nanticoke Area`Jr.`G

Savannah Purdy`Lake-Lehman`Jr.`G

Sam Rajza`Sr.`Holy Redeemer`G

Alex Wesneski`Wyoming Sem`So.`G

Aimee Dilger | Times Leader Julia Makowski did it all for Crestwood, leading the team in points, rebounds and steals — not to mention a WVC Division 1 girls basketball title and on trips to the school’s first District 2 title and state playoff appearance in 34 years.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/web1_TTL050118Julia-Makowski2-1-1-1.jpgAimee Dilger | Times Leader Julia Makowski did it all for Crestwood, leading the team in points, rebounds and steals — not to mention a WVC Division 1 girls basketball title and on trips to the school’s first District 2 title and state playoff appearance in 34 years. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader

By Paul Sokoloski

[email protected]

Reach Paul Sokoloski at 570-991-6392 or on Twitter @TLPaulSokoloski

Reach Paul Sokoloski at 570-991-6392 or on Twitter @TLPaulSokoloski