By Tom Robinson, NEPABasketball.com
FORMAT: There are seven teams in the field, meaning one quarterfinal bye. All games are on neutral courts. Both semifinal winners move on to the state tournament.
SCHEDULE: The tournament begins Tuesday. The semifinals are Friday to determine the teams for the March 1 final at 4 p.m. at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.
2018 RECAP: Old Forge won the title and Northwest, which went in as the top seed, claimed the second state berth.
HIGHEST SEEDS: 1. Old Forge; 2. Holy Cross; 3. Northwest.
DIVISION CHAMPIONS: None.
RANKED TEAMS: Old Forge is fourth and Holy Cross is fifth among District 2 Small Schools in the Astra Wealth Advisors Super Six Power Rankings. There are no state-ranked teams in the field.
WINNING RECORDS: Old Forge 17-5, Holy Cross 14-8, Northwest 13-9.
BEST OPENER: Elk Lake vs. Mountain View. The teams split in their Lackawanna League Division 4 meetings. Mountain View, the division’s second-place team, won at Elk Lake, 49-41, Jan. 10. Elk Lake answered by winning at Mountain View, 37-34, Feb. 4.
KEY GAME: A potential finals matchup between Old Forge and Holy Cross would also feature division rivals who split their regular-season games against each other. It is hard to find separation between these two teams. They each won by 12 at home in their season series – Holy Cross, 67-55, Jan. 5 and Old Forge, 58-46, Jan. 28 – and each went 8-4 in Lackawanna League Division 3 with two losses to unbeaten Dunmore and 1-1 splits against Riverside.
BETTER THAN SEEDED: Holy Cross comes in as the number-two team, although Old Forge and Holy Cross more realistically could be 1 and 1A, if there was such a thing. The difference in the seeding means Holy Cross likely has to face the only apparent threat prior to the final in third-seeded Northwest. Holy Cross is 2-0 against smaller schools, 1-1 against other Class 2A schools and 11-7 against larger schools. It is 2-3 against division championship teams. Holy Cross not only consistently played larger schools (Old Forge played against 16 compared to the 18 by Holy Cross), it also played against winning opponents. The opponent winning percentage for Holy Cross was the highest among the 19 Small Schools in District 2.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Brenna Babcock, Northwest; Olivia Ciullo, Old Forge; Reagan Harrison, Northwest; Kaci Kranson, Holy Cross; Sydney Newhart, Mountain View; Abby Sempa, Holy Cross; Lindsey Welsh, Old Forge.
TRENDS: Old Forge has won both titles since the PIAA switched to six classifications. The Lady Devils have won district titles six of the past seven seasons, including Class A in the old four-class setup from 2012-15. … Old Forge had a seven-game winning streak broken by Riverside, 51-44, in the regular-season finale. … Northwest enters the tournament on a five-game winning streak with an average margin of 31.2 points. … Mountain View opened the season with seven straight losses and was 3-10 before winning six of its last nine games. … Mountain View, Lackawanna Trail and Blue Ridge have not won outside of Lackawanna League Division 4. Along with Elk Lake, those four teams are a combined 13-13 against each other, 7-19 against the rest of Division 4 and 2-34 outside of the division.
NOTEWORTHY: Holy Cross is in its first year after moving down from Class 3A where it was a district title contender and state-ranked team during the previous two seasons. … Babcock, a returning all-state player, has more than 1,500 career points, making her the top career scoring of any active girls player in District 2. … Welsh, a junior, has surpassed the 1,000-point mark for her career.
5-Elk Lake (10-12) vs. 4-Mountain View (9-13) at Tunkhannock, 7
6-Lackawanna Trail (1-21) vs. 3-Northwest (13-9) at Hazleton Area, 6
7-Blue Ridge (2-20) vs. 2-Holy Cross (14-8) at Carbondale, 6
Elk Lake-Mountain View winner vs. 1-Old Forge (17-5)
Lackawanna Trail-Northwest winner vs. Blue Ridge-Holy Cross winner
March 1 Final
Semifinal winners at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, 4 p.m.