An admitted ‘basketball junkie,’ a year ago, South Williamsport’s Dean Kriebel’s daily practice plan had one distinct goal; find a way to make it to the next day. The only game he was determined to win was the game of life. In December 2021, Kriebel was diagnosed with cancer, and his total concentration was to win the battle and hopefully get back to coaching the game from the sidelines.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock in last Thursday’s PIAA District IV AA championship game, the smile on Kriebel’s face was nearly as big as his 6’9 frame as his Lady Mountaineers completed a mercy rule 49-19 thumping of Line Mountain to claim the school’s first district title since 2009, a time when its four seniors were approaching kindergarten.
Led by sophomore Lacey Kriebel’s long-range shooting, harassing defense, and the dirty work inside play of senior Sophia Casella and sophomore Alizabeth Schuler the Mounties raced to a 23-7 halftime lead and were never threatened the rest of the way. South connected on ten 3-point bombs, with Kriebel draining eight in registering a career-high 26 points. So effective was the Mounties shooting from the suburbs they never registered a 2-point field goal under the mid-point of the third quarter.
South Williamsport will venture into state tournament play later this week, likely hosting Lancaster Mennonite at a District Four site.
The night previous, in the AA boys championship game, those long-ago residents of Massachusetts enlightened by Paul Revere’s daring ride could have never imagined how quickly the word of Muncy’s 65-54 triumph over St. John Neumann spread through the West Branch Valley. The Indians’ win came on the heels of two SJN mercy rule victories between the two teams during the regular season that ended the Knight’s 15-game winning streak and its four-year run as District IV champions.
Giving credence to the theory that teams that can shoot most often win, the Indians shot 67% from the floor. Playing only five players, the quintet of Mike Fry (20), Ross Eyer (16), Branson Eyer (10), Noah Confer (10), and Eli Weinke (9) out-performed the magical talents of Davion Hill (35) and his Neumann mates.
At press time, both the Williamsport girls and boys were on the verge of bringing home District 2-4 6A championship gold with scheduled games last weekend.
The Lady Millionaires, under the guidance of first-year coach Justin Marnon, produced a memorable triumph beating perennial nemesis Hazelton 54-37 in an earlier playoff game. Williamsport had not beaten Hazelton since 2006 that, included a 60-40 home loss in December.
Marnon, a WHS graduate, is in his first year at the helm of the Cherry & White after enjoying a successful stint at South Williamsport, including leading the Mounties to the PIAA AA state quarter-finals last year.
Led by Payton Baney and Ally Chilson, Williamsport is seeking to win its first district title since 1995 and is adjusting to Marnon’s coaching style after a slow start to the season.
“The game is all about mindset and team play,” Marnon stressed. The teams that win and move on are the confident teams that play together. This season was a new experience for both the coaches and players. We have tried to build team confidence and have everyone work well together. We have gotten better as the season progressed.”
Allen Taylor’s Millionaire boys attempted to slay their own dragon last Saturday, taking on Scranton for the District 2-4 6A title at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
The top-seeded Cherry & White (19-4) were hoping to end a four-game losing streak to Scranton that included playoff losses the past two seasons. WAHS routed Delaware Valley 77-36 in the district semi-finals and looks ahead to its first state tournament appearance since 2017.
Several local hoop squads were competing to keep their state playoff hopes alive at press time.
Loyalsock’s girls got passed Troy and Bloomsburg and met perennial power Mount Carmel for the AAA crown last Saturday. Going into the game, Sock had won three district championships in the past four years and reached six straight state tournaments.
Coach Ron Insinger’s Lancer boys experienced an unfamiliar double-loss season (14-11), falling to North-Penn Mansfield 66-62 in District semi-finals. The team had won the last four D-4 AAA titles but was looking to advance to its 7th consecutive state tournament appearance with a win over Warrior Run for third place.
The Jersey Shore girls continued its solid season (18-6), knocking off Lewisburg in the D-4 AAA semi-finals. Darrin Bischoff’s Lady Dawgs took on Central Columbia, winners of 12 of its last 13 games, in Shore’s first AAAA championship game since 2001.
SJN’s Lady Knights (16-9) played their first District Four title game in school history, falling against top-seeded Meadowbrook Christian 57-47 in overtime. The Knights led by 13 points in the third quarter but couldn’t hold the lead in a foul-plagued, turnover-marred contest.
Good luck in the days ahead for all local teams who’ve played their way unto a hoped-for trip to state championship gold in Hershey.