The last time Stroudsburg’s girls basketball team saw Nazareth, the Mounties left with a 30-point loss.
Stroudsburg coach Matt Field and his players have their chance to avenge the loss under the bright lights of the big arena.
The No. 3 Mounties take on No. 2 Nazareth in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference girls basketball semifinal round at PPL Center in Allentown at 6 p.m. Tuesday. The winner will play either No. 1 Bethlehem Catholic or No. 4 Freedom in the conference championship game on Thursday back at the PPL Center.
“We’re really excited to be a part of it,” Field said Monday. “I think it’s going to be a great venue and a special night.”
When Stroudsburg traveled to Nazareth for a regular-season game on Jan. 10, the Mounties were pummeled 74-44.
Stroudsburg (21-2, 15-2 EPC) fought for a 60-56 victory Saturday against No. 6 Pocono Mountain West after their game was postponed from Friday.
After a Sunday walkthrough and a full practice Monday, Field sees his team motivated and prepared for Tuesday.
“The girls are really proud of the work that they’ve done, as are the coaches,” Field said. “We have a very similar record (compared to) what they do. We’ve played similar opponents, had similar results, and we’ve watched them on film as they, I’m sure, have watched us.”
“We think there are things we can match up with, but certainly have respect for their players and for the way their program is run and their coaching staff, especially already seeing them this year."
The marquee matchup in this game will be between Stroudsburg’s Emily Strunk and Nazareth’s Talya Brugler, prolific junior scorers who have dominated the EPC.
Strunk, a 6-foot-2 junior forward All-EPC second team player, is averaging 17.9 points and nine rebounds per game. Strunk has scored 974 career points, 412 of which have come this year.
Brugler, the Blue Eagles’ (20-3, 15-2 EPC) All-EPC Most Valuable Player, is a 6-1 junior forward who led the league in scoring with 455 points, averaging 19.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. She hit the 1,000-point milestone of her career earlier this season.
In their Jan. 10 meeting, Strunk netted 21 points, but Stroudsburg had no answer for Brugler, who scored a Nazareth-record 36 points that night.
“When we played them last time, they had a good strategy against us,” Field said. “They wanted to disrupt us and try to get us out of our comfort level. And they did a good job of mixing defense, playing man and playing a 1-3-1 half-court trap, and that’s something that we had prepared for but we hadn’t seen another team do.
“And we just got ourselves into some bad spots and we missed some shots that we would typically make and we took some hurried shots. It worked, we just didn’t score like we typically do and that led to a lot of good and different offense for them on the other end.”
Field said that he feels he and his staff have properly readied his team for what to expect this go-around, especially since they have all experienced it firsthand.
Using Strunk as the offensive centerpiece, where she normally finds herself near the perimeter, Field said the plan is to utilize her the same way he tries to every other game.
“We basically talked to her about just continuing to play within her game and to maximize her opportunities,” Field said. “So if she’s more comfortable being out on the perimeter, we’ll try to get her into some opportunities where she can get out there and make her guard outside.”
“I think it’s just about trying to take away some things we saw (Brugler) do on film and just telling (Strunk) she doesn’t have to do too much, just do her best, and that’s kind of our mantra for all our kids.”
While the spotlight surrounding Stroudsburg shines on Strunk, show some love to her supporting teammates.
Kayla Worsley-Wooten (6.7 ppg), Mahogany Worsley-Wooten (8.5 ppg), Samantha Columna (12.7 ppg) and Avery Francis (2.7 ppg) all played complete games alongside Strunk in their quarterfinal battle against Pocono West on Saturday.
Their work on both ends of the court have led the Mounties to the best overall record in District 11 Class 6A, falling once each to Pocono West and the Blue Eagles of Nazareth. Since that Jan. 10 loss, Stroudsburg has yet to lose again.
“I know Emily gets a lot of credit because she’s often the high scorer,” Field said, “but they’ve done so many important things for us, whether it’s rebounding or hitting big threes or making sure they hit their foul shots in the stretch.
“We wouldn’t have the season that we’re having if it weren’t for this collective group effort. I just am really proud of the way that they’ve played because they’ve each improved over the course of the season and right now, just as a group, I feel like these girls are doing a great job playing together and for each other. I’m happy to be a part of it.”
In Nazareth’s quarterfinal game on Friday, the Blue Eagles won 43-32 over No. 7 Parkland. Brugler tallied 22 points while Kelly Leszcynski netted 11.