Pocono Mountain West’s girls are back in the state tournament for the first time since the 2013-14 season.
Notre Dame East Stroudsburg’s boys are back for the second straight year.
The Lady Panthers, District 11’s No. 4 seed, will face Plymouth Whitemarsh in the first round of the PIAA Class 6A girls basketball tournament Friday at 6 p.m. at Souderton High School.
The Spartans, the district runner-up, will battle Sullivan County in the first round of the PIAA Class 1A boys basketball tournament Friday at Blue Mountain High School, also at 6 p.m.
Pocono Mountain West (15-10), which has endured a tumultuous emotional roller coaster this season, has never won a game in the state playoffs. Head coach Chrissy Campos has said this year’s team was one she and fallen sister and former head coach Stacy Perryman thought could be this successful. Prior to Perryman’s passing, this was slated to be the final season for both Perryman and Campos.
Winning this game would be an important moment for everybody involved.
"I mean if we can put a complete game together, that would be special to do that," Campos said. "And to do that in our first state playoff game and if we win, that would be icing on the cake."
Campos understands that remains a tall task, particularly against Plymouth Whitemarsh (23-3), District 1’s No. 3 seed.
To get here, the Colonials defeated Spring Ford 56-42 on Feb. 28 behind 17 points from Abby Sharpe, nine points apiece from Anna McTamney, Jordyn Thomas and Kaitlyn Flanagan and eight points from Gabby Cooper.
Through the film, Campos said she’s focusing in on Flanagan as well as McTamney and Thomas.
"From what I’ve seen, everything runs through (Flanagan)," Campos said. "If we can kind of get on her and get on her quick – because she’s fast too – maybe we can take them out of their game plan a little bit. But they also have two bigs [McTamney and Thomas] that are pretty similar. They have one that is a little more versatile than the other one, but pretty similar in their game styles."
The Panthers enter states on a two-game losing streak, falling to Freedom in the district semifinal before an overtime loss to Parkland in the third-place game.
West has quickly learned it can’t take a possession off and that it cannot veer from the game plan. The Panthers also can’t get caught up in their mistakes.
"If something happens – something’s always going to happen in a game – you’ve got to put it behind you and move onto the next play," Campos said.
The Panthers are expected to start seniors Caroline Weirich, Paige Knecht, AiyannaLee Owens, Taliyah Malone and sophomore Jada Bowen.
For Notre Dame East Stroudsburg (12-13), the job is to regroup from a 71-54 loss to Nativity BVM in the district title game.
Back in the state tournament for the fourth time in six years, Spartan coach Bob Mullen is eager to get the kids back onto the court and looking forward to Sullivan County (19-6), the third seed out of District 4.
The main focus at practice has been defending the Griffins’ offense.
"Sometimes they run out of a 1-4 set and they set a double-high screen on the ball," Mullen said. "And then (Sam Carpenter) drives to the basket. And they try to go a little high-low off that type of motion, so we’re working on defending those types of plays. We’re working on defending around bounce plays.
"They’re well-coached, and they have a couple kids coming off the bench that are good too. They just want to push the ball."
Mullen said defending in transition will be key as well as Sullivan County can tend to score more out of transition than their set offenses.
The Spartans are full of youth, their roster boasting just one senior in Jonathan Torres. Regardless of the outcome, Mullen is glad his team gets to experience the state playoffs in hopes they return again next season.
"I think it’s huge, I really do," Mullen said. "And we’re trying to stress that the hard work comes in practice. So once the games come, just go have fun. As hard as that is to understand, that’s what we have to do. Execute under pressure, keep our patience and poise, and defend."
Starting for the Spartans will be juniors Aaron Bailey, Shawn Seay, and sophomores Gary Natale, Chase Medina and Trevor Hardy.
Expected starters for Sullivan County are Carpenter, Jalen Thomas, Justin Metzger, Jesse Williams and Alex Schweitzer.