There will be no North Tier League this year for our area’s smaller schools. No D9 League for Bradford. No conferences of any sort.
That’s life in the IU9 bubble, an idea initially used during the fall seasons in the northern reaches of Pennsylvania’s District 9 to limit travel for teams during the COVID-19 pandemic. Local athletic directors and school administrations opted to renew the idea for winter athletics.
As a result, there are plenty of matchups that area basketball fans wouldn’t otherwise get to see. Bradford’s teams just played Otto-Eldred earlier in the week, and the Owl boys are set to host Cameron County on Monday.
In addition, schools from Elk County including Elk Catholic and St. Marys will venture into places like Northern Potter and Oswayo Valley this season, creating an unfamiliar dynamic.
Of that scheduling, Bradford head girls coach Bob Hannon said, “It will be an interesting year in that we will be playing a lot of teams we have not played in the past, so we do not have a lot of familiarity. That will work both ways.”
Though the regular season schedules have changed, how D9 postseasons work will not, for the most part. Once the regular seasons end, teams within the bubble will be able to play in the district playoffs against teams from outside the area — provided it’s safe to do so.
However, there won’t be a “Super Saturday” at Clarion University this year, and instead all playoff games will be hosted by the higher-seeded team.
With that, familiar faces are looking to make their returns to the postseasons, especially in the smaller classifications.
You can expect Coudersport and Otto-Eldred to continue their dominance in Class A, at least here in the bubble. The two have already met once, with the Lady Terrors taking a 38-27 win in Potter County.
The Lady Terrors got off to a 5-0 start, which includes impressive wins over reigning District 9 Class A champion Coudersport, as well as previously unbeaten Elk Catholic. That’s thanks in large part to the dominance of Katie Sheeler. The sophomore guard is averaging 18 points per game.
In addition to her growth, O-E’s emergence as a Class A contender is largely predicated on the fact that it returns all but one player from last year’s roster, giving Shawn Gray perhaps the most experienced squad in the area.
“We have loads of experience, with seven players on the team having starting experience at some point over the last three years,” Gray said. We are led by our five seniors (Kayley Heller, Reilly Raught, Emmalee Sheeler, Morgan Dalton and Haley Cousins), who have had tremendous athletic success over their careers, including a league title in volleyball this year.”
But, of course, you can’t count the Lady Falcons out. The reigning champs are retooling a bit in their backcourt, but have shown in flashes this season how potent that set of guards can be. Elizabeth Frame is running the point this year, with Emma Chambers and Belle Porterfield on the wings.
Coudy’s potent front-court duo of Rosalyn Page and Sarah Chambers is back, too. Those two were Big 30 All-Stars a season ago, Page on the Third Team and Chambers on the Second Team.
Behind those two, Cameron County features a talented roster that includes forward Hailey Hilfiger (13 ppg, 11.8 rpg) and guard Kaelee Bresslin (14.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg), among others. The Lady Raiders reached the D9 playoffs a season ago, despite facing injury troubles throughout the year.
In Class AA, Port Allegany is tasked with replacing talented guard Cailey Barnett, who averaged 19 points per game and is now playing at Pitt-Bradford. The Lady Gators return four starters — Gracie Archer, Jade Evens, Bree Garzel and Evin Stauffer.
Garzel is off to an especially impressive start this season, having scored 70 points through three games. The Lady Gators are 1-2 thus far, but have faced stiff competition to date.
A season ago, Port was eliminated in the opening round of the D9 playoffs for the second consecutive year.
“Hopefully, the sting of being upset in the first round of the D9 AA playoffs for the second year in a row has provided the experience to get over the hump this year,” Port coach Jamie Evens said.
Bradford, the Big 30’s lone 3A team, is replacing Big 30 Third Team All-Star Erica Marshall, but does return Big 30 First Team All-Star Hannah Lary in its backcourt.
Lary has yet to appear in a game this season, but her return, coupled with the continued scoring presence of Alanna Benson, could give the Lady Owls a potent 1-2 punch in their backcourt as the season rolls on.
The regular season concludes on March 2.
Coach: Denise Valenti (3rd year, 3-40)
2019-20 record/postseason: 3-19, none.
Roster: Kylie Welsh (sr., F), Carly Cooney (jr., F), Rebecca Zeaman (so., F/G), Ella Brewer (fr., G), Savannah Horton (fr., F), March Fowler (fr., F/G), Jade Williams (fr., C), Kendyl Welsh (fr., G)
Returning starters: 1 (K. Welsh)
From the coach: This will be a significantly young varsity team. We have struggled to score in the past and need to get more aggressive on the offensive side of the ball. Our five freshmen will get significant playing time, and we need them to rise to the challenge of varsity play.
Coach: Bob Hannon
2019-20 record/postseason: 10-13, District 9 Class AAA semifinals
Roster: Hannah Lary (sr., G, 18.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.7 apg), Alanna Benson (5-5, so., G, 7.2 ppg), Leotrice Kakolewski (5-7, sr., F), Sierra Taylor (5-8, so., F), Rylee Close (5-4, jr., G), Ryley Cleveland (5-7, jr., F), Carli Persichini (5-4, so., G), Jess Kerr (5-7, so.), Emma Tyger (5-7, so.), Abbi Schleicher (5-4, so.), Maddi Cowburn (5-6, so.), Kalie Dixon (5-7, fr., F)
From the coach: It will be an interesting year in that we will be playing a lot of teams we have not played in the past, so we do not have a lot of familiarity. That will work both ways. We want to try to play a lot of man defense and get out and run the floor. Running the floor will mean we have to commit to playing solid defense and working the boards. If we can do that, I feel we will be competitive.
Coach: Dave Sullivan (14th year)
2019-20 record/postseason: 11-12, District 9 Class A quarterfinals
Roster: Hailey Hilfiger (5-10, sr., F, 13 ppg, 11.8 rpg), Morgan Lorenzo (5-8, sr., F, 5.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg), Kaelee Bresslin (5-8, sr., G, 14.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg), Mallory McKimm (5-9, sr., G, 8.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg), Reggie Goodrow (5-5, sr., G, 2.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg), Mikenna Farbaugh (5-4, jr., G), Taylor Lamont (5-5, sr., G), Aaralyn Robinson (5-2, so., F), Aubree Lorenzo (5-5, fr., G), Kierstyn Smith (5-4, fr., G)
Returning starters: 5 (Hilfiger, Lorenzo, Bresslin, McKimm, Goodrow)
From the coach: Team chemistry will be key to its success. Focus on being prepared and ready to practice/play when the team is given the green light.
Coach: Bob Tingley
League: District 9
2019-20 record/postseason: 23-4; DuBois Catholic (W, 50-41, District 9 Class A quarterfinal), Otto-Eldred (W, 62-40, D-9 Class A semifinal), North Clarion (W, 42-40, D-9 Class A championship), Avella (W, 48-41, PIAA Class A first round), Blacklick Valley (W, 54-46, PIAA Class A second round)
Roster: Elizabeth Frame (G), Sarah Chambers (6-0, sr., G), Rosalyn Page (F), Savannah Myers (fr., G), Sierra Myers (fr., F), Emma Chambers, Belle Porterfield (so., G), Lauren Loveland, Madyson Nugent (fr.), Brooke Wonderly (fr., G)
Coach: Cindy Cowburn (80-61)
2019-20 record/postseason: 8-13, none.
Roster: Faith Zdrojewski (5-4, sr., G), Abbie Cady (5-7, jr., F), Courtney Martin (5-5, jr., G), Madison Hoopes (5-3, jr., G), Megan Hyde (5-6, jr., F/C), Aubrey Anderson (5-5, so., G), Rebecca Martin (5-6, so., F), Ellie Reed (5-2, so., G), Riley Thompson (5-3, so., F), Kayden Brown (5-6, fr., F), Haylee Chapman (5-5, fr., G), Molly Cody (5-8, fr., F/C), Reagan Slawson (5-5, fr., G)
Returning starters: 4
From the coach: Only graduated one senior last season. Returning are seven letterwinners who gained experience last year playing together as a team.
Coach: Shawn Gray (3rd year, 32-19)
2019-20 record/postseason: 16-9, PIAA 1st Round
Roster: Kayley Heller (5-8, sr., 7 ppg, 6.3 rpg), Reilly Raught (5-11, sr., 6.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg), Bri Heller (5-9, so., 5.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg), Katie Sheeler (5-5, so., 9.1 ppg, 3.1 apg), Haley Cousins (5-6, sr., 6.4 ppg), Morgan Dalton (5-11, sr., 4.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg), Emmalee Sheeler (5-6, sr., 2.1 ppg), Anna Merry (5-5, so., 1.7 ppg), Hannah Gordon (5-7, jr., 2.6 ppg, 2.2 rpg), Suzie Rounsville (5-6, jr., 1.0 ppg), Rosa Rounsville (5-9, sr.), Brooke Close (5-3, so., 1.8 ppg, 1.0 apg)
Returning starters: 5 (K. Heller, Raught, B. Heller, K. Sheeler, Cousins)
From the coach: O-E returns all but one player from last season, which saw them not only tied for second place in the North Tier League, but won a playoff game and played in the PIAA playoffs for the fifth-consecutive year. We have loads of experience, with seven players on the team having starting experience at some point over the last three years. We are led by our five seniors, who have had tremendous athletic success over their careers, including a league title in volleyball this year. Our greatest attributes thus far have been our chemistry, our unselfishness and our enthusiasm. We practice and play hard and have fun while we do it. Our goals this year, as they are every year, are to win the NTL, be in the mix for a District IX title and make it to the PIAA state playoffs.
Coach: Jamie Evans (3rd year, 32-14)
2019-20 record/postseason: 16-7, District 9 Class AA quarterfinals
Roster: Gracie Archer (5-2, sr., G, 4.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg), Mallory Causer (5-7, sr., C), Jade Evans (5-9, sr., F, 2.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg), Bree Garzel (5-7, sr., G, 12.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 4.5 apg), Cheyenne Crowe (5-4, jr., G), Trinity Lannager (5-5, jr., F), Rylie Simpson (5-4, jr., G), Brielle Budd (5-8, so., F), Evin Stauffer (5-6, so., G, 5.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.1 apg), Emily Bishop (5-7, so., F), Leigha Nelson (5-2, so., G), Thea Petruzzi (5-0, so., G), Jennifer Baxter (5-8, fr., C), Kayleigha Dowell (5-6, fr., F)
Returning starters: 4 (Archer, Evans, Garzel, Stauffer)
From the coach: Backcourt should be a strength. We are lacking in size, so will need to play bigger than our height to compete in the post. With our experience at guard, we will need to limit turnovers and take advantage of every offensive opportunity. Will need to replace the production of Cailey Barnett, a four-year starter who averaged 19 ppg and is now playing collegiately at Pitt-Bradford. With four returning starters, one other returning letterwinner and 12 players returning overall, we hope to get off to a good start without a concern of getting players up to speed in our system. Hopefully, the sting of being upset in the first round of the D9 AA playoffs for the second year in a row has provided the experience to get over the hump this year.
Coach: Chad Goodman (3rd year, 11-30)
2019-20 record/postseason: 9-12, none.
Roster: Kaelin Love (5-7, sr., F), Salena Williams (5-7, sr., G), Cassandra Tingley (5-7, sr., G), Danielle Nelson (5-8, jr., G, 3.0 ppg), Sabrina Tanner (5-9, jr., F, 6.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg), Coryn McClain (5-11, jr., F, 2.5 rpg), Abby Luts (5-8, so., G, 3.0 ppg), Taylor Neff (5-8, so., G), Jaidyn Goodman (5-9, fr., G), Madison Conn (5-7, fr., F), Elizabeth Hungiville (6-0, fr., F), Brooklyn Burt (5-8, fr., G), McKenna Rowley-Thompson (5-2, fr., G), Ava Gifford (5-6, fr., G), Janelle Dinch (5-8, fr., F), Madison Faes (5-7, fr., F)
Returning starters: 3 (Nelson, Tanner, Lutz)
From the coach: After losing our top two scorers from last season, we will have to find scoring from our returning starters. We are going to have to rely heavily on our bench to contribute, as well. We have a very talented group of freshmen that will mesh well with our upperclassmen. We look forward to building off of the success that we had last season.