WVC girls basketball playoffs open Wednesday after weather postponement

Feb. 14—Shortly after losing the Wyoming Valley Conference Division 1 championship in a special playoff game to Dallas, Hazleton Area girls basketball coach Joe Gavio tried to put the defeat in perspective.

"We're in the playoffs," Gavio said. "They don't give you banners for divisions anymore. With these playoffs, it's one, two. We can still win the league championship.

"There's a lot out there. Don't get too down here. This is playoff time. Everybody is going to play better."

Lake-Lehman has been that team as the WVC Tournament begins Wednesday — after a snow postponement Tuesday — at Pittston Area High School. The Black Knights have won the last three tournaments, which feature the top-four WVC teams. Holy Redeemer won the inaugural tournament in 2019. No tournament was held in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wednesday's opener will have Division 2 champion Holy Redeemer (12-0 Div. 2, 18-4 overall) against Division 1 runner-up Hazleton Area (12-3 Div. 1, 19-4) at 6 p.m. Division 1 champion Dallas (13-2 Div. 1, 18-5) plays Division 2 runner-up Lake-Lehman (9-3 Div. 2, 14-8) at 7:30 p.m.

The championship game is 2 p.m. Saturday at Hazleton Area. Admission for all games is $6 for adults and $4 for students. The only pass that will be accepted is the PIAA Gold Pass.

The WVC tournament for both girls and boys will not impact the District 2 power rankings, which determine seeding for the district playoffs. Only regular-season games count in the power rankings.

Here's a look at the two semifinal matchups.

Hazleton Area vs. Holy Redeemer

WVC Semifinal

6 p.m. Wednesday

Hazleton Area returns to the tournament for the third time. The Cougars were ousted in the semifinals last year by Lehman 61-43. They lost in the 2019 championship game to Holy Redeemer 56-40 and the 2020 title game to Lehman 35-30.

Redeemer has been in the tournament all four years. Besides the title in 2020, the Royals lost 45-34 to Lehman in last year's championship game.

Hazleton Area has lost three of its last five games — once to Crestwood and twice to Dallas. The Cougars' other loss was 54-37 to Scranton on Dec. 5.

Hazleton Area has a balanced attack led by freshman Kaitlyn Bindas, who averages 15 points per game and is one of the WVC's top outside shooters with 41 3-pointers in the regular season. Freshman Sophia Benyo (9.4 ppg) was also a newcomer who helped fill graduations losses.

Juniors Sophia Shults (12.7) and Olivia Williams (5.1) and sophomores Alexis Reimold (8.9) and Kayla Lagowy (6.1) are other key players. Williams and Lagowy have proven to be 3-point threats.

Redeemer had to deal with some injuries. The Royals endured and haven't lost since the calendar flipped to 2024. Two losses were to teams from New York, another to District 3's Trinity and another to Abington Heights.

Like Hazleton Area, Redeemer has a balanced offense with sophomore McKenzie Chimoch (9.1) Bella Boylan (8.3), juniors Brooke Kroptavich (8.7) and Megan Albrecht (8.5) and seniors Angelina Corridoni (5.5) and Lucie Racicky (4.8).

Dallas vs. Lake-Lehman

WVC Semifinals

7:30 p.m. Wednesday

The matchup of Back Mountain rivals also features divisional scoring champions.

Lehman junior Ella Wilson paced Division 2 with 20.9 points per game. Dallas sophomore Molly Walsh topped Division 1 with a 18.6 average. They have similar attributes. Both can shoot 3-pointers. Wilson had 31 and Walsh had 29 during the regular-season. Both can drive to the hoop.

Walsh scored 28 points in a 60-55 win over Lehman on Dec. 18. Wilson had 29 point.

Wilson played a big part in the Black Knights winning the last two WVC tournaments as did senior Brenna Hunt (13.2 ppg). But aside from those two, only inside player Molly Jenkins (5.8) returned with an significant varsity experience.

Walsh, senior Elizabeth Viglone (11. 0 ppg, 23 3-pointers) and sophomore Mia DelGaudio (10.6, 29 3-pointers) gave the Mountaineers a solid starting foundation going into the season. A pair of freshman — Brianna Casey (6.0) and Caitlyn Mizzer (5.6) filled the other two sports. Casey is among the top free-throw shooters in the WVC, hitting at nearly 75%. Mizzer has a non-stop motor at both ends of the court.

Dallas has made one other appearance in the WVC tournament. They Mountaineers lost 50-35 to Lehman in the 2020 semifinals.