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Local Sports Scene

Local Sports Scene
By Tom J. Robinson

County Teams Strong In Girls’ Basketball

Montrose won the most Lackawanna League Division II North girls’ basketball games last season, but Mountain View won the division title.

Both teams could be back in the middle of the division title chase. If the Lady Meteors or Lady Eagles do not win the division, another Susquehanna County team would be likely to step into the top spot.

Four-time defending District 2 Class A champion Forest City and Elk Lake, which is looking to bounce back from the first losing season in Tony Blaisure’s 10-year tenure as coach, could also contend.

Four of the six County teams had winning records last season when Susquehanna joined Montrose, Mountain View and Forest City above the .500 mark. The same total could be accomplished this season with Susquehanna and Blue Ridge likely to have trouble reaching the top half of the standings.

Montrose returns 5-10 senior forward/center Coleen Walsh and 5-8 sophomore guard/forward Kate LaBarbera to the starting lineup. Walsh averaged 11 points and nine rebounds last season while LaBarbera added eight points.

Erika Brown, another sophomore, was the first player off the bench last season. Tiffany Palmer, Carrie Robinson and freshman Chelsey Parvin are other key players along with Rachel Weaver and Holly Stoddard, who are both working their way back from ACL (knee) surgeries last season.

Montrose reached the District 2 final and the state Class AA playoffs while going 24-6.

The Lady Meteors lost just one league game last season. That loss to Mountain View led to a tie in the second-half standings. Mountain View then beat Montrose in a playoff for the second-half title and again in a playoff for the all-season title.

Leah Simko and Ashley Twining, who scored 12 and 11 points to lead Mountain View’s 49-34 league championship game victory over Montrose, are among the players back for the Lady Eagles.

Twining and Bettylou Mihal started all season. Simko, Ashley Robinson and Rachel Gardoski also made frequent appearances in the starting lineup as the Lady Eagles won their third division title in four seasons.

Mountain View lost only Rachel Lambert, who ran the offense for the team, which is coached by her father, Bob Lambert.

"We have some kids who are pretty good ballplayers," coach Lambert said of the Lady Eagles, who have just one loss so far this season. "Mentally and emotionally, we just need to start stepping it up a little bit."

Forest City and Elk Lake also have enough veterans to put together lineups made up entirely of players with starting experience.

Forest City’s Amanda Vitzakovich has been one of northeastern Pennsylvania’s most productive scorers in the early part of the season. Lauren Pantzar is also back after scoring 16 points in the 44-32 District 2 championship game victory over Pittston Seton Catholic.

Blaisure has reason to think Elk Lake can return to its usual level of play.

"We have five players returning who lettered and at one time or another started the majority of our games," Blaisure said.

Senior Nicole Nasser, one of the division’s top 10 scorers, leads that group along with seniors Robyn McMicken and Blaire Ward, junior Lindsay Ruarke and sophomore Blaire Ward.

Susquehanna returns three starters, all seniors, Jennifer Benson, Liz Leber and Maria Reavey.

Blue Ridge had the worst record among county teams last season, but the Lady Raiders already have a win over Susquehanna in the Tony Aliano Memorial Tournament.

The remainder of the nine-team division features Carbondale, Carbondale Sacred Heart and Lackawanna Trail.


The start of girls’ basketball league play went as expected.

Montrose had the bye in the Dec. 9 openers, but Forest City Mountain View and Elk Lake each won by at least 24 points.

Forest City ripped Susquehanna, 65-35. Mountain View routed Lackawanna Trail, 62-32. Elk Lake handled Carbondale Sacred Heart, 60-36.

In the other opener, Blue Ridge fell to Carbondale, 68-46.

Despite playing in a higher division, Montrose had the best record among county boys’ basketball teams last season.

The Meteors have struggled this season. They fell to 1-5 Dec. 10 when they lost to Riverside, 62-38. Matt Hornak scored a team-high 10 points in the loss.

Blue Ridge edged Northeast Bradford, 44-43, and Elk Lake lost to Bishop O’Reilly, 64-57, in non-league boys’ games Saturday.

Montrose’s Dan Snee and David VanNort were two-way first-team, all-stars on the Lackawanna Football Conference Division II team selected by the coaches.

Snee was selected as a fullback and linebacker. VanNort made the team as a two-way tackle.

Guard Josh Lodge and running back Joe Cosmello were also named to the first-team offense.

Saturday’s Dalton Lions Wrestling Tournament, in which Mountain View and Susquehanna were scheduled to compete, was postponed because of weather concerns. Lackawanna Trail coach Keith Youtz said Sunday that because of scheduling conflicts, the tournament is not likely to be held this season.


The Elk Lake’s boys’ basketball team has challenges from two strong teams this week. After hosting Carbondale Tuesday, the Warriors are at Sacred Heart Friday.

Friday’s boys’ basketball schedule also features two games between county opponents: Susquehanna at Mountain View and Forest City at Blue Ridge. Mountain View starts the week with a Tuesday game at Forest City.

Thursday is a big night in girls’ basketball. Elk Lake is at Mountain View while Montrose is at Forest City.

Saturday’s crossover games include Bishop Hannan, potentially the best team in the Lackawanna League Division 2 South, at Montrose. Bishop O’Hara, another strong team, is at Mountain View.

Mountain View is at Elk Lake Tuesday in the only Lackawanna League wrestling match scheduled before New Year’s.

Blue Ridge, Elk Lake, Montrose and Susquehanna are all scheduled to compete in the fourth annual Times Leader Invitational, a 34-team wrestling tournament Friday and Saturday at College Misericordia.


Nicole Zapolski, a 5-8 sophomore forward from Mountain View, was a first-team, preseason National Junior College Athletic Association Division III All-American.

Zapolski lived up to that reputation by helping Keystone College to a perfect record before the team took its holiday break after Saturday’s game.

Zapolski, trying to repeat her accomplishment of averaging in double figures in both points and rebounds, is averaging 11.1 points per game. She slipped just a fraction below the 10-rebound average during the last two games.

During Keystone’s 7-0 start, Zapolski had a pair of double-doubles and came down with at least nine rebounds in four of the first five games.

Keystone’s wins include an 80-61 victory over Passaic, which had been ranked number-one in the nation among NJCAA Division III teams, and 71-59 over Union County, an NJCAA Division II team.

The other five Lady Giants’ wins were by an average of 36.4 points. The romps continued Saturday with an 84-25 victory over Cumberland County College, which Keystone held to two first-half field goals while opening a 45-6 lead.

Zapolski’s best game was 18 points, 15 rebounds and four assists against Union in the team’s closest contest to date. She has tied for the team scoring lead three times, led the team in rebounding four times and tied for the lead two other times, and also had a team-high five steals against Ocean County.

Julie Lasher, another former Mountain View player, transferred to Keystone after playing last season at NCAA Division II Mansfield University. Lasher has not played and may miss the entire season, according to her high school coach, Lambert, because of surgery to repair cartilage damage in her knee.

TOM J. ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at

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Before NASCAR, There Was Dawsonville – When most racing fans hear the name Dawsonville, Georgia, they immediately connect with Bill Elliott. While it's true that Elliott still has his shop headquarters in the small northwest Georgia town, about 90 miles north of Atlanta, this area was a hot spot of racing before the France family ever dreamed of NASCAR.

There have been more legendary racing drivers and teams come out of Dawson County, Georgia than freight cars on one of the long CSX trains that highballs it through Atlanta. The names Park, Voght, Sosebee, Byron, Hall, and Seay, as well as Elliott are synonymous with the region.

"I heard stories from Raymond Parks and Gordon Pirkle about the early days and how racing got started before there was even race tracks" said Dan Elliott. "All the people that owned trip cars got together and bet among themselves about who had the fastest car."

A trip car is a car that was used to haul illegal moonshine whiskey, usually from Dawson County to Atlanta. These cars had souped up and modified engines. Quite often the springs and suspension system were modified to accommodate the heavy load and type roads they would be taking.

"They'd get together and go out in a cow pasture, big field or long stretch of road and bet on who had the fastest car," continued Elliott. "And if you had the fastest car, then sometimes you could pick up a pretty piece of change that way.

"That was before they had grandstands or anything, and they were standing around joking, and saying, 'we ought to charge people, and I bet they would come see this.' I know it all sounds like a joke now, but that is really how it evolved.

"I went to Daytona USA a couple years ago because I wanted to see some of the photos of the early days of NASCAR. I was hoping to learn more on the history of who was in it and how it was formed.

"After going through the museum, I was amazed at how little history there was on the early years."

Raymond Parks was one of the original moonshine barons of Dawson County. He started sponsoring race cars at the urging of his cousins, Roy Hall and Lloyd Seay. Even though he only drove in one race, and that was at Langhorne, Pennsylvania, Parks supplied many winning cars.

His cars were driven by Red Voight, Hall, Seay, Red Byron, Bob and Fonty Flock, and even "Big Bill" France. His cars won many races at Atlanta's Lakewood Speedway, as well as the early beach races at Daytona.

"It was in 1938 that we were all hanging around the garage, and we decided to fix up something for Lloyd (Seay) to drive," said Parks. "He drove a '34 Ford roadster and won the race.

"There wasn't a lot of racing on tracks before the war. I met Red Voght, a mechanic, who lived in Atlanta, right after the war ended. He did all the work on the stock cars, and it was his job to get them to the race and back.

"I got hooked up with Red because he was working on my car before I got into the racing business. After we won that first race, I knew I wanted to get into it. Right after that, I went out and bought two 1939 Ford coupes. I think I paid $525 a piece for them, and took them to Red and told him to get them ready to race.

"Before NASCAR, we went all over North Carolina, South Carolina, Langhorne, Pennsylvania, Ft. Wayne, Indiana, and Florida. We raced just about every Sunday. There were no leagues or series, just individual tracks and promoters."

Quite often, promoters would skip out midway during the race without paying the drivers. At other times, they might not pay the full amount to the drivers that they advertised.

It was because of the many unscrupulous racing promoters that the drivers needed a sanctioning body. It was out of these circumstances and smart legal maneuvering on the part of Bill France Sr. that NASCAR was born.


Racing Trivia Question: How many races did Tony Stewart win on his way to this year's Winston Cup championship?

Answer To Last Week's Question: Bill Rexford was just 21 when won the 1950 Winston Cup title. He won only one race and took home $5,700 in prize money.

Gerald Hodges/the Racing Reporter is a syndicated NASCAR columnist. If you have a racing question that you would like answered send it to The Racing Reporter, P.O. Box 160711, Mobile, AL, 36616, or e-mail it to:

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