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The Elk Lake boys and Forest City girls are in position to possibly gain top seeds in the District 2 basketball tournament that will start later this month.
One thing is certain, there is a spot waiting for every county team.
District 2 changed formats this season, switching to an open tournament for the first time.
All 46 District 2 schools and Williamsport, which tries to qualify for states through District 2 because it is the only Class AAAA team in District 4, are eligible for the tournament.
Only the Scranton and Northwest girls declined the opportunity by last week's deadline for teams to drop out.
While Forest City pursues a top seed, Mountain View and Montrose are in position to have home girls' playoff games for the first time ever in District 2.
In the new open format, the games are played at the home of the higher seed until the field in each classification is limited to eight.
District 2 retained its policy of placing division champions in the top seeds before seeding the rest of the teams according to league records. Lackawanna League crossover games, which are not part of the division records, are counted for seeding purposes.
Elk Lake was the first-half champion in the Division 2 North. In projections compiled by district official Mike Ognosky of Montrose as of Wednesday, the only Class AA boys' team with a better record than Elk Lake was Riverside, which had not won its division in the first half.
The top three seeds in Class AA boys' will all get first-round byes.
Blue Ridge has a chance to play at home if it can maintain the eighth position that it holds. As of the projections, Lackawanna Trail was a likely opponent.
Mountain View was sitting 11th in the 13-team field, with 10th place within reach. That would mean an opening round game at the sixth or seventh seed, which is most likely to be Bishop Hoban or Dunmore.
With nine teams in Class A boys, there is just one game needed to get down to the quarterfinals.
Susquehanna is likely to be headed for that game. The winless Sabers are last in Class A and could wind up playing at Bishop Hafey, which has just one win.
Forest City is fifth in Class A boys. If the Foresters stay there or move up to fourth, their quarterfinal opponent would probably be Carbondale Sacred Heart.
There are only seven teams in Class A girls, meaning that Forest City could get a bye all the way into the semifinals if it holds the top spot. The four-time defending champion Lady Foresters were the only Class A team in the district to win a first-half division title, but Bishop O'Reilly also has just two league losses.
Susquehanna was fifth, but could slip to sixth. Either position could lead to a quarterfinal game against either Bishop Hafey or Seton Catholic.
The Class AA girls will have the largest tournament with 17 teams. That leaves the greatest possibility of late juggling, but match-ups between county teams are possible.
The match-ups project as Blue Ridge at third-seeded Mountain View and Elk Lake at sixth-seeded Montrose in the Round of 16.
Scranton (Class AAAA), Nanticoke (AAA) and Bishop Hannan (A) lead the races for other boys' top seeds. Bishop Hannan won a state title in Class AA last season before dropping back down.
Abington Heights (AAAA), Bishop Hoban (AAA) and Wilkes-Barre Meyers (AA). Bishop Hoban and Meyers were unbeaten in league play.
THE WEEK IN REVIEW
Two Elk Lake basketball players reached the 1,000-point mark for their career during the week.
Seth Button returned from an ankle injury and got to the milestone in two games. He got to the mark one night after Nicole Nasser.
Button had 20 points in his first game back, a 77-51 victory over Mid Valley. He then scored 17 points, including his 1,000th in a 70-45 victory over Susquehanna Friday.
Nasser had 23 points, including her 1,000th, Thursday in a 60-44 victory over Blue Ridge.
Ashley Twining's scoring and rebounding led Mountain View to a pair of impressive victories that left the defending champion Lady Eagles as the last unbeaten in the Lackawanna League Division 2 North in the second half.
Mountain View defeated Forest City, 50-33, to hand the first-half champion Lady Foresters their second straight defeat.
The Lady Eagles then topped Montrose, 56-44, in a match-up of second-half unbeatens.
There were three unbeatens in the half to start the week.
Montrose cut the list to two with a 50-45 victory over Carbondale as Coleen Walsh scored 15 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and made five steals.
After falling to Mountain View, the Lady Meteors came back with a 39-22 victory over Lackawanna Trail.
Forest City is back on a two-game winning streak with wins over Carbondale Sacred Heart (70-39) and Blue Ridge (66-46).
Elk Lake was the only team in the division to go 3-0 during the week since Mountain View had a bye Saturday. The Lady Warriors beat Lackawanna Trail (58-52), Blue Ridge and Susquehanna (70-45).
Blue Ridge improved to 2-1 against Susquehanna on the season by beating the Lady Sabers, 51-37.
In boys' basketball, Elk Lake and Forest City remained tied for the second-half lead with Carbondale.
Forest City outscored Sacred Heart, 89-84.
Elk Lake was the only county team to win in Division 2 crossover with its win over Mid Valley.
THE WEEK AHEAD
The boys' basketball regular season wraps up Wednesday with Forest City at Carbondale. Both teams took 4-1 second-half records into Monday night.
Elk Lake is home with Blue Ridge Wednesday night.
The girls' basketball regular season ends Thursday. Mountain View will be trying to win a second-half title when it plays at home against Carbondale, which shares second place with Montrose.
Two guards from the county have contributed to a 12-7 record by the Wilkes University women's basketball team.
Danielle Kresock, a 5-4 sophomore, has appeared in 17 games, making nine starts.
Kresock is sixth on the team with 5.0 points per game while averaging 19.8 minutes. She is 31-for-91 from the floor, 13-for-47 on 3-pointers and 10-for-19 from the line. She also has 35 rebounds.
Nadine Taylor, a 5-6 freshman, has averaged 7.9 minutes in her nine games played.
Taylor averages 1.7 points on 5-for-19 shooting from the floor, 1-for-6 on 3-pointers and 4-for-7 from the line.
Wilkes is 4-5 in the Middle Atlantic Conference Freedom League.
DALE JR. Impressive In Bud Shootout, Daytona Beach, Fla.-Dale Jr. went from last to first to win Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout. He powered past Jeff Gordon with five laps left and then held off the four-time Winston cup champion for his first career Bud Shootout victory.
Earnhardt, who is considered one of the favorites in Sunday's Daytona 500 has now won four of the last eight restrictor plate races at Daytona and Talladega. Finishing order: 1. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 2. Jeff Gordon, 3. Matt Kenseth, 4. Ryan Newman, 5. Ward Burton, 6. Ken Schrader, 7. Jimmie Johnson, 8. Ricky Rudd, 9. Kevin Harvick, 10. Ricky Craven.
Daytona 500 And Beyond
The road to winning the NASCAR Winston Cup championship begins this Sunday in the Grand American race, the Daytona 500. Figuring out in advance who is going to be sitting at the head table at the end of the season is not a straightforward process.
There will be 36 races, and while there will be 43 teams per race, perhaps less than a dozen have a legitimate chance at being number one when the season wraps up in November at Homestead, Florida.
Where a team finishes this Sunday may or may not have a bearing on where they finish up the season. Remember after last year's 500, Tony Stewart was 39th in points.
Stewart went on to win the championship over Mark Martin and could well repeat in 2003, and no one should be surprised if he does. However, during the off-season his team did not show as much motivation as Jeff Gordon's.
After struggling through an inconsistent 2002 campaign, Gordon returns with his sights set on collecting his fifth Winston Cup title.
Gordon rallied several times in the closing races of 2002, but every time he moved close to the leaders, he had a bad finish.
One possible advantage Gordon's team might have over the other top contenders is he's driving the same make of car he's driven since 1994. NASCAR does allow a slight aerodynamics difference in car makes, but at least Gordon is still in a Chevrolet.
Several of the top challengers switched makes during the off season, a move that meant more work and more learning as the 2003 season opens. This could allow Gordon an early edge.
Stewart, who's team switched from Pontiacs to Chevrolets would like nothing better than to start off the season with a strong finish. In last year's Pepsi 400 at Daytona, he finished 39th after being involved in a crash.
Overall, Daytona has not been good for Stewart.
Another factor that might tip the scales is the way NASCAR will run the Daytona 500. The smaller fuel cell will make it necessary that all teams make extra pit stops. And quite often races are won in the pits and not on the track.
Daytona remains the most talked about venue for stock car racing in the world. The competition predates even the famed Indianapolis Raceway because people have been racing there since 1902 to see how fast their cars could go.
As late as 1958, stock cars raced on a circuit that was part paved road, part sandy beach. It was not until 1959, that NASCAR founder, Bill France Sr. built the high-banked D-shaped oval.
The inaugural 1959 Daytona 500 was one for the books. It was run without a caution and, Lee Petty's margin of victory over Johnny Beauchamp was only two feet. Since then there have been 38 different winners.
It wasn't until 1998, and after 20 years of trying that Dale Earnhardt won his first Daytona 500. That was the last significant race that had eluded him. Three years later he was killed after hitting the third turn wall at Daytona.
Dale Jr. didn't live up to his billing last season. Many thought he should have finished near the top in the final points standings. Instead, he did not crack the top-10.
Did he flop, maybe, and maybe not? But he sure didn't live up to his potential, even though he won both Talladega races.
During the off-season, he said a repeat of 2002 was not acceptable. If Earnhardt Jr. is to win and be near the top in November, he must avoid inconsistency that plagued his DEI team last year.
On the plus side, DEI teams dominated restrictor-plate racing at both Talladega and Daytona. This season, Earnhardt Jr. can't afford to falter where he races best. He has talent and good equipment. If his team can find consistency, look out.
Two sophomore drivers to watch out for are Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman. Both had excellent rookie seasons.
Johnson, the teammate to Jeff Gordon had consistency last season. His Lowe's team had just three DNF's. During the last half of the season he had two wins and 10 top-10 finishes in 14 races.
If he can do it again at the beginning of the season, he'll really be off and running.
Ryan Newman was the Winston Cup Rookie of The Year. His first win came in September and he wound up with five Bud Poles. Early in 2002, Newman's Penske engines failed four times.
But this season, Newman's team has switched from Fords to Dodges. If he can maintain consistency, he will be one to watch.
Can Mark Martin improve on his second-place finish last season? He was labeled the "best Winston Cup driver to have never won a championship." While he has now finished second four times, he just needs to keep doing what he's doing.
Fate dealt Sterling Marlin a cruel blow last October. After a wreck at Kansas City, he had to sit out the rest of the season with a fractured vertebrae. Marlin's consistency was excellent for most of the 2002 season. He led in points until September, when he was dropped to second.
Marlin and his Chip Ganassi team have shown they have what it takes to be consistent. They should do well, and it's a good bet they have something to prove after the way last season ended.
There are a few other drivers, both old and young that have a chance at winning this year's championship. Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte, and Kurt Busch all have first class teams and are capable of going the distance.
But now it's time for the talk to end and racing to start. Daytona International Speedway.
Weekend Racing Schedule:
Friday, Feb. 14: Craftsman Trucks Dodge Dealers 250, 100 laps/250 miles, 12:30 p.m. TV: Speed Channel.
Saturday, Feb. 15: Busch Series Koolerz 300, 120 laps/300 miles, 12:30 p.m. TV: Fox.
Sunday, Feb. 16: Winston Cup Daytona 500, 200 laps/500 miles, 12 noon, TV: Fox.
Racing Trivia Question: Which driver has the most Daytona 500 wins?
Answer To Last Week's Question: Dale Earnhardt Sr. won the 1998 Daytona 500.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coleen Walsh used a career-best performance to reach a personal milestone.
Walsh then matched that effort in a game to lead her team, the Montrose Lady Meteors, to a big accomplishment.
The senior center scored 27 points against Carbondale Sacred Heart Jan. 25 to surpass the 1,000-point mark for her basketball career. Walsh also had 27 points, along with 13 rebounds, in a 53-50 overtime victory over Lackawanna League Division 2 North first-half champion Forest City.
"The first time we played Forest City, we came out strong and were up most of the first half, but in the second half we crumbled," Walsh said. "All of our shots seemed to be falling in the first half this time. Forest City rallied again, but we stayed together."
For her personal and team accomplishments during January, Walsh has been selected as the latest Susquehanna County Transcript Athlete of the Month.
The Lady Meteors came to the end of January still unbeaten in the division in the second half.
Walsh averaged 17.2 points and 11.6 rebounds per game in January.
Walsh is also a standout in soccer season where she was a three-year starter. She was an all-star each of the past two seasons, including this fall when Lackawanna League North coaches selected her as the division's Player of the Year.
The progress toward 1,000 points in basketball started in Walsh's freshman season when she was a substitute on the varsity. She has started the past three seasons.
"What matters most is what I can bring to the team," Walsh said. "I didn't even know about the 1,000 points until the night I got it.
"It's never been a big deal to me, but I'm proud of the accomplishment."
Coleen is the daughter of Tom and Kate Walsh of Brackney.
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