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Issue Home March 9, 2004 Site Home

Local Sports Scene
Amanda Vitzakovitch Is February's Athlete Of The Month
Trout Stocking Change

Blue Ridge's Herbert Finishes Sixth In State

Blue Ridge’s Justin Herbert played a role in the most successful performance ever by Lackawanna League wrestlers in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Tournament at Hershey.

Herbert, Susquehanna County’s only competitor in the state tournament, finished sixth in Class AA at 160 pounds.

Herbert was one of five Lackawanna League wrestlers to place in the top eight and claim a state medal.

The Lackawanna League, which had only had one state finalist ever before this weekend, had three wrestlers reach the final before losing and settling for second place.

Herbert won three of his first four bouts before suffering two straight losses.

The tournament started Thursday and Herbert won his only match of the day when he used a takedown in overtime to get past Coudersport’s Isaac Wright, 6-4.

By Friday night, Herbert had clinched a medal. He started the day with a 7-3 loss to Mike Mackie of Brandywine Heights, but came back with two more wins. Herbert pinned Sal Crivellaro of Bethlehem Catholic in 4:28 then decisioned Brandon Gibble of Central Columbia, 8-5.

Herbert still had hopes of finishing as high as third when Saturday morning’s session started. He lost to Corey Checkan of South Side Beaver, 10-4, then Mike Morgan of Beth-Center, 10-7, and settled for sixth.

All five Lackawanna League medalists lost in their final bouts, but that was about the only disappointment in a memorable weekend.

Dave Morgan of West Scranton, Josh Arnone of Honesdale and Kyle Davis of Valley View lost their three finals by a total of five points.

Morgan (130) and Arnone (189) each lost by two in the Class AAA final. For Morgan, it was the only loss of the season.

Davis lost, 9-8, to Tri-Valley’s Brock Troutman in the Class AA 215-pound final.

Delaware Valley sophomore Frankie Colletta was fourth in Class AAA at 171 pounds.

Mark McLafferty of Bishop O’Hara, an unbeaten 160-pound champion in Class AA in 1990, was the only other finalist in Lackawanna League history.

The last finalist from a current Lackawanna League school was in 1994 when Blue Ridge’s Jason Hurlburt finished second at 189 pounds. Blue Ridge was a member of the Northeast Athletic Conference at the time.

Montrose also had two finalists while in the NAC. Mike Cole won the 126-pound title in 1984, the same year that teammate Pip Flaherty reached the final.

While Lackawanna League performers were enjoying a record weekend, the rest of District 2 – the Wyoming Valley Conference – was doing even better.

Crestwood’s Joe Kemmerer completed an unbeaten season by winning the 119-pound title in Class AAA while Wilkes-Barre Meyers’ Joe Rovelli stepped up from last year’s runner-up finish to take the 160-pound title in Class AA.

Lake-Lehman’s Matt Dragon (145, AA) and Pittston Area’s John Laboranti (215, AAA) each placed third. Damian Carbone of Wilkes-Barre Meyers was sixth at 275.


Wilkes-Barre – The Penguins had been away so long that the fans who made up the 130th and 131st consecutive sellouts at the Wachovia Arena last week may have had a hard time recognizing the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton team.

With some fresh faces in the lineup and a little extra zip from the more familiar players, the Penguins looked like an American Hockey League playoff team.

Colby Armstrong, Matt Hussey and Michel Ouellet scored power-play goals during a raucous second period Wednesday to lead the Penguins to their highest-scoring and most significant win of the season, 7-3 over the Binghamton Senators.

Three nights later, the Penguins used two goals by Tomas Surovy in his first game since being sent down by Pittsburgh to beat the Philadelphia Phantoms, 4-0. Sebastien Caron made 25 saves to get the shutout.

Playing at home for the first time since February 16, the Penguins posted just their second and third wins on home ice since January 23. They had been through many struggles at Wachovia Arena in the previous six weeks, but that trouble appears to be in the rear-view mirror.

The two home wins were part of a 3-1 week that put the Penguins back in command of the East Division’s fifth and final playoff berth.

"Now we control our destiny," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. "The month of March is very important to us. We have a lot of division games.

"This was a good way to start the month."

The Penguins limped out of town after a 2-2 tie with Binghamton February 16. They had gone 3-7-2-1 during a stretch that featured 12 out of 13 games at home.

Since then, the Penguins have gone 7-3-1-0 despite playing nine out of 11 on the road. The season’s longest road trip – seven straight games – featured the team’s first three-game, regular-season winning streak in more than three years.

Binghamton goalie Ray Emery, who has been involved in a series of incidents, went after Penguins scoring leader Michel Ouellet and drew a match penalty for intent to injury. The AHL then suspended Emery for five games for his actions.

The wild second period featured plenty of power-play opportunities for each team. The Penguins took advantage and turned a 1-1 tie into a 4-1 lead.

During the period, the Penguins were on the power play for 7:01, including 2:14 of 5-on-3 play. They turned those advantages into 11 shots and three goals.

The Senators had 6:22 on the power play, including 3:00 of 5-on-3s, but managed just five shots and did not score.

Binghamton’s bottomed out at a franchise-record, seven-game losing streak while in Wilkes-Barre. The Senators bounced back to defeat Rochester, 3-1, and Bridgeport, 4-3, on the weekend.

In girls’ basketball, District 11 champion Cardinal Brennan brought an end to the season for Forest City in a first-round state Class A game at Martz Hall in Pottsville.

Cardinal Brennan handled Forest City, 57-33.

Six District 2 teams made it through the first round, including two from the Lackawanna League – North Pocono in Class AAA and Bishop Hannan in Class AA.

North Pocono remained undefeated and showed why it is District 2’s only serious state title contender when it handled Palmyra, 37-22, Saturday afternoon at Scranton High School.

Laura Franceski, a 6-foot-2 junior center who has family in Forest City, led the way for North Pocono by posting a triple-double in points, rebounds and blocked shots.

Franceski scored 11 of the points in North Pocono’s streak of 16 straight during the first and second quarters for a 19-5 lead late in the half. She then blocked seven shots in less than eight minutes during the second half to prevent any comeback hopes for Palmyra.

The other District 2 teams that advanced were Hazleton Area in AAAA, Nanticoke and Dallas in AAA, Wilkes-Barre Meyers in AA and Bishop O’Reilly in A.

In boys’ basketball, Carbondale was the only Lackawanna League team to advance.

Carbondale, which beat out the six county schools for the Lackawanna Division 2 North title, defeated Wyomissing, 79-70, in overtime in a Class AA game.

The other District 2 teams to advance were Hanover Area in AAA, Wilkes-Barre GAR and Northwest in AA and Bishop O’Reilly in A.


Mountain View graduate Nicole Zapolski was named to the All-America Team before the United States Collegiate Athletic Association Women’s Basketball Tournament.

Zapolski was then named to the all-tournament team after helping Keystone College to a third-place finish nationally.

Keystone won two out of three games, losing in overtime in the semifinals, in the national tournament at Auburn, Maine. The Lady Giants finished 19-4.

Zapolski had 55 points and 37 rebounds in three tournament games. In the regular season, she averaged 17.3 points and 12.1 rebounds while posting double figures in both categories in 14 of 20 games.

Julie Lasher, another Mountain View graduate playing at Keystone, received recognition as a nominee for the All-America Team.

Zapolski had 20 points and 12 rebounds as Keystone opened the tournament with a 68-57 victory over San Jose Christian College. Lasher added 12 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots.

A late rally in regulation allowed eventual champion Finlandia University into overtime where it ran away from Keystone, 91-72. Zapolski had 18 points and 14 rebounds while Lasher had nine points, nine rebounds and five assists.

Zapolski’s 17 points and 11 rebounds lifted Keystone over Paul Smith College, 82-57, for third place.


Elk Lake’s Collin Lunger will compete in the 500 freestyle at the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Swimming and Diving Championships.

The PIAA state swimming championships are Thursday through Saturday at the McCoy Natatorium at Penn State University.

Lunger competes on Saturday. Qualifying starts at 8 a.m. that day.

Lunger is seeded 19th among 23 swimmers in the event. He will swim in the first heat in Lane 3 as the fastest seeded swimmer among the five in his heat.

In the American Hockey League, the Penguins and Senators meet again Saturday night in Wilkes-Barre.

When the week started, Norfolk had 69 points, Hershey 68, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 66 and Binghamton 64. Three of the four teams will make the playoffs.

TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached on-line at

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Las Vegas – Matt Kenseth doubled down Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway by winning the UAW DaimlerChrysler 400, for was his second straight Nextel Cup race.

Matt Kenseth

After winning only one race last season, which was at Las Vegas, Kenseth has now won two consecutive races, the last one being the Subway 400 at Rockingham.

Kenseth and his team are on a roll. In addition to his two wins, he now has an 88 point lead over Tony Stewart in the points.

"Nobody could catch Matt today," said Stewart. "He was awesome."

Kenseth’s No. 17 DeWalt Ford was definitely the class of the field. He gained the lead for the last time from Kevin Harvick during lap 230 of the 267 lap race. After just 20 more laps Kenseth had built a 2.8-second lead.

Harvick ran out of gas in his No. 29 Goodwrench Chevrolet with five laps to go, and Polesitter, Kasey Kahne moved into the number two spot.

But, unlike Rockingham where Kenseth and Kahne dueled each other side-by-side at the finish, Kenseth cruised to the checkered flag by a large margin of victory Sunday.

"So far it’s been fun," said Kenseth. "It’s been nice getting the extra points for winning. It’s been a fun two weeks, the most fun I’ve ever had in my life."

Rookie Kasey Kahne, driving the No. 9 Dodge, slipped by Stewart during lap 260, for third, and then when Harvick ran out of gas, fans thought they might see another close finish, but this time, Kahne ran out of laps before he could make a challenge on the leader.

"We needed about 20 more miles at each one of these races," said Kahne. "It would have been nice to win, but you know second place is pretty darn good."

Third-place finisher, Stewart led five different times during the race, but used up his tires near the end.

"The car was good," said Stewart. "This new tire that Goodyear has brought us has made racing fun. You can’t go out and run real hard, because that’s how I burned the tires off chasing Harvick, and lost second to Kasey Kahne.

"If I had known he was going to run out of fuel, I would have taken it a little easier."

Jamie McMurray, Mark Martin, Elliott Sadler, Casey Mears, Bobby Labonte, Kurt Busch, and rusty Wallace rounded out the top-10.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. had all kinds of handling problems with his No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet and finished 35th after completing 196 laps.

Top ten finishing order: 1. Matt Kenseth, 2. Kasey Kahne, 3. Tony Stewart, 4. Jamie McMurray, 5. Mark Martin, 6. Elliott Sadler, 7. Casey Mears, 8. Bobby Labonte, 9. Kurt Busch, 10. Rusty Wallace.

Top-10 points leaders after 4 of 36 races: 1. Kenseth-523, 2. Stewart-435, 3. Sadler-405, 4. J. Gordon-404, 5. Busch-400, 6. Harvick-399, 7. Earnhardt Jr.-398, 8. Kahne-385, 9. McMurray-385, 10. Mears-367.

"Thank You," Says BILL ELLIOTT – "This is, without question, the best time of my life," says Elliott, 48. "After so many years on such a rigid schedule, I finally am doing exactly what I want. The freedom is fantastic."

After 27 years behind the stock car wheel, Elliott still plans to show up at the race track most weekends. He'll talk shop, mix with the crew and offer his insights to rookie driver Kasey Kahne.

"I'm ready to slow down from the grind of running a full season - the physical aspect is one thing, and I know how bad (it) beat me up the last two or three years as hard as you've got to run," he says.

Anointed NASCAR's Most Popular Driver a record 16 times, Elliott has never been unaware of just what it is that has allowed him to lead a very comfortable existence, including a magnificent lakeside home north of Atlanta, a marble-glazed condo in Vail, CO, a private plane and landing strip, and a future secured - at least monetarily.

"What I want more than anything? A way to say 'thank you' to all the people who have supported me so much all those years," he says. "I know other people feel this way, but I really want to get it done. I would have never lasted all these years without such amazing support."

Ideally, the 1985 Daytona 500 champion and first man to win the series' million-dollar bonus (also in '85) would like to schedule personal appearances wherever he can, whether it be at a local mall or VFW hall. Anywhere, he says, where he can press the flesh in a somewhat orderly fashion and sign whatever is shoved in front of him. Batting aside a season-long, perched-in-a-convertible, antiseptic-gloved-handed wave, Elliott wants to say "see ya later" in his own down-home way.

"This is so important to me, especially since I never really made a formal announcement, to get out there and say thanks," says Elliott. "It took me some time to figure out, but I would have been happy racing one other guy down at the corner. But because of the people out there who wanted me to do well, doing what I love became a career. I've been so blessed."

NASCAR Officials Cannot Bet On Races, Las Vegas – Jim Hunter, NASCAR vice president for corporate communications, said the policy that officials cannot bet on races "is well-communicated throughout the company."

"That's to preserve the integrity just so it doesn't get to those gray areas," said Hunter.

"Gambling is legal is some states," Hunter said. "We try not to take a position on what our fans say - some might like to gamble and some may not. That's why we have low-keyed it. I hope we don't have to get a point in this sport to institute some broad rule of absolutely no gambling."


Crash Allows HARVICK To Win Vegas Busch Race, Las Vegas, NV – Kevin Harvick took advantage of a late race crash involving the leader Matt Kenseth to win Saturday’s Busch Series Sam’s Town 300.

Top ten finishing order: 1. Kevin Harvick, 2. Kasey Kahne, 3. David Stremme, 4. Michael Waltrip, 5. Bobby Hamilton Jr., 6. Matt Kenseth, 7. Tim Fedewa, 8. Jason Keller, 9. Joe Nemechek, 10. Greg Biffle.

Top-10 points leaders after 3 of 34 races: 1. Harvick-520, 2. J. Sauter-450, 3. Waltrip-436, 4. Hamilton Jr.-426, 5. D. Green-424, 6. Keller-407, 7. R. Gordon-397, 8. Truex-390, 9. Fedewa-375, 10. Stremme-370.


The Nextel and Craftsman Truck Series will be in Atlanta, while the Busch teams have the weekend off.

Saturday, March 13, Craftsman Truck EasyCare Service Contracts 200, race 2 of 25, 130 laps/200 miles, 1 p.m. TV: Speed Channel.

Sunday, March 14, Nextel Golden Corral 500, race 4 of 36, 325 laps/500 miles, 1 p.m. TV: Fox.

Racing Trivia Question: How many bonus points does a Nextel Cup driver get for leading the most laps?

Last Week’s Question: What is the home state of Kurt Busch and his younger brother, Kyle? Answer. Both Kurt and Kyle Busch are from Las Vegas, Nevada.

If you would like to read additional racing stories by Gerald Hodges/the Racing Reporter, go to

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Amanda Vitzakovitch Is February's Athlete Of The Month

Amanda Vitzakovitch scored more points than any boy or girl in the Lackawanna League this season.

The senior has scored more points in her career than any girls’ basketball player in Forest City history.

Vitzakovitch’s 37 points in the Class A semifinals were the most in a District 2 playoff game this season.

The 37-point playoff game led Forest City back into the state tournament for the 22nd straight season and capped an effort that makes Vitzakovitch the latest Susquehanna County Transcript Athlete of the Month.

Forest City’s string of five straight Class A titles came to an end, putting the team on the road when the state tournament opened, but Vitzakovitch tried to find the positive in that development.

"I guess even though we didn’t win districts, there was one good change," Vitzakovitch said. "We got a chance to play at Martz Hall. That’s a really cool gym."

Vitzakovitch has seen games at Martz Hall, the Pottsville High School site that has hosted many of eastern Pennsylvania’s top high school playoff games, but until Saturday she had never played there.

A third-team, Associated Press Class A all-state selection last season, Vitzakovitch averaged 23 points per game while leading Forest City to another winning season.

Vitzakovitch, also a standout soccer player at Forest City, plans to take her basketball skills into college where she is likely to play at a Division II school in Pennsylvania or a small Division I school.

"I’ve been talking to a lot of schools," said Vitzakovitch, who still had scouts watching her during the playoffs.

Vitzakovitch scored more than 35 points three times in the second half of the season, including a career-high 40 in a 74-72 overtime win over Old Forge on the night she became the school’s all-time scoring leader.

In soccer, the four-year starter and three-time, all-star led all county players in goals while scoring more than one per game as a senior.

Amanda is the daughter of Stan and Carol Vitzakovitch.

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Trout Stocking Change

Due to poor road and stream conditions , the scheduled stocking of Starrucca Creek and Canawacta Creek has been postponed. The new date is 3/23 with the same meeting place of the Lanesboro Post Office and same time of 2:00 p.m. as previously published.

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