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The Susquehanna Sabers and Montrose Lady Meteors won first-half titles in Lackawanna League basketball, giving them the best hopes of capturing all-season titles among local teams.
The first-half titles also put the Sabers and Lady Meteors in the best positions when it comes to jockeying for seeding position during the second half of the season.
All-season division champions are automatically seeded ahead of all other teams in the district's open basketball tournaments. That is a much bigger factor for the Sabers than the Lady Meteors.
Montrose is likely to be in one of the top two positions in the 16-team Class AA girls' field. The Lady Meteors could drop a spot or two if they fail to win the division and another Class AA team, such as Lackawanna Trail or Riverside, wins a championship.
Based on current records, Susquehanna would rank only eighth of 11 teams in an uncommonly strong Class A boys' field if it is not a division champion.
Bishop O'Reilly, the defending state Class A champion, and Pittston Seton Catholic are unbeaten in the Wyoming Valley Conference. An eighth seed could mean starting the district tournament against the defending state champions.
League records, plus mandatory crossovers within the Lackawanna League, are used for seeding purposes.
Three Lackawanna League Division II teams could have an edge on the Sabers. Old Forge, which won the first-half title in a playoff, and Bishop Hannan, which lost that playoff, are ahead of Susquehanna, along with Bishop O'Hara.
A division title, however, would move the Sabers up into a likely fourth seed behind two WVC champions and the Lackawanna Division II champ. Regardless, any quarterfinal game should be challenging in a class that features the five previously mentioned teams along with Northwest and Bishop Hafey. Northwest is 6-2 in league play.
As teams moved through the second half of league play, the Montrose boys moved into what is potentially the best position among county basketball teams.
Montrose is fifth out of 17 Class AA boys' teams and could climb all the way to the number-one seed if it is the only division champion in Class AA. No Class AA teams won first-half titles, but Montrose leads the Lackawanna League Division III second-half race. Gaining a position in the top half of the field earns a chance to open the playoffs at home.
Blue Ridge and Mountain View are ninth and 10th in Class AA and Elk Lake is tied for 14th.
The Forest City boys are ninth out of 11 Class A teams.
Forest City and Susquehanna are tied for seventh out of 10 Class A girls' teams.
Blue Ridge is ninth, Elk Lake is 10th and Mountain View is 13th among Class AA girls' teams.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Elk Lake won all five of its matches Saturday to win the Zurn-Bush Memorial Duals.
The Warriors hosted the eight-team event and went 3-0 in their pool to reach the four-team winners' bracket.
Elk Lake then edged Susquehanna, 40-36, and Perkiomen Valley, 38-33.
Rich Harvey (135), Derek Noldy (140) and Mike Noldy (171) all went 5-0 in the duals to lead Elk Lake to the title.
Susquehanna went 3-2 and finished third.
Blue Ridge was 2-3 and finished in the consolation bracket.
In other wrestling, Montrose remained in first place in the Lackawanna League Division II race, but had to overcome a 17-0 deficit first.
The Meteors (4-0) rallied for a 39-34 win over Blue Ridge Friday then handled Mountain View, 42-18, Saturday.
Chris Fish and Domenic Lucenti pulled out wins with pins in the third period and Larry Lundy held on for a one-point decision at heavyweight in the Blue Ridge win.
Max Hotchkiss and Dustin Palmer had pins for the Meteors in the Mountain View match, which ended with five forfeits and also had three no contests.
Mountain View's limited lineup also meant seven forfeits in a 54-19 loss to Scranton Prep.
Greg Nixon had a technical fall and a pin for the Eagles in the two losses. Levi Matulevich had a pin and an overtime win. Matt Panasevich won a technical fall at 189, one day after bumping all the way up to heavyweight to post a 6-3 decision over Lundy.
Susquehanna (2-0) and Elk Lake (3-1) also remain in the race for the wrestling title.
Both Montrose basketball teams also ended the week with perfect records in the second-half standings.
Brandon Pipher scored 14 points and went 4-for-4 from the line in the fourth quarter of a 62-57 victory over Mountain View, which had started the second half with a win over first-half champion Susquehanna.
Chris Strohl added 13 points and Tom Burgh 12 in the win. Kyle Stoddard had 11 points, seven assists and six rebounds.
Montrose is 3-0 while Lackawanna Trail and Forest City are 2-0 in the half.
The Lady Meteors remained unbeaten on the season in the division with a 59-25 win over Mountain View and a 49-30 victory over Elk Lake.
Erika Brown had 15 points, eight rebounds and five steals against Mountain View. Brittany Ely added 11 points while Chelsey Parvin had 10 points and 14 rebounds.
Kate LaBarbera scored 14 points and Erika Brown added 11 against Elk Lake.
Brooke Shingler scored 13 in the loss for Elk Lake.
Montrose is 2-0 in the half, a half-game behind Lackawanna Trail (3-0).
Julie Lasher, a senior forward from Mountain View, moved into the starting lineup at Keystone College and led the team in scoring for four straight games.
The Lady Giants are unbeaten in the North Eastern Athletic Conference. Lasher was named NEAC Player of the Week for the period ending January 16.
Lasher averaged 25.3 points in three games for the week that she was honored. She was in double figures and points in all three games including a team season-high of 31 points against D'Youville College.
Lasher is up to second on the team in scoring, less than a point per game behind former high school teammate Nicole Zapolski. Lasher averages 14.1 points, 8.6 rebounds and a team-high 2.3 blocked shots. She is shooting 48.4 percent from the floor, 27.8 from 3-point range and 81.4 percent from the line.
Keystone ran its winning streak to five games with a 64-54 victory over Chestnut Hill as Lasher contributed 16 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Weather-related postponements have left teams with several matches still to squeeze into their schedules, but the District 2 Dual Meet Wrestling Championships are scheduled for Friday and Saturday.
Susquehanna, Montrose and Elk Lake are the top contenders for the Class AA field.
The league title may end up being decided after districts.
Montrose is at Forest City February 7 in a boys' basketball game that could have Lackawanna League Division III second-half title implications.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
Will This Be RUDD’S Last Year?
With less than three weeks to go before this year’s Feb. 20th, Daytona 500, most drivers are anxious to get back to racing. Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin have indicated this will be their last year of full-time racing.
But there are several other drivers who are nearing the finish line. One of those is veteran Ricky Rudd.
Rudd says if he has a good finish this season, he will be back, but if it is a bad one, finishing out of the top-10, then he might hang up his driving suit.
The 48-year old driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft Genuine Parts Taurus will be entering his 30th year as a driver in NASCAR’s major series.
He drove for at least eight different teams, including one ran by his father, Al Rudd, before starting his own team in 1994. He closed up his shop in 1999, to drive for Robert Yates until 2002.
This will be his third year with the Wood Brothers. But he has gone full circle, and now is back in the building he designed in 1993.
“When I first started our race team in late '93 to get ready for the '94 season, we built this building from looking at the blueprints, getting together with architects and all that, so I was involved in this building from the very beginning,” said Rudd. “We were in this building from '94 to when we shut the team down and '99 was the last year we ran. There are good memories and bad memories.
“The bad memories are when I look out here and see all these chairs. That reminds me that this is about where they had the auction tables set up here. The auctioneer was up here and all the other people were sitting out there in the seats and that was a tough day. As a matter of fact, I stuck my head in the door and walked right back out. I had to leave.
"Always a lot of thought was put into when I would retire. I guess it goes back a couple of years ago when I was with the Yates organization. It started back then and you start realizing that you're not gonna be doing this forever, so there's been a lot of thought put in it.
“Really, I try purposely to keep my life as simple as I possibly can - not a lot of side diversions or a whole lot of other racing going on, but just the Cup racing. I do that really on purpose to help keep focused so the burnout factor doesn't set in too much there.
“Physically, I feel great. I feel as good as I ever have. I couldn't be happier with the way the cars are starting to respond and coming around - the way the cars are driving good. To me, that's what it's really all about is getting in a race car that drives really good. If it drives really good and runs good, then you've got a chance to go out and win a race or run up front. That's sort of what keeps me hanging around is the idea and knowing what's going on in this shop right now for the upcoming season is nothing but an improvement and built upon the way we finished last year.
“So I'm looking forward to the year and really just take it a year at a time. Obviously, I'm not gonna be here probably five or 10 years, but I feel I've got a couple more good years in me. I kind of look at it as we've got all the tools now that it takes. We've got the Yates motor program. We've got (crew chief) Fatback, and we've got all these good fabricators and mechanics in the shop. If we can't get it done and run up front this year, then you probably won't see me the next year. But if I'm competitive this year and we can go out and run up front and maybe win a race or two or make that top-10 and be a factor in that top-10 outfit at the end of the year, then you're probably gonna have to deal with me a couple more years.”
JEFF GORDON Going For Five – When asked last week what his goals were for the 2005 racing season, Jeff Gordon replied, “My number one goal is winning a fifth championship. That is what we've been working hard towards in the off-season. We've moved a couple of people around so we could get even better than we were last year. The key to all this is getting the most out of the people who work on these cars. I came close to winning that fifth title last year, so that probably makes me a little more hungry for the drive for five in 2005. I can't wait to get to test next week at Las Vegas and California.
“In this sport, you can't give up one lap of any race during the season or you'll be in trouble. It came down to the last lap last year so that was pretty exciting for the fans."
Racing Trivia Question: >From 1970 until ’81, Daytona International Speedway did not host the opening NASCAR race. Which track held the season-opening race during this period?
Last Week’s Question: How many Cup teams does Ray Evernham have? Answer. He will have two full-time teams, driven by Kasey Kahne and Jeremy Mayfield, and one part-time team driven by Bill Elliott.
Gerald Hodges/the Racing Reporter is a syndicated NASCAR columnist. You can read additional racing stories by Hodges at www.race500.com.
Montrose Area Kiwanis is pleased to announce the winner of the Kiwanis NASCAR Raffle is Shirley Lockhart from Springville. The drawing was held at the January 13 meeting. Mrs. Lockhart had the choice of a Pocono Raceway Package or $800 cash.
The Montrose Kiwanis thanks all who purchased a ticket to make this fund-raiser a success.
If you are interested in knowing more about Kiwanis, feel free to contact any member or calling President Will Tripp, at 663–9209.
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