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The Montrose girls' basketball team was the last team from Susquehanna County to remain active in the winter high school sports season.
By advancing through the first round of the state Class AA tournament, the Lady Meteors put themselves into a meeting with a powerhouse team.
York Catholic proved to be too strong for Montrose while running away early on the way to a 48-23 victory at Martz Hall in Pottsville.
"What you work for all year is to get into the state tournament," Montrose coach John Cherundolo said after the team won a first-round state game for the second time in the last four years. "You win one and you get into the final 16.
"It's nice to get to the Sweet 16, but it would be nice to get to that next round now. No Montrose girls' team has ever done it, but we're working on it."
The District 3 champion Fighting Irish (31-1) showed why they are considered a strong contender for the state championship by holding the Lady Meteors scoreless until the final minute of the first quarter.
York Catholic had a 17-0 lead before Amanda Lass scored from close range.
"In the first half, we didn't shoot very well," Cherundolo said. "They would have been tough to beat, but going 4-for-23 in the first half doesn't help.
"The four teams left (in the eastern half of the state) in the final eight were all from their district. It's a tough district to run into, but I thought we could play with them."
The Fighting Irish went into the game ranked third in the state in Class AA in the Harrisburg Patriot-News poll. Later in the week, York Catholic advanced to the state semifinals with a 55-36 win over Fairfield in the closest of the three state tournament games the Fighting Irish has faced.
By halftime of the second round game, York Catholic had a 30-9 lead.
Amanda Weaver led York Catholic with 16 points.
Chelsey Parvin led Montrose with seven.
Fighting Irish coach Andy Bria told the York Daily Record that the start was his team's strongest of the season.
"I don't think I've seen them play a better four or five minutes this year," he said.
Montrose finished the season 23-6.
The Lady Meteors will graduate three seniors, Parvin and Lass, who started all season, and Ashley Jones, who moved into the starting lineup late in the regular season.
"(Jones) came in some games and came off the bench to be one of our higher scorers," Cherundolo said. "She's a good outside shooter who was not afraid to take the ball to the basket."
With strong teams at each level of the program, the Lady Meteors will be a threat to add to the 32-game division winning streak they have built with two straight 16-0 records in Division III of the Lackawanna League.
Freshmen Chelsea Lunger and Autumn Ely were among the players gaining experience when Montrose dominated many of its league opponents, deciding games early.
"They came along nice," Cherundolo said. "They got a chance to play a lot later in the season."
While Montrose remained on top in girls' basketball, Mountain View completed its climb in a 25-4 boys' basketball season that ended when the Eagles were knocked off, 61-57, by a fourth-quarter Southern Columbia rally in the first round of the state tournament.
"The biggest thing I told the guys was that Mountain View got upset in the first round of the state playoffs," Mountain View coach Pat Heaton said. "Four years ago, when they were entering high school, to even be in the state tournament would be a miracle.
"Now, for it to be considered an upset when they lose, that's quite a compliment."
Like the Montrose girls, the Mountain View boys won their division title and finished second in the District 2 Class AA tournament.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Kelly Guard stopped 32 of 34 shots, then denied all four Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins shootout attempts to lead the Binghamton Senators to a 3-2 victory Wednesday night at the Broome County Arena.
The shootout win was the first for the Senators in six meetings with the Penguins this season.
Binghamton never even needed its fourth attempt in the shootout, which was scheduled for five rounds.
Charlie Stephens and Jeff Heerema scored on the first two tries for the Senators. Even though Denis Hamel missed on the third, the four straight stops by Guard clinched the victory.
Binghamton killed all eight Wilkes-Barre/Scranton power plays.
Despite the loss, the Penguins picked up a point in the standings for making it through regulation tied. That allowed them to set a franchise record with 93 standings points on the season.
Joe Cullen scored 2:30 into the game to give the Senators the lead.
Krystofer Kolanos and Jonathan Filewich scored in the next 10 minutes to put the Penguins ahead.
Heerema's goal 37 seconds into the third period forced the tie.
Andy Chiodo stopped five shots in overtime and 33 total for the Penguins.
Blue Ridge graduate Justin Herbert finished his freshman season second on the team in wins at Division I Franklin & Marshall.
Herbert's season ended with two defeats in the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association championships at Lehigh. He lost, 12-2, to Jonathan Anderson of Army and, 12-4, to Shawn Kitchner of Brown.
Herbert, who competed at 165 pounds, finished the season with a 16-10 record.
THE WEEK AHEAD
The Lackawanna Track Conference is scheduled to get underway Tuesday March 28.
Montrose competes in Division II where it will open at Riverside. Other teams in the division are: Western Wayne, Dunmore, Scranton, West Scranton and Valley View.
The remainder of the Susquehanna County teams will compete in Division III. Susquehanna opens at Carbondale, Elk Lake is at Lackawanna Trail, Mountain View is at Mid Valley and Blue Ridge has a bye.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
Perseverance Paying Off For BILL LESTER, Hampton, GA – To earn a starting spot in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series, Bill Lester has used a path less traveled.
By racing his way into the NASCAR Nextel Cup Golden Corral, Lester became the first African American driver to qualify for a Nextel Cup race since Willy T. Ribbs in 1986.
While Lester’s name is just now becoming known by mainstream racing fans, he has been racing since 1985, in the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), IMSA open wheel, and other sports car series.
Lester earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the Univ. of Cal. at Berkeley.
He left a high paying job in the west coast high tech computer industry to claim several SCCA championships.
His initiation into NASCAR racing came in 1999, when he started a Watkins Glen Busch Series race. He had moved into the top-10, before a wreck relegated him to a 21st-place finish.
In 2000, he ran his first Craftsman Truck Series race at Portland, OR and finished 24th.
Ironically, it was Ribbs that recognized Lester’s talent and suggested that he move from his home near San Jose, CA to either Charlotte or Atlanta, if he was really serious about a racing career.
“I decided to put the cart before the horse,” said Lester. “I didn’t know anyone in Charlotte, but I did have some family in Atlanta, so my wife and I made the move from California to Atlanta, with the belief that I could do it.”
Doors opened for the 15-year road course veteran, and he signed on with Bobby Hamilton for five truck races in 2001, and then full-time in 2002 and 2003.
In 2004, he switched to Bill Davis Racing. In two full seasons, he has accumulated two top-five finishes, along with three poles.
“I’m a racer,” continued Lester. “But I also realize that now I have a unique opportunity and responsibility to make a change.
“It’s never easy when you’re going against other people and teams that are also trying to win. But you’ve got to believe in yourself. That’s what I would like to say to all young people.
“Anyone, whether they are Hispanic, White, African American, or Yellow, if they have the desire and believe in themselves, then they can do it.
“I’ve been infatuated with cars since I was eight, and anyone willing to persevere can do it. If it’s not racing, they can at least be successful at whatever they attempt.”
Lester qualified 19th in the No. 23 Waste Management Dodge.
JEFF BURTON Wins AMS Busch Race, Hampton, GA – Jeff Burton won his first NASCAR Busch Series race in more than three years Saturday, cruising to victory in the Nicorette 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
"It was a good day for us, hopefully we can do it again tomorrow," Burton said. “It was a great race. If you were to go to race two guys, you couldn’t ask for two better racers than Kasey Kahne and Matt Kenseth. I couldn’t ask for a better competitor than Kenseth. I look at everything he’s done and it’s just awesome.
“Mark Martin taught me that you’re never guaranteed to be in victory lane and to appreciate it every time, and I remembered that today,” said Burton. “When you can beat those guys it means a lot. I’m proud of myself for continuing to fight and giving 100 percent.”
When asked about repaving tracks, Burton commented, “This race track is how it ought to be. It’s wore out, it eats tires up. It’s 190 mph to the corner when you need to slow down to 40. It’s a riot and it’s what makes the racing so good.”
Burton's last victory was at Lowe's Motor Speedway in October 2002, and this was his 21st career Busch Series win.
Kasey Kahne finished second. Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth and J.J. Yeley rounded out the top-five.
Top-10 Busch Series leaders: 1. Harvick-772, 2. J.J. Yeley-755, 3. McMurray-698, 4. Bowyer-664, 5. Hamlin-649, 6. Leffler-639, 7. Edwards-614, 8. Lamar-606, 9. Wood-596, 10. Biffle-595.
HAMILTON Taking Time Off For Health Reasons – Bobby Hamilton, the 2004 Craftsman Truck Series champion stepped out of his No. 18 Fastenal Dodge after the Atlanta race for health reasons. Hamilton has been diagnosed with cancer in the right side of his neck and will be replaced by his son Bobby, Jr. for the remainder of the season.
“These are not the circumstances I wanted to race in my dad’s truck, but I will do it without hesitation,” said Hamilton, Jr. “On top of racing he is my dad, so first and foremost I want him healed.”
Hamilton will undergo chemotherapy treatments, and expects to return either for the last race of the season at Homestead, or the first race of 2007 at Daytona Beach.
Top-10 Craftsman Truck Series leaders: 1. Martin-560, 2. T. Bodine-535, 3. Musgrave-495, 4. Reutimann-458, 5. Sprague-438, 6. Benson-433, 7. Crawford-423, 8. Darnell-422, 9. Wood-408, 10. Bliss-389.
Saturday, March 25, Busch Series Sharpie Mini 300, race 6 of 35, 300 laps, 3 p.m. TV: Fox.
Sunday, March 26, Nextel Cup Food City 500, race 5 of 36, 500 laps, 1:30 p.m. TV: Fox.
There is no Craftsman Truck Series racing this weekend. Their next race will be April 1 at Martinsville, VA.
Racing Trivia Question: Which year did Matt Kenseth win the NASCAR Winston Cup championship?
Last Week’s Question: Which Cup team does Michael Waltrip drive for this year? Answer. He drives the No. 55 NAPA Dodge.
You may read additional stories at the Racing Reporter’s website, www.race500.com.
The Mountain View 8th Grade Basketball Team recently won the Mountain View Tom Koes Memorial Basketball Tournament. The team members (l-r) are: front row – Brandon Noldy, Luke Walker, Ravi Figgles, Jon McBride (named Most Valuable Player at this year's Tournament); back row – Peter Hartmann, Jamie Westcott, Luke Jenkins, Coach Dan Morgan. Absent from photo was Kyle Wilkins.
Brant Thomas, a 16-year old junior from Susquehanna Community High School, has been invited by the Down Under Sports Tour to represent the state of Pennsylvania at an international wrestling tournament in Australia. This trip will be a tremendous experience for Brant, but it also will be very expensive.
That is why Brant’s family and friends are asking for your help. If you would like to help Brant represent the school, community, and state, please consider making a donation to his fund. All donations are payable to: People’s National Bank, Down Under Sports Tours, P.O. Box A, Hallstead, PA 18822-0571.
To help pay for some of his trip, Brant is also selling raffle tickets for a trip for two to Australia. If you are interested in a ticket, you can contact Brant or his mother, Julie Thomas, at 853-4302 or 853-4370.
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