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Fascinating York-Adams girls' basketball season looms

  • Red Lion is the defending York-Adams Division I champion, but will have a new coach this season.
  • Susquehannock returns most of its players from last year's Division II title team.
  • York Catholic and Delone shared last year's Division III crown and are favored again this year.

In just a few days, the 2016-2017 York-Adams League girls' basketball season will begin.

It promises to be a fascinating campaign.

There looks to be a number of intriguing story lines to watch for when the season kicks off Friday.

There are new coaches in new places, a bevy of returning standouts and some division races that may go down to the wire.

Put it all together and the York-Adams League girls' basketball season figures to be fun to watch this season.

Following is a preview of the three divisions.

Division I: Division I has always had at least a few good teams battling for the regular-season crown over the past 15-20 years, although Red Lion has been the dominant program.

This season, however, might feature one of the most competitive races in recent memory. Nearly every team figures to have a fighting chance to come out on top.

The favorite of many of the coaches polled is Central York. Coach Scott Wisner’s team finished a game behind eventual division and league champion Red Lion in the Division I standings last season.

Emma Saxton (left) and Central York will host one of the strongest holiday tournaments of the week, featuring Cedar Cliff, Susquehannock and York Catholic. All four teams are above .500.

“This is going to be a tough division,” Wisner said. “Red Lion, New Oxford and Dallastown are all looking good this season.”

While the Panthers lost two regulars in Lydia Shellenberger and Mady Williams to graduation, the nucleus of a team that finished 23-6 a year ago returns. Guard Emma Saxton, who is 316 points away from 1,000 for her career, returns after an impressive junior campaign. Saxton, who is set to play for Bloomsburg in college, averaged a shade under 14 points per game a season ago while pulling down 167 rebounds. What makes Saxton so important, however, is her defense. The senior forced 116 turnovers a season ago while often guarding the opponent’s best offensive player.

Nikson Valencik figures to be a force inside the paint again. The junior averaged just more than 10 points per game as a sophomore while leading the team in rebounding with 206. Also look for a pair of juniors, Tierra Preston and Sarah Sepic, to make major contributions. Sepic hopes to return from injury in January. Sophomore Katie Fabri could be a big key.

“We have a strong returning cast of players with a wide range of abilities,” Wisner said. “We are able to play various defenses and score in a variety of ways.”

The Lions will look to defend their Division I and York-Adams League titles under a new coach in Bill Novak. Novak takes over for Don Dimoff, who is now an assistant coach with the Millersville University women’s basketball team. A former head coach at Northeastern, Novak was an assistant under Dimoff last year.

Coach Dimoff, however, isn’t the only Dimoff that Novak will need to replace. Courtney Dimoff, Don’s daughter, finished fifth in the league in scoring at 14.7 points per game last year as a senior. She’s now at Millersville with her father.

Novak noted the loss of two other role players from last year’s club that finished 25-5 in Kami Harvey and Taylor Funke. But the new coach is excited to lead a team that features a number of seniors who played a key part in last year’s championship squad. That list includes Amy Maciejewski, who averaged 9.1 points a game as a junior, along with Kynslee Sherpherd (6.5 ppg) and Hannah Wolf (3.4 ppg).

Dallastown will look to bounce back after a rare down season a year ago. The Wildcats finished 5-17 under coach Mary Manlove, who was fired after seven seasons at the helm.

Taking over is former Dallastown boys’ basketball coach Jay Rexroth, who coached the Wildcats for 17 seasons from 1993-2009. Since then Rexroth has been an assistant coach on the girls’ side at both Dover and York Suburban.

Rexroth inherits a team filled with youth and talent. The top three scorers from last year’s squad — Julia Sutton (11.7 ppg), Sam Miller (7.3 ppg) and Samantha Stough (4.3) — are all back. A couple of promising freshmen also may give a boost to a club that figures to be more competitive.

New Oxford finished tied for third in the division standings with York High a season ago. The Colonials return the majority of a team that finished 15-9 a season ago. That includes leading scorer Kaelyn Long, who finished fourth in the league in scoring at 15.5 points a game, as well as Hayley Luckabaugh, who averaged nearly 10 points a game.

The Bearcats had quite a remarkable turnaround a season ago under coach Larry Corbin. York finished 14-10, the most wins the program has produced in a season in nearly two decades. Corbin’s squad also qualified for the York-Adams League and District 3 playoffs for the first time in more than a decade.

York, however, will have a giant hole to fill with the loss of Chyna Steele to graduation. Steele finished second in the league in scoring at 18.4 points a game. Mady "Bink" Redman, a recent Lock Haven recruit, returns after averaging 10.0 points a game last year.

Corbin is hoping to make up for the loss of his leading scorer with a renewed focus on defense, rebounding and an up-tempo style of play. He figures to have at least an eight-player rotation that includes a pair of transfers into the program.

South Western could be a sleeper. The Mustangs, who finished 11-10 last year, will have Taylor Geiman back to lead the offense. The freshman led the team in scoring at 14.1 points per game.

Not a lot went Spring Grove’s way a season ago. The Rockets finished with just two victories but hope that a year of experience will benefit a team that returns a trio of top scorers in Abbie Marquette (6.5 ppg), Missy Katz (6.0 ppg) and Brooklyn Naylor. (5.0 ppg).

Division II: Division II may be in a similar situation as Division I. While Susquehannock was the favorite of the coaches polled, no less than three other schools figure to be prime contenders.

The Warriors lost leading scorer Ashley Stone (12.6 ppg) to graduation, but otherwise return the majority of a club that finished 21-4 overall (14-0 in Division II). Tyler Williams (9.9 ppg), Jayla Galbreath (8.1 ppg) and Taylor Tannura (6.4 ppg) all return for coach Dave Schreiner’s club.

Most coaches noted to look out for Jaden Walker, who will be a sophomore this season. Walker averaged just 2.3 points a game in limited playing time a year ago.

Nikson Valoncik of Central York scored 19 points on Wednesday night.

York Suburban, which advanced to the state playoffs last year, finished just behind Susquehannock in the division standings. The Trojans return three starters — Parker Faircloth-Henise (8.9 ppg), Ali Reinecker (7.7 ppg) and Georgia DuMars (6.2 ppg) — from a club that finished 19-8.

York Suburban coach Jess Barley feels like her team — which allowed just 34.4 points per game last year — has the experience to compete and succeed in the division.

“We have a lot of experience in all types of games,” Barley said. “I anticipate Division II will be very competitive from top to bottom. Every night will be a battle and I believe there will be a lot of close games.”

West York will have some scoring holes to fill, but still figures to be in this year’s mix as well. The Bulldogs will look to its trio of captains in Catie McCarty (4.5 ppg), Angie Hawkins (5.6 ppg), and Paige Weekly (6.1 ppg) to keep competitive throughout the campaign.

“Our strengths will be chemistry, athleticism and size,” said West York coach Darrell Wildasin, whose club finished 14-9 a year ago.

Eastern York and Dover both hope to join the trio above in contention. The two programs finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in the standings a season ago. Both schools also will feature new coaches.

The Knights were 7-15 last year under Cheryl Land. Because of stipulations for retired teachers and athletic coaches under the Pennsylvania State Education Retirement System and its "retirement code," Land was forced to step down after four seasons.

That opened the door for Brad Weaver, a former assistant coach for Eastern with the boys’ team. Weaver will look to turn around a team that features no seniors. Weaver pointed to returners in Hannah Myers (14.5 ppg), Brooke LaCesa (7.5 ppg) and Cassidy Arnold (7.6 ppg) as keys for his club.

“We’re young and little inexperienced in some areas,” Weaver said. “But we’re athletic.”

The Eagles are a big question mark. Dover will welcome the program’s fourth coach in four years in Kevin Glover. In addition, the team has been without the services of one or both Fink sisters — Rayah and Rajah — for most of last season. The Finks combined to average 24.3 points a game two years ago.

Northeastern will also have a new coach. Chuck Maxfield takes over. Maxfield will be the team’s fourth coach over the past three years.

Kennard-Dale welcomes back Bob Rudisill to the sidelines in Fawn Grove. Only this time Rudisill, who led the Rams to a District 3-AAA boys’ basketball title back in 1993, will be leading the girls’ squad.

Division III: To no one’s surprise, the Division III favorites are — drumroll please — York Catholic and Delone Catholic.

The Irish, who saw the program’s string of 10 District 3-AA titles in a row stopped a season ago, and Squirettes shared the division title last year.

York Catholic's Kate Bauhof led the Y-A League in scoring as a sophomore last season and now gets set for her junior year when the Fighting Irish open play against Trinity on Saturday.

Coach Kevin Bankos’ Irish club, which finished 21-7 a year ago, will again be led by junior Kate Bauhof. The dynamic guard led the York-Adams League in scoring at 21.6 points a game. Jania Wright will also be back after scoring 8.5 points a game last year. Abby Pilkey, who averaged 7.5 points a game with Kennard-Dale last year, joins the Irish this season after transferring.

In addition, Catherine Tillotson, who averaged 6.0 ppg last season at Eastern York, has also transferred to the Irish. She is the sister of former Eastern standout Austin Tillotson.

While the Irish have a dynamic duo of scorers back, Delone has a bevy of height at its disposal. The Squirettes, who finished 19-8 a year ago, feature three players listed at 6 feet or taller in Catie Apgar (6-2), Brady Zumbrum (6-0) and Jill Novak (6-0). Novak, who was injured early in the season last year, averaged more than 10 points in the five contests she participated in.

Longtime Delone head coach Gerry Eckenrode is on the verge of a major milestone. Eckenrode has a career record of 399-121 (77 percent) at Delone in 17 seasons. The team's first win this season will be his 400th at Delone.

Reach Ryan Vandersloot at