The girls' basketball divisional races in the York-Adams League were exciting last year.
There's a good chance, however, that the upcoming season may top that.
Many of the same teams that battled down to the wire for divisional supremacy a season ago figure to be among the contenders again this season.
That fact presents a really big question: Will history repeat itself with Central York (Division I), Susquehannock (D-II) and York Catholic (D-III) prevailing again, or will the deck get reshuffled, with contenders such as Dallastown (D-I), Dover, West York, Eastern York (D-II) or Delone Catholic (D-III) earning titles?
The answer will come in early February, but here's a rundown of some things to expect.
Division I: The Panthers (25-5, 11-1) were a dominant force in claiming the D-I and league playoff titles. Coach Scott Wisner's crew won games by an average of 19.1 points, second best in the league, during a season that ended in the second round of the PIAA Class 6-A playoffs.
Central, however, has to figure out a way to replace do-everything guard Emma Saxton, who is at Bloomsburg University. Saxton led the Panthers in scoring at 14.3 points per game, but she was equally important defensively, often drawing the opposing team's top scorer.
Replacing Saxton will be no easy chore, but the Panthers return nearly everyone else, including seniors Teirra Preston, Nikson Valencik and Sarah Sepic. Valencik averaged 13.7 ppg, while Preston poured in 10.7. Sepic was the team's top 3-point threat, draining 32 triples while averaging 6.0 ppg.
Dallastown looks to be in good shape to again challenge Central. The Wildcats (13-14, 10-2) found the sledding outside D-I to be difficult during coach Jay Rexroth's first season. Despite that disappointing 3-12 non-league mark, the 'Cats were able to qualify for, and claim, a victory in the District 3 6-A playoffs.
Julia Sutton is back after leading Dallastown in scoring at 11.8 ppg. She's joined by a trio of talented underclassmen in Lily Jamison, Samantha Miller and Aniya Matthews, who is just a sophomore. Dallastown will have to succeed without sophomore guard Sabria Royal (7.7 ppg), who suffered an ACL injury in the offseason. Royal showed glimpses of brilliance as a freshman.
New Oxford (22-9, 9-3) may have finished third in the division, but the Colonials advanced all the way to the league title game before falling for a third time to Central. Many key components of that club, however, no longer remain. Coach James Kunkle is now at West York, with former York Catholic assistant Mike Englar taking over the reins.
Both top scorers from a year ago, Kaelyn Long (15.5 ppg) and Haley Luckabaugh (10.1 ppg), have graduated, leaving Presley Berryhill as the club's top returner at 6.8 ppg.
South Western, led by junior Taylor Geiman (14.7 ppg), could be a sleeper pick if the Mustangs (6-15, 3-9) can get help for Geiman, who is likely an NCAA Division I recruit.
Spring Grove finished last in the standings a year ago, but the Rockets (5-17, 1-11) hope to be improved behind strong guard play.
Division II: Susquehannock (26-5, 13-1) won the division title by three games, which is saying something considering that three other teams in D-II qualified for the PIAA playoffs. The Warriors made it all the way to the 5-A state semifinals before falling.
Much like Central in D-I, Susquehannock has everyone but its leading scorer back. Tyler Williams, who averaged 13.0 ppg, won't be easy to replace, but the Warriors have the pieces to do it. Senior Anna Mahan is the team's top threat in the paint, while junior Jaden Walker (10.2 ppg and a St. Joe’s recruit) is versatile enough to play inside and outside. Jayla Galbreath, another junior, is a threat from outside the arc after making a team-high 54 3-pointers last season.
Dover, West York, Eastern York and York Suburban all hope to knock off the Warriors.
After several down seasons, the Eagles (19-9, 10-4) bounced back in a big way under first-year coach Kevin Glover. Dover finished tied for second in the division along with Eastern (14-11, 10-4).
One big factor in Dover’s favor is that Rayah Fink is back for her senior season. Fink, an Indiana University of Pennsylvania recruit, finished second in the league in scoring at 18.9 ppg. Alaina Reaver (7.2 ppg) and Gabrielle Coley (6.5 ppg) are also back. The loss of Fink’s older sister, Rayah (12.3 ppg), does leave a large hole.
Both West York (18-9, 9-5) and Eastern (14-11, 10-4) could contend. The Bulldogs may not be deep, but Kunkle has been impressed with his starting five. The Knights are deeper, and possess a standout in senior Hannah Myers (17.2 ppg).
Suburban, which qualified for the PIAA 4-A playoffs, lost a pair of key contributors in Parker Faircloth-Henise (8.9 ppg) and Georgia DuMars (7.0 ppg). Senior Ali Reinecker (9.8 ppg) and Katherine Mooney (7.7 ppg) are back to lead the defensive-minded Trojans (14-12, 7-7).
Division III: While the D-I and D-II races feature several teams vying for supremacy, D-III figures to come down to the usual suspects — defending champ York Catholic and parochial rival Delone Catholic.
The Irish (23-7, 12-0) have normally bettered their rivals for the past decade-plus, but could this be the season when the Squirettes (20-8, 10-2) finally gain the upper hand?
York Catholic will be without standout guard Kate Bauhof (19.5 ppg) for at least the first month with a knee injury. Conversely, Delone will get a sparkplug back in junior Riley Vingsen, who missed all of last year with an injury of her own. Vingsen provided ball control and 7.2 ppg as a freshman.
The Irish, however, have the talent to make up for loss of Bauhof, a St. Francis (N.Y) recruit, on paper. Jania Wright (8.1 ppg) is also a NCAA D-I recruit (Coppin State). Seniors Abby Pilkey (9.1 ppg) and Catherine Tillotson (3.4 ppg) also figure to pick up some of the slack.
Many coaches are singing Delone's praises. In addition to Vingsen, the Squirettes will have a trio of big forwards in Catie Apgar, Bradi Zumbrum and Maddie Clabaugh to lean on. Clabaugh (8.2 ppg) is also a threat outside, which gives coach Gerry Eckenrode some versatility.
The jury is out on the other D-III teams. Hanover (12-11, 6-6) returns most of its core, while Littlestown (13-9, 7-5) and Fairfield (3-16, 0-12) are breaking in new coaches. The Green Knights will be led by Phomma Phanhthy, who led the Fairfield girls’ soccer team to a PIAA title in 2016.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.