After Council Rock North opened the girls' basketball season with an impressive 64-60 win over Central Dauphin on Dec. 11, North coach Lou Palkovics thought it would be a great idea to have his team spend the night in the Harrisburg area and then stop off to play Downingtown East on the way home.

Wrong.

The Cougars, with Ro Gentry the only starter from a team that went 28-2 last season, stunned the Indians, 38-25, last Saturday. North was No. 1 in The Inquirer's preseason top 10. The Cougars were No. 10.

"That was a mistake. We were terrible," said Palkovics, noting that his team shot 8 for 44 from the field against Downingtown East. "And I take the blame."

"He coached a great game," Palkovics said, referring to East coach Bob Schnure.

The Indians did not have a player in double figures. Sarah Kiely - who averaged 14.8 points a game last season - got just five points against the Cougars. North also suffered a loss when Rebecca Houser hyperextended a knee. She was scheduled to have an MRI.

Palkovics is thankful he will get 6-foot-2 sophomore Emily Grundman back off the injured list.

"She played as a freshman for us," Palkovics said. "I'm expecting big things from her."

Top players on view

The fourth annual Hoops for Hope Classic tomorrow, weather permitting, to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation will showcase some of the area's top teams and one from Virginia.

The out-of-state visitor, Robert E. Lee from Staunton, will take on Cardinal O'Hara, the runner-up in the PIAA Class AAAA playoffs last season, at 3:30 p.m.

Robert E. Lee, runner-up in Virginia's Group AA Division 3 last season, has everyone back, including record rebounder Daquaa Scott.

Natasha Cloud, headed to Maryland, and Marikate Gardler, who has orally committed to St. Joseph's, will lead the Lions.

The daylong showcase takes place at the Bala Cynwyd School in the Lower Merion School District. The opening contest pits Mount St. Joseph, which made the PIAA Class AAA final four last season, against Archbishop Prendergast at 11 a.m.

The second game, at 12:30 p.m., has Archbishop Ryan, another Catholic League team, squaring off vs. Spring-Ford of the Pioneer Athletic Conference. At 2 p.m. it will be the Catholic League's Archbishop Wood vs. Villa Maria Academy. The Hurricanes are expected to be a contender for the Athletic Association of Catholic Academies title.

Following the O'Hara-Lee game, defending PIAA Class AAA champ Archbishop Carroll will meet Notre Dame, another AACA team, at 5 p.m. The nightcap at 6:30 will feature host school Lower Merion and Friends' Central, which finished 24-0 in the 2008-09 regular season before losing to Shipley in the Friends League championship game.

Keep an eye on . . .

Four straight nonleague wins, including two solid ones over Friends' Central and perennial Public League power Central, have boosted Penn Charter's prospects for Inter-Academic League play, where Germantown Academy is the team to beat.

Quakers four-year coach Diana Caramanico, who graduated from Germantown Academy in 1997, says this could be her best team so far. And it's a young team; the Quakers have one senior, Nikki Gwynn.

In addition to Gwynn, Caramanico starts juniors Kendall Stokes and Aleesha Powell, and sophomores Brianna Butler and Kate O'Brien.

The 5-foot-10 Butler has scored in double figures in all four games, chipping in with 19 points, seven steals, six rebounds, and four assists in the Quakers' 55-39 win over Central on Tuesday.

"Last year we asked her to get better at scoring," Caramanico said. "She's our best defender - she's all over the place - but she's beginning to realize she's a good option on offense, too."

Penn Charter takes on Germantown Academy on Jan. 21.

Contact staff writer Don Beideman at 267-815-0733

or dbeideman@phillynews.com.