"It's March Madness!" Pennsbury girls' basketball coach Donna Nicholson exclaimed, talking excitedly about the challenges that lie ahead for her Falcons.
The best teams in Southeastern Pennsylvania will start competing Friday against the best from around the state across four classes in hopes of making it to Hershey for the state championships.
Pennsbury is one of 10 District 1 Class AAAA schools vying for an opportunity to play for the state title. The Falcons qualified for the state tournament for the first time in seven years.
"We are playing in March," Nicholson said. "How could you not be excited to be playing right now?"
Nicholson acknowledged that her team has had an up-and-down season, but pointed to the district tournament as a time when the Falcons thrived in their underdog role.
The 20th seed, Pennsbury upset No. 13 Council Rock South and No. 4 Neshaminy before losing in the quarterfinals.
The Falcons (14-13) finished eighth in the district tournament and will open the state tournament against District 11 champion Nazareth (23-4) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Catasauqua.
Favorites to make a run include District 1 champion Spring-Ford (27-2) and District 12 champ Cardinal O'Hara (21-5).
The Rams, ranked first in Southeastern Pennsylvania by The Inquirer, were ousted in the semifinals of the tournament last year. The Lions, ranked second, lost in a first-round upset a season ago.
In Class AAAA, you also can't count out Mount St. Joseph (26-3), Archbishop Carroll (17-7), or Upper Dublin (24-2).
Class AAA. Archbishop Wood will go for its fourth straight state title in Class AAA. The Vikings (17-9), ranked fifth in Southeastern Pennsylvania, are looking to rebound from their last two games, tough losses in the Catholic League and District 12 finals.
In their way will be Prep Charter (18-2), which defeated the Vikings for the district title.
Other District 12 teams in the tournament are Freire Charter (14-11) and Bonner-Prendergast (16-8). District 1 champion Villa Maria (19-4), ranked ninth, and district runner-up Merion Mercy (16-10) also have qualified.
First up for the Vikings is Pope John Paul II (18-5), the third-place team from District 1.
Wood will rely on its patented tough defense, as well as leadership from seniors Jackie Pierson, Haley Scullion, Madison Tamburini, and Colleen Young to try to keep the streak going.
It doesn't hurt that a few Vikings already have been to Hershey once this school year as members of the Wood soccer team that reached the state final in November.
Classes AA and A. District 12 champion Neumann-Goretti highlights the area teams in the Class AA tournament.
The Saints (13-11) are familiar with tough competition, facing it often in the Catholic League, and will try to use their size and athleticism to their advantage.
Parkway Center City (9-4) and Imhotep Charter (15-5) also earned berths from District 12. St. Basil (17-7), which captured the District 1 title at Villanova last weekend, will face High School of the Future (7-1) in the first round.
In Class A, Girard College (20-4), which reached the second round last year; Motivation (9-5); Jenkintown (20-5); and Paul Robeson (9-3) will represent Districts 1 and 12.
The Class AA and AAAA tournaments are set to begin Friday, and Class A and AAA teams will open Saturday.
Girls' Basketball Leaders
These are some of the top scorers and three-point shooters in Southeastern Pennsylvania girls' basketball.
Name School Gms. Pts. Avg.
Gia DeAngelo Sun Valley 23 498 21.7
Nina Mazzarelli W.C. East 22 434 19.7
M. Conyers-Jordan Friends' Central 12 235 19.6
Megan McGurk Notre Dame 26 495 19.0
Megan Quinn Episcopal Acad. 26 477 18.3
Alyssa Monaghan Bonner-Prend. 22 400 18.1
Lauren Gold Abington Friends 27 469 17.4
Emma Dorshimer Jenkintown 27 469 17.4
Kathleen Fitzpatrick Notre Dame 26 452 17.4
Sajanna Bethea Pennsbury 27 465 17.2
Lucy Raymond Ac. New Church 15 251 16.7
Kelsey Watson Methacton 30 496 16.5
Sarah Curran Archbishop Carroll 24 388 16.2
Alex Louin Mount St. Joseph 29 464 16.0
Kayla Feairheller Downingtown W. 28 444 15.9
Kaitlyn Eisenhard Boyertown 28 442 15.8
Jessica Gerber C.R. North 23 356 15.5
Lauren Crisler North Penn 26 394 15.2
Kiernan McCloskey Germantown Ac. 29 439 15.1
Coley Ricci Garnet Valley 27 407 15.1
Rylee Power Marple Newtown 21 317 15.1
Mikki Guiton Perkiomen Valley 19 285 15.1
Name School Gms. No.
Hannah Fox Penn Charter 25 79
Colleen Walsh Shipley 27 74
Kalene Coffey Archbishop Ryan 24 72
Kathleen Fitzpatrick Notre Dame 26 72
Jessica Gerber Council Rock North 23 60
Rylee Power Marple Newtown 21 52
Marisa Kinneer Pottsgrove 21 51
Maria Farrell MaST Charter 22 49
Kaitlin Kelly Pennsbury 27 49
Sarah Sherman Methacton 30 49
Lauren Gold Abington Friends 27 48
Alyssa Monaghan Bonner-Prendergast 22 47
Maddie Dew Downingtown West 28 47
Jess Carney Archbishop Carroll 24 46
Ali Grundy Conestoga 25 45
Denise Sacco Morrisville 24 44
Vicky Tumasz North Penn 27 44
Gianna Pownall Springside CHA 28 39
Coley Ricci Garnet Valley 27 38
Emma Dorshimer Jenkintown 27 38
Sam Foy Ridley 23 36
Katie Siebert Phil-Mont Christian 25 36
- Rick O'Brien