Season Preview: Lady Bison Have Three Returnees But Are Work in Progress

HYDE — The Clearfield Area High School girls basketball team boasts a pair of two-year starters in the post as well as a third letterwinner, but coach Joey Castagnolo is far from satisfied where the Lady Bison are as a team on the eve of their season opener against Clarion-Limestone at the Brookville Tip-Off Tournament.

Injuries, sickness and other commitments have taken their toll on preseason workouts, hindering the process of building team unity and chemistry.

“We haven’t had all 19 kids there for one practice yet, and it really concerns me,” Castagnolo said. “We haven’t had any kind of consistency, and it showed in our scrimmage. I was not happy.

“We’re  just a bunch of pieces trying to fit together, and I really don’t know what to expect.”

Castagnolo does know what he’s getting from his trio of senior letterwinners who will be starters.

Breanna Peters and Dakota Farmery provide the Lady Bison with a very formidable duo under the basket as they’ve come through with a large number of double-doubles in points and rebounds the last two seasons, and Brittany Renaud, who has lettered twice in a reserve role, will be utilized at point guard and on a wing.

Peters, who netted 64 points as a freshman letterwinner, has padded her 66-game career total to 664 points with 227 as a sophomore when she was selected to the All-Mountain League Allegheny Division second team and 353 last season when she was tabbed an Allegheny Division first teamer.

The 5-9 standout missed scoring in double figures only one time in 2011-12 and averaged a double-double of 15.3 and 10.9 in 2011-12 by grabbing 250 missed shots, which have her closing in on the 500-rebound plateau for her career.

She topped 20 points on four occasions last season, including a career-high 30 against Central Mountain on Feb. 10.

Farmery, who is 6-3, tallied 198 points for a 13.2 average and was leading the 2010-2011 Lady Bison in rebounding before an ankle injury kept her out of the final seven games.

Last season, she was the No. 2 scorer with 266 points, an 11.6 average, and also pulled down 20 rebounds in two of the four games that she tallied 20 or more points.

It’s no secret Clearfield’s output will hinge on the performances of Peters and Farmery, who have hit for double figures in 35 and 24 games, respectively, in their careers.

“Those two have to dominate,” Castagnolo said, adding that he’s counting on them to initiate the Lady Bison fast break by clearing the glass.

 “And Brittany has to control the tempo of the game at point guard.”

Sophomores Tessa Munshower and Maggie Sopic, both of whom saw limited action in the majority of the games last season, were projected to round out the starting lineup, but the latter has been sidelined because of a foot injury she sustained while playing soccer.

Junior Brianna Spencer, who has been bothered by a knee injury, will get the nod on one wing at the Brookville tourney.

Sophomore Emily Aveni begins the season as the backup point guard, though she will miss the tourney due to a family function, but Castagnolo sees her possibly making some starts with Renaud switching to a wing, depending on the opposition.

Providing help in the post will be Sarah Aycock and Mary Ishman, both sophomores. Sopic might move inside at times, too.

Castagnolo is happy the Lady Bison will go against Clarion-Limestone and either North Clarion or Brookville this weekend.

“Last year, when we played our first game, that was the third game for the other team, and it was a real difference,” he noted. “Since I have so many new kids I’m trying to work into the system, this is going to be good for us.”

For the second year in a row, the Mountain League has a new look with just eight teams, four less than when Clearfield joined the circuit in 2009-10.

Central Mountain and Juniata dropped out, so the division format was dropped and each team will play 14 games. 

Castagnolo rates defending champion Tyrone and runner-up Bald Eagle Area as the teams to beat.

Seniors on the 2011-12 Lady Bison team that finished 4-4 in the ML-Allegheny Division and 15-8 overall with a 59-48 loss to St. Marys in the District 9 Class AAA semifinals were point guard Lisa Ambuski (207 points, 99 assists), wings Rachel Thompson (194 points) and Kristen Butler (149 points) and reserves Kate Sheeder (48 points) and Janelle Mumma.

Castagnolo, whose record for 13 seasons is 172-154, again will be assisted by junior varsity coach Jerry Stewart (14th year) and Stan Solarczyk (8th year).

The roster, with (*) denoting letterwinners:
Seniors – Dakota Farmery (*), 6-3; Breanna Peters (*), 5-9; Brittany Renaud (*), 5-6.

Juniors – Brianna Spencer, 5-5; Danelle Billotte, 5-4.
Sophomores – Emily Aveni, 5-7; Sarah Aycock, 5-9; Mary Ishman, 5-7; Sara Lash, 5-9; Macala Leigey; Tessa Munshower, 5-9; Janessa Riddell; Olivia Smith; Maggie Sopic, 5-9; Tessa Waring.

Freshmen – Margo Castagnolo; Devynn Ireland; Victoria Ireland; Emily Ryan.

* * * * *
The schedule, with (ML) designating Mountain League games and tip-offs at 7:30 p.m. unless noted:
7 – Clarion-Limestone at Brookville Tip-Off Tournament, 3 p.m.; 8 – North Clarion or Brookville at Brookville Tip-Off Tournament; 12 – CENTRAL (ML); 14 – at Huntingdon (ML), 7:15 p.m.; 17 – PUNXSUTAWNEY; 19 – BALD EAGLE AREA (ML); 21 – BELLEFONTE (ML); 27 – CURWENSVILLE.
4 -at Punxsutawney; 9 – at Tyrone (ML); 11 – PENNS VALLEY (ML); 14 – at Central Mountain; 16 – at Philipsburg-Osceola (ML); 18 – St. Marys; 23 – at Central (ML); 25 – HUNTINGDON (ML); 29 – at Bald Eagle Area (ML).
1 – at Bellefonte (ML); 6 – TYRONE (ML); 8 – at Penns Valley (ML); 12 – PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA (ML); 14 – at Curwensville.

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