Playoff Preview: Lady Tide Face Stiff Test in D9 AA Semis

CURWENSVILLE — The Curwensville Area High School girls basketball team only has to glance back one week to verify the caliber of its opponent in Thursday\’s District 9 Class AA semifinal at Clarion University.
No. 3 seed Redbank Valley (16-9) knocked off No. 1 seed Karns City (19-5) 49-44 in their regular season finale last Thursday and then followed up with a 55-40 win over sixth seed Cranberry (10-14) in a quarterfinal game Tuesday night.
Curwensville (20-5), which upheld its No. 2 seed with a 56-46 victory over seventh seed Moniteau (7-16) Tuesday in a game that really wasn\’t that close, will play Redbank Valley in the 6 p.m. opener of the 9-AA doubleheader in Waldo S. Tippin Gym. The 7:30 nightcap pits Karns City against fifth seed Brookville (12-13), which upended fourth seed Kane 43-29 Tuesday.
The winners will return to Clarion University Friday, March 2, for the championship game at 6 p.m.
Preparing for Redbank Valley won\’t be an easy task, according to Curwensville coach Vic Gearhart.
\”We don\’t know what to expect from them,\” he said. \”They played a 2-3 zone against Clarion-Limestone last week, and I was really kind of surprised. I don\’t know if they will zone us or man us. The trouble is we can\’t compare them to anybody.\”
Moniteau is one of only two common opponents. Redbank Valley defeated Moniteau 47-29 at home on Jan. 5. Brockway is the other, losing 47-37 to the Lady Bulldogs at home in the season opener and 49-44 at home and 55-40 on the road to the Lady Tide in late January.
Among Redbank Valley\’s losses were a pair to Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference East Division champ and No. 2 Class A seed Union (23-3), and one to KSAC West champ Keystone (17-9) and one at Karns City, 56-45 on Dec. 22. The Lady Bulldogs split with KSAC rivals Clarion-Limestone (19-6) and Venango Catholic (9-15) and also lost twice to KSAC East foe East Forest (12-13).
Wins in five of their last six games indicated the Lady Bulldogs are playing their best ball of the season at the right time.
They show a three-pronged attack with explosive 5-4 junior point guard Lacey Blose (319 points, 12.8 average), athletic 5-9 senior forward Jena Gruver (312, 12.5) and 5-7 senior guard Lacy McClaine (228, 9.5).
Blose scored a season-high 24 points (her career-high of 34 came in her sophomore season) and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds, five on the offensive end, to spark the Lady Bulldogs against Cranberry. Her penchant for driving to the basket resulted in 16 foul shots, and she converted 11.
Gruver added 14 points for the Lady Bulldogs, who led only 24-22 at the half and 41-36 with 6:04 remaining before going on a 10-1 run.
Two sophomores, 5-8 Heidi Hepler (119, 5.0) and Kim Goth (118, 4.7), are the other starters, but Hepler didn\’t play Tuesday because of illness. Nadia Kundick (84, 3.7), a 5-5 junior, replaced Hepler in the lineup.
Gearhart will counter with seniors Dani Struble (472, 18.9), Jackie White (292, 12.2) and Ronna Knepp (86, 3.4), junior Holly Fink (93, 3.9) and sophomore Hannah Walls (155, 6.2). Holly Lansberry (53, 2.1) and Shannon Hamm (40, 2.4) the first players off the bench.
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