Last updated: February 19. 2013 9:25PM - 316 Views

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Pittston Area has the big-time college recruit, Holy Redeemer has last year's most talented freshman and Nanticoke made the longest run in the postseason.

Yet Dallas could be the most intriguing team entering the 2012-13 season.

Now in WVC Division 1, the Mountaineers bring back nearly everyone from a team that went 14-8 and impressed in many ways a season ago.

I'm pretty excited about this team, Dallas coach Kelly Johnson said. We only graduated two seniors from last year, so we have some depth. This is a very competitive division and there are going to be a lot of fierce battles.

That will be fine with the Mountaineers, who won nine of their 14 games last season by at least 20 points. But don't think this is a squad that isn't tested in tight games.

They lost six games by six points or less, with two coming against Wyoming Valley West, 39-34 and 49-46. They lost 47-42 to Tunkhannock and 52-46 to Holy Redeemer during the season. In fact, the Royals tacked on a 20-point thumping (66-46) in early February.

With a playoff berth on the line in the season finale against Tunkhannock, 11 Dallas players scored in a wild 62-21 dismantling of the Tigers to avenge the earlier loss.

Once in the playoff, fans could have dismissed the Mountaineers in their third game against Redeemer. That would have been a bad idea, though, as Ashley Dunbar scored a season-high 26 to lift Dallas over the Royals 62-56 in overtime. The Mountaineers won all three of their OT games last season, also downing Pittston Area and Scranton Prep, proving capable in close games as well as blowouts.

They also rallied from a six-point, third-quarter deficit to put up a tying shot at the buzzer of their 53-51 loss to district champ Honesdale.

Seven of the top-eight scorers from last season are back, with all-WVC selections Dunbar and Tanner Englehart, one of two experienced players who stand at least 5-foot-10, leading the way. Five outside shooting threats are back (Samantha Missal, Jessica Hiscox, Dunbar, Katy Comitz and Taylor Kelley) and talented sophomore guard Talia Szatkowski should see a larger role.

There are a number of combinations that we're looking at, Johnson said. We have six guards who could all be a significant part of the rotation. Depending on our needs and our opponent, our lineup will be adjusted.

Maggie Michael (5-9) was the top big behind Englehart, with Rachel Olszewski (5-11) and Stephanie Cybulski (5-8) seeing time last year. In the end, Johnson still has a lot of options, even without a host of traditional post players.

There will be games when it is three guards and two forwards, Johnson said. There might even be times when it is four guards and one forward.

NEW LINEUP: This season sees the three WVC divisions shuffling members.

Last year's Division 1 remains grouped, but also added Berwick, Dallas and Tunkhannock from Division 2. Lake-Lehman, Meyers and Nanticoke move to Division 2, leaving Division 3 with just five members.

There are no returning champs in Division 3, as Nanticoke won the first half and overall titles, and Lake-Lehman won the second half.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Speaking of half-season champs, there won't be any this season.

With the realignment, the first half and second half splits are no more. This will eliminate the potential playoff games, as the half schedules could add as many as three games for a team.

Lake-Lehman and Meyers, both of which made the Class 2A district playoffs last season, are Class 3A teams this season.

The District 2 tournaments in all classes will be open tournaments this season. Teams had to qualify the past two seasons in some classifications.

The league's senior all-star game is scheduled for April 5 at Holy Redeemer.

STELLAR SENIORS: The top returning seniors this season include WVC-leading scorer Alivia Womelsdorf of Northwest, Monmouth recruit Mia Hopkins of Pittston Area, Crestwood forward Sydney Myers, Wyoming Area guard Serra Degnan, Nanticoke guard Kayley Schinski and Dallas' tandem of Dunbar and Englehart.

GREAT EIGHT: Wyoming Valley West center Olivia Hoffman leads the top juniors as the only WVC first team selection last year from her class. Teammate Cassie Smicherko, a guard, joins the group of top returning juniors. Others to watch include forward Rebecca Rutkowski of Crestwood, guard Emily Sutton of Lake-Lehman, MMI Prep's Maria Carrato and Wyoming Area's Abby Thornton. Meyers had both Quieterriua Gross and Brianna DiMaggio.

SUPER SOPHS: Holy Redeemer's Alexis Lewis leads an exceptional group of players back for their sophomore seasons. Teammate Alana Wilson also makes this list. Lake-Lehman forward Cayle Spencer was a WVC first teamer and Meyers guard Salimah Biggs was a second teamer. Pittston Area has both Allie Barber and Liz Waleski, while MMI Prep features Rachel Stanziola and GAR's lineup includes Brea Seabrook.

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