NEPA Sports Nation

10 Most-anticipated matchups during holiday tourney season

Danny Nemitz, shown in file photo, is coming off a 29-point game as he leads Mid Valley into a loaded Pete Turonis/NBT Bank Classic field.

By Tom Robinson,

The 2020 holiday tournament season was wiped out and the 2021 schedule was reduced because of COVID’s impact on high school sports.

Tournament basketball, the annual transition from non-league to the full start-up of league play in the days after New Year’s, is back in full force.

Five boys tournaments – the Lynett Memorial Tournament at the Lackawanna College Student Union, Honesdale Jaycees Tournament, Robert McGrane Tournament at the Wyoming Valley Catholic Youth Center, James Akens Tournament at North Pocono and the Pete Turonis/NBT Bank Classic in Carbondale – all have been around for at least a half century.

Other tournaments, like the girls portion of the Honesdale Jaycees Tournament and the combination of boys and girls events at Delaware Valley and Riverside, are well past a quarter century.

Even most of the “newer” events are finding their place as part of the routine between Christmas and New Year’s, returning each year with the same or similar fields.

Of District 2’s 78 basketball teams, 64 will participate in holiday tournaments this week with 33 girls and 31 boys teams in action.

As is the case with any predictions, no disrespect is intended, but projecting some of the top matchups requires drawing some conclusions on likely semifinal results. Big surprises could, of course, disrupt plans, but if they do, they’ll create their own form of intrigue.

Using the pure quality of the matchup, mixed in with a little bit of history, tradition and sentimental meaning, here’s a list of what could be the 10 best matchups in the 22 holiday events.

10, Marseco boys semifinal

When Wyoming Area and host Old Forge meet at 8 Wednesday, they will be playing a semifinal of the 14th annual Anthony “Badger” Marseco Tournament.

Going back further, the Wyoming Area-Old Forge game is the 21st “Badger Game”. The schools met in a single game before the creation of the four-team tournament.

The game and tournament honor the memory of Marseco, a starter on the 1992 state semifinalist Old Forge team who was serving as an assistant coach at Wyoming Area at the time of his death in a motorcycle accident.

Unbeaten Old Forge would appear to be a clear favorite, but an improving Wyoming Area team (4-5) could be a difficult matchup for the Blue Devils, which does not have a starter taller than 6-foot-1.

The Warriors are led by high-scoring, returning all-star Dane Schutter, who is 6-4.

9, Taylor Lions boys final

First West Scranton needs to get past Stroudsburg Tuesday, a likely, but far-from-certain result.

That would create a rematch among neighbors in Thursday’s final against host Riverside, a virtual lock to get past winless Lackawanna Trail in the other semifinal.

West Scranton is improving with a 4-3 record and the three losses coming to teams with combined 15-3 records. Riverside is a more-impressive 4-2, but its losses have come to Scranton and North Pocono, teams that project as comparable to West this season.

The Invaders will be trying to show they are a different team than a year ago when they lost the final, 58-31.

8, Marseco girls semifinal

The Badger Marseco girls tournament gets underway Tuesday at 6:30 with a rematch of a tense battle from earlier this season.

Unbeaten Pittston Area had a tough time getting past rival Wyoming Area, 26-23, in the annual Tigue-Denisco Cup game.

The teams will be trying to solve each other’s defenses while Wyoming Area (5-3) attempts to prove it can stick with its more-accomplished rivals even away from home.

7, McGrane boys final

Again, barring upset, two of the Wyoming Valley Conference’s traditional powers will square off in Wednesday’s final with Crestwood (4-2) and Holy Redeemer (5-2) likely to meet at the Wyoming Valley Catholic Youth Center.

First, Crestwood has to beat Lake-Lehman and Holy Redeemer has to get past Hanover Area.

Holy Redeemer beat Crestwood in last year’s final in a disrupted and delayed three-team event. Crestwood beat Holy Redeemer in the 2019 final, the last time the event ran on schedule.

They have made a habit of squaring off in the event.

Holy Redeemer, a Class 3A team, is also coming off a trip to the state semifinals.

Crestwood, the only Division 1 team in the field with three WVC Division 2 teams, is trying to get back to its usual championship contender level after a down year.

6, Marseco boys final

Assuming no semifinal upsets, the Marseco Tournament final Friday night at 8 in Old Forge puts the Blue Devils against a familiar face.

Defending District 2 Class 5A champion Pittston Area is on a three-game road winning streak to reach 4-2 heading into Wednesday’s semifinal against Wyoming Seminary.

The Patriots are coached by Al Semenza, a well-respected name in Old Forge’s basketball history and the coach of the 1992 team that went to the state semifinals.

The Blue Devils home games – and the tournament – are being played on Al Semenza Court at the Elio Ghigiarelli Gymnasium.

Old Forge, coming off two straight trips to Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association state Class 2A semifinals, are unbeaten entering the tournament.

5, Lynett girls semifinal

Dunmore (4-1) opens defense of its tournament title against Scranton (5-1) in a game between teams currently leading the races for top seeds in district tournaments.

The Lady Bucks, the Class 4A champion last season, are on top of the Class 3A playoff ratings this season.

Scranton is leading the Class 5A race.

Dunmore’s stingy defense is giving up 24.6 points per game. It will try to stop Scranton’s multiple 3-point options, which have produced a season average of 55 points per game and a current four-game winning streak.

4, Lynett boys final

District 2’s oldest active tournament is into its eighth decade.

Annually one of the most attended and hotly contested tournament finals, it also tends to be one of the most unpredictable.

A private school showdown between Scranton Prep (3-2) and Holy Cross (3-2) is the most likely matchup for Thursday’s 7 p.m. final, but any combination is possible coming out of Tuesday’s Scranton Prep-Dunmore and Holy Cross-Scranton semifinals.

Tournament semifinal opponents Holy Cross and Scranton (2-3) are both defending district champions who reached the state quarterfinals last season. Scranton’s status as a Class 6A team to Holy Cross being in Class 2A would normally make defending tournament champion Scranton the favorite here, but Holy Cross returns much more from its 2021-22 lineup than the rest of the tournament field.

3, Turonis boys final

Whoever gets through the semifinals between this group of neighboring schools enjoying strong starts will create one of the tournament’s most-anticipated finals in recent years Wednesday night at Carbondale at 8.

Most likely, Valley View (5-1) will fight for the title in its only meeting of the season against one of its long-time northern Lackawanna County rivals – Mid Valley or Carbondale.

The other three in the tournament field all have two Lackawanna League Division 3 games against each other ahead, so the one-shot games against their largest-enrollment opponent from Division 1 carry a little extra meaning among the tournament games.

But, a Valley View semifinal loss just means that at least one unbeaten record (at that point Lakeland’s) will be on the line in the championship game, so the final can’t miss either way.

2, Lynett girls final

With Holy Cross going through a major rebuilding process, count Scranton Prep in for its usual place in Thursday’s girls championship game.

Whichever opponent the Classics go against will mean the best matchup of the girls tournament season.

If Dunmore gets past Scranton Tuesday, the championship game rematch also would be a meeting of the No. 1 Big School (Scranton Prep) and the No. 1 Small School (Dunmore) in the Riverfront Sports Super Six Basketball Power Rankings of District 2 teams.

If Scranton defeats Dunmore to further bolster its resume, it would present Scranton Prep with a sneak preview of an emerging threat to its Lackawanna League Division 1 streaks of 5 straight titles and 67 straight wins.

1, Turonis boys semifinals

Call it a bonus.

One of the best parts of the tournament season is the chance to catch two games and this field gives reason to see two games.

Even more intriguing than anything but a surprise matchup of unbeatens in the final is the semifinal doubleheader of four teams with combined 23-2 records Tuesday night at Carbondale.

Two unbeaten teams enter the doubleheader and both are arguably underdogs.

Lakeland and Carbondale were the bottom two teams in Lackawanna Division 3 last season when Mid Valley was winning the division. Now, they are both unbeaten and this week they joined the Super Six, although still at lower positions than their tournament opponents.

The tournament field includes the team with District 2’s best overall record (6-0 Carbondale) and the current playoff ratings race leaders in Class 4A (Valley View) and Class 3A (Lakeland) as well as the defending division champion Spartans.

Mid Valley (5-1) and Lakeland have each won five straight.

Valley View is 5-1 going into its 6 p.m. semifinal with Lakeland.

Mid Valley faces host Carbondale at 7:30.

Valley View, in Big Schools, and Mid Valley, in Small Schools, are the No. 4 teams in the Super Six. Carbondale is fifth and Lakeland sixth among Small Schools.


Full boys schedule and pairings: Boys basketball holiday tourneys – NEPA Sports Nation.

Full girls schedule and pairings: Girls basketball holiday tourneys – NEPA Sports Nation.

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