imes leader girls basketball player of the year
Long on talent
Sarah Acker dominated both ends of the court for Nanticoke Area.
The center is headed to Saint Joe’s.

VAN ROSE vrose@timesleader.com
One of Sarah Acker’s most memorable experiences was playing AAU ball last summer for the Philadelphia-based Fencor team.
“I played against girls my size or bigger, with better talent,” said the Nanticoke Area standout.
Certainly, that wasn’t the case in the Wyoming Valley Conference. The 6-foot-4½ Acker was not only the tallest player in the league, she pretty much had things her own way on both ends of the basketball court.
Acker put up spectacular numbers – averaging 22 points, 16 rebounds and 10 blocked shots – and helped lead the Trojanettes (28-1) to the third round of the PIAA Class 3A tournament. She also carried Nanticoke Area on her shoulders after bookend standout Aly Byorick suffered a severe foot injury in the District 2 title game.
It all added up to Acker being named the Times Leader Girls Basketball Player of the Year. The award comes on the heels of Acker winning the same honor for volleyball last fall.
“In my eyes, she was the best big player in Pennsylvania,” said Nanticoke Area head coach Jack Rentko. “At 6-4½, Sarah is so athletic that she can do anything on the court. She passes well, has great hands, and a great court awareness.”
Acker’s presence in the paint was a major reason that the Trojanettes were able to hold their opponents to an average of just 34 points per game. She was one of the most prolific rebounders in the history of the WVC, finishing with a school-record 1,616 boards.
“I take pride in rebounding,” said Acker, 18, who received a full athletic scholarship to play at Saint Joseph’s University. “I don’t really care about scoring, because scoring isn’t everything. I think actually rebounding is more important. If you don’t box out and rebound, the other team is going to get more chances to score.
“I just felt (rebounding) was my job and it was my biggest contribution to my team. I stepped up when I had to.”
Acker and Byorick have been playing basketball since they were young kids. Acker attended elementary school at Holy Child in Plymouth, before coming to Nanticoke Area as a fourth-grader and joining the school’s youth basketball team.
“Aly went to Pope John Paul,” said Acker. “She’s been playing for Nanticoke since the sixth grade. However, we usually played on different teams until we reached junior high.”
Acker and Byorick went on to become one of the most potent 1-2 punches in the history of the WVC. Acker finished with more than 1,500 career points, while Byorick became Nanticoke Area’s all-time leading scorer with 2,272 points.
The two players led the Trojanettes to the PIAA Class 3A state tournament in 2006 and 2007. During that period, Nanticoke lost only two games – both coming in the state playoffs.
Acker stepped to the forefront after Byorick was hurt in the district finals. She not only led the Trojanettes in scoring during the district and state playoffs, she dominated almost every game with her rebounding and shot blocking.
It was a role reversal, but Acker relished the challenge.|
“It kind of felt good to carry the team. I liked the pressure of carrying them on my shoulders.”
Acker is a self-described animal lover, who spends much of her spare time taking care of her two dogs and two cats.
“They’re like little kids or therapy. They really help me feel good about myself.”
The daughter of Terry and Lorraine Acker of Nanticoke received several scholarship offers from Division I colleges, but narrowed her choices down to St. Joseph’s and Penn State.
“I went down to St. Joseph’s for a third visit and just felt like I belonged there,” she said.

WVC trio named all-state
BY Jill Snowdon - Citizens Voice

With their final basketball season behind them, Nanticoke Area’s Aly Byorick and Sarah Acker and Bishop O’Reilly’s Marissa Chesnavich have been busy reacquainting themselves with life outside of the gym.
Acker is manager of the girls soccer team. Chesnavich is a member of the glee club preparing for O’Reilly’s spring concert and Byorick is working part-time and rehabbing an injured foot.
On Tuesday, however, basketball caught up to them once again as all three were named to the Associated Press Pennsylvania Girls All-State teams.
Byorick returned to the AAA first team. Acker picked up AAA second team accolades and Chesnavich was selected to the Class A third team.

“I’ve been so busy with school and catching up with my friends that I didn’t even think about (All State),” said Acker who was a third-team choice as a junior. “I’m very excited and honored to be selected.”
Acker and Byorick finished the season just five points shy of each other. Acker, a 6-foot-4 center, had 619 points on the year and Byorick, a 5-11 forward/guard, followed with 614.
Byorick suffered a foot injury in the District 2 final, slowing her down significantly throughout the state playoffs. But her efforts throughout the season did not go unnoticed. She led Divison II in scoring with 22.5 ppg, 33 3-pointers and 85 percent from the foul line.
“I’m still down in the dumps about my foot, but this definitely cheered me up,” Byorick said. “I worked hard all season and it’s nice for people to recognize that.”
Acker was tied for second in Divison I scoring with 21 ppg. She guided the Trojanettes to the AAA state quarterfinals with a pair of triple-doubles and a double-double in the playoffs. Nanticoke concluded the season with a 29-1 record after losing 50-48 to Mount St. Joseph.
Chesnavich is a newcomer to the All-State squad, but follows in the footsteps of her sister Erin, who was a first-team selection last year as a senior.
“I was actually really surprised to be selected,” Marissa said. “It doesn’t matter at all which team I was named to. I was just thrilled to be picked.”
This season Marissa helped O’Reilly advanced to the Class A semifinals, while the Queenswomen lost to eventual state champion Bishop Guilfoyle. It was the farthest any O’Reilly girls basketball team has advanced. O’Reilly ended the year with a 23-8 record.
Chesnavich, a 6-0 center, was fourth in scoring among the Wyoming Valley Conference Division II leaders with 16.3 ppg.
She also shot 61-of-83 from the foul line and averaged 12 rebounds a game. She concluded her career with 900 points.
All three girls will play at the college level.
Chesnavich will reunite with her sister at Division II University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.
Acker is also headed to Philadelphia and will play at Division I St. Joseph’s University, while Byorick will take her talents west and play for Division I Xavier University in Cleveland.
......Read more......

By Jill Snowdon

The next time Sarah Acker and Aly Byorick meet on a basketball court they’ll have to do without their signature greeting that always followed pre-game announcements. They won’t look for each other on a back-door pass and they’ll need to ignore their instincts as to where the other is on the floor.
After years of tearing up the court together as teammates, the Nanticoke Area duo will soon become college opponents.
Both girls have received full Division I scholarships to Atlantic 10 universities: Acker to St. Joseph’s and Byorick to Xavier.
And while they’ll adjust to basketball without each other, they’ll long be remembered as one of the most dominating one-two punches to ever play in the Wyoming Valley Conference.
Acker and Byorick re-wrote Nanticoke Area’s record books and for four seasons they were the center of every opponent’s game plan.
In recognition of their play this season, they have been selected as The Sunday Voice’s co-Players of the Year for the 2007 season.
“We’ve been playing together and against each other since we were in fourth grade so it’s definitely going to be very weird next year,” Acker said.
“We always joke that when we play in college we have to be careful not to throw each other a cross-court pass. We’re just so used to each other.”
The pair will certainly leave behind a lasting legacy for future Trojanettes. Byorick is the school’s all-time leading scorer with 2,271 points (breaking Paul Guffrovich’s record of 2,256) and she also holds eight other school records, including 119 varsity starts. Acker established five school records, including 1,616 career rebounds and 531 career blocked shots. They finished their careers with a 106-13 record at Nanticoke, including two District 2 championships and three Wyoming Valley Conference titles.
In their final two seasons, the Trojanettes went 58-2, losing both games in the state quarterfinals.
“It’s sad we couldn’t get a state title, but I still enjoyed every minute of basketball at Nanticoke,” Byorick said. “And it’s always been fun playing with Sarah.”
The final games of Byorick’s high school career were especially emotional as she tried to play through the pain of a foot injury she suffered in the District 2 finals.
She sat all but two minutes of her team’s state playoff opener with Athens and was able to play against Boiling Springs and Mount St. Joseph, although she was nowhere near full strength.
In the wake of Byorick’s injury, Acker and fellow Trojanettes rallied around their teammate. Acker scored back-to-back triple doubles in the state playoffs and added a double-double in the Trojanettes 50-48 loss to Mount St. Joe’s in the AAA quarters.
“It was so horrible to see Aly come so far and work so hard and be held back because of her injury,” Acker said. “But she really tried and I give her a lot of credit. We’re disappointed we didn’t go further, but everyone played well and stepped up and that’s all you can ask for.”
As seniors, Acker and Byorick once again posted impressive stats. They finished first and second in Division II scoring with Byorick averaging 22.5 and Acker following with 21 ppg. (tied with GAR’s Paige Venson). Byorick closed out the year with 614 points, 68 3-pointers, 187 rebounds, 102 assists and 73 steals. She was also an 82 percent free-throw shooter.
Acker had 619 total points, 500 rebounds, 113 assists, 107 steals and 174 blocked shots.
“My best memory is probably the game against Meyers when I scored my 1,500th point and Aly scored her 2,000th,” Acker said. “It was pretty neat that we both reached milestones in the same game.”
Byorick’s fondest memory was the District 2 championships. But it was the team camaraderie afterwards that made the victory that more special.
“Some of my favorite memories actually came off the court, like when we toilet papered our coaches’ houses and spray painted District Champs in the snow on their lawns,” Byorick said. “It was a great. Of course, it was nice to set the school record for scoring, but I really hope someone comes along and breaks it. I’d be so happy for them, just as Paul Guffrovich was for me.”

Nanticoke girls fall to Mount St. Joseph
Ailing Byorick a non-factor as GNA’s season derailed

It took more than three quarters for the Nanticoke Area girls basketball team to show the kind of emotion expected by head coach Jack Rentko.
“In the first half, we didn’t play with any swagger at all,” Rentko said. “We didn’t play with any arrogance at all. At this time of the year, you have to play with a little swagger and arrogance. But in the fourth quarter, our girls showed their heart.”
Unfortunately for the Trojanettes, Mount St. Joseph junior Laura Johnson stuck a dagger into it. And in the process, she killed Nanticoke Area’s hopes of winning its first state championship in 17 years.
The 5-foot-8 guard scored all nine of her team’s points in the fourth quarter, including the winning free throws with 2.2 seconds remaining, as the Magic escaped with a thrilling 50-48 win against the Trojanettes in a Class 3A state quarterfinal game Sunday at Bethlehem Freedom High School.
Johnson finished with a game-high 22 points.
“Laura Johnson willed us to win,” Mount St. Joseph head coach John Miller said. “She would not accept defeat. She made a couple of big baskets and she hit those two big free throws at the end. She has a tremendous heart.”
Mount St. Joseph (28-3) will play District 1 runner-up Villa Maria Academy in the eastern final Wednesday night at Norristown High School for a berth in the state championship game. The Magic played Villa Maria four times this season, winning three times.
District 2 and Wyoming Valley Conference Division II champion Nanticoke Area ends its season at 29-1. The Trojanettes compiled a 53-2 record during the last two seasons. The loss marked the third consecutive season Nanticoke Area was eliminated from the state playoffs by a District 1 team.
Despite trailing the entire game and by 10 entering the final quarter, the Trojanettes found themselves in position to either win the game in regulation or send the game into overtime. Senior Lauren Dembowski nailed a pair of three-pointers to begin the comeback and freshman Jen Harnischfeger tied the game at 45-45 with 1:56 remaining.
Johnson gave the lead back to the Magic with a three-pointer 30 seconds later, but Saint Joseph’s-bound Sarah Acker converted on a traditional three-point play with 51 seconds left in the game to tie the score at 48-48.
“We were getting a little tired,” Acker said. “We wanted to make every possession count. We needed to make a stop and get the ball back.”
Johnson made sure that never happened.
Despite being hounded by Nanticoke Area defender Leigh Ann Rentko, Johnson drove into the lane and put up an off-balance jumper that banged off the back of the rim. But a late call by a member of the Harrisburg-area officiating crew gave Johnson two free throws with 2.2 seconds remaining. She calmly made both.
Acker led the Trojanettes with 21 points. The 6-4 center overcame a sluggish start, but rebounded with 15 points in the second half. She also blocked six shots and pulled down 11 rebounds.
“I think everyone came out a little nervous,” she said. “It was hard getting the ball to me early and it was a little frustrating. But everyone did a great job getting the ball to me in the second half. This isn’t the way we wanted it to end. But I told the girls to keep their heads up. Everyone played great. We didn’t quit.”
The Magic were the quicker, more emotional and more aggressive team in the first half, leading by as many as 12 points in the second quarter. Despite not having a senior on the floor or a player taller than 6 feet, Mount St. Joseph controlled the offensive and defensive boards and its lightning-quick defense created 12 turnovers.
Acker and fellow all-stater Aly Byorick – who has been hobbled by a severe foot injury for the past two weeks – combined for just eight points in the first half. Acker made just two field goals in the half, and the Xavier University-bound Byorick struggled to an 0-for-5 performance from the field – including an air ball and an easy layup.
“(Mount St. Joseph) stepped it up and put it to us early,” Rentko said. “We were a step slow in the first half.”
Junior Sarah McGorry was a force inside for the Magic in the first half, scoring 10 of her 16 points. Eight of those points came after she pulled down an offensive rebound. The 6-foot McGorry also did a good job of keeping the much-bigger Acker off the boards early.
“Sarah McGorry did a terrific job,” said Miller, who spent 18 years as head coach of the LaSalle University women’s program. “We didn’t want Sarah to contest Acker. We wanted her to play behind her and when a shot went up, her only job was to box out and keep Acker away from the boards.”
The Magic played well against Nanticoke Area, despite having not seen the Trojanettes in person or on film this season.
“I knew they had a left-handed 6-foot-4 center (Acker) and a player going to play at Xavier. What more did I need to know?” Miller said. “We know Nanticoke Area has an excellent program.”
As her and her teammates walked off the court, Acker made sure each Trojanette held her head high.
“Everything will be fine,” she said. “All year long, we kept hearing about how Nanticoke was a two-player team. Today, everyone stepped up. I’m so proud of my teammates.”

Season finale ‘stinks’ for Trojanettes
Teammates picked up slack for ineffective Byorick, who hobbled way through game

There was no need for tears or an apology. Aly Byorick offered them, anyway.
The gutsy Nanticoke Area standout limped and hobbled her way through her team’s heartbreaking 50-48 loss against Mount St. Joseph in a Class 3A state quarterfinal game at Freedom High School on Sunday – the effects of a severe foot injury suffered two weeks ago clearly obvious to the more than 2,500 people in attendance.
But standing in the hallway near her team’s locker room following the game, the pain on Byorick’s face had nothing to do with her foot.
“It really stinks that my (high school) career ends like this,” said the two-time all-state selection before taking a few minutes to compose herself. “I couldn’t give it 100 percent, but I tried my best. I’m so proud of my teammates. Everyone stepped it up in the second half.
“I just want to tell everyone that I’m sorry.”
Nanticoke Area head coach Jack Rentko knows the apology isn’t necessary. Seniors Sarah Acker, Lauren Dembowski, Amanda Coughlin and Byorick have given Trojanette fans more than their share of thrills and excitement during the past four years.
“The doctors told us that (rehabilitation) for this kind of foot injury is a two-month process,” Rentko said. “She put her heart and soul into the game.”
The foot injury clearly bothered Byorick’s game, especially on the offensive end. The Xavier University recruit finished with a 0-for-8 shooting performance from the field, which included an air ball on a three-point attempt and missed short layup because she couldn’t push off her foot. She did make two free throws to finish with two points.
“It was hard for me to sprint down the court,” said Byorick, who unsuccessfully tried to hide the pain on her face during the game. “It was OK on defense, but it was very restrictive. I couldn’t use my foot on my jump shot or to jump for rebounds.”
Byorick and Acker finish their careers as one of the best one-two combinations in the storied tradition of Nanticoke Area basketball.
The St. Joseph’s University-bound Acker almost led the Trojanettes to an improbable comeback win against Mount St. Joseph, scoring 15 of her 21 points in the second half. She ends her career with more than 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds.
Byorick, who averaged more than 23 points a game, became the school’s all-time leading scorer this season and finishes her career with 2,561 points.
Mount St. Joseph head coach John Miller certainly knows a good player when he sees one, having spent 18 years as head coach at La Salle University. And Miller says the 6-foot Byorick is more than just good.
“My heart goes out to her,” he said. “This is a tough way for her high school career to end. You can tell she was hurting. I coached against Xavier more than 20 times when I was at La Salle, so I know the kind of players they get. She’s an outstanding player.”

Mar. 17, 2007
Nanticoke takes on Mt. St. Joseph.

The road to the state championship appears to be a little bumpier today for the two remaining teams from the Wyoming Valley Conference, even though both are coming off impressive victories in second-round action on Wednesday.
Nanticoke Area (29-0) puts its unbeaten streak on the line against District 1 champion Mount Saint Joseph (27-2) at 1 p.m. at Bethlehem Freedom High School on Sunday, March 18th in Class 3A quarterfinal action.
Here’s a capusule look at tomorrow's game

Nanticoke Area (29-0) vs. Mount Saint Joseph (27-2)
Class 3A quarterfinal
1 p.m., Bethlehem Freedom H.S., Sunday, March 18th

“We saw Mount Saint Joseph play twice and have three films on them” said Nanticoke coach Jack Rentko, whose team comes off a 52-32 win over Boiling Springs. “They’re a very good team. They’re in the same class with Villa Maria.”
Mount Saint Joseph and Villa Maria are among the premier 3A teams in the state, along with Nanticoke. The two D1 powers played each other four times this season, with each team winning twice.
The Magic are led by Laura Johnson, a 5-foot-8 junior guard averaging 13 points per game.
“Johnson is a very good ball handler and playmaker,” Rentko said. “My daughter will have the task of watching her.”
He was referring to 5-2 junior guard Leigh Ann Rentko, who gives away six inches in the matchup with Johnson. However, Rentko compensates with speed and quickness.
Mount Saint Joseph has another outstanding player in 6-foot junior center Sarah McGorry (13.1), who loves to drive to the basket.
“McGorry is a nice player inside,” said Rentko. “She likes to post up and she’s a good blocker, but Sarah (Acker) should be able to handle her.”
Acker, a 6-4 senior, is one of the most dominant centers in the state. She had 28 points, 18 rebounds and 10 blocks against Boiling Springs. She can score with either hand, and has great timing when she goes for blocks.
The Trojanettes hope to have senior guard Aly Byorick back at full strength. Byorick, who came into the tournament averaging 23 points, suffered a severe foot injury in the District 2 finals. She played just two minutes a first round win over Athens but was on the court for more than 20 minutes against Boiling Springs and scored 11 points.
“Aly’s foot is still day-to-day,” Rentko said. “She brought a calming presence on the court in our last game. She played a solid game and really looked to get the ball into Sarah.
Mount Saint Joseph coach John Miller says his team will be counting heavily on Johnson.
“She’s the one who really stirs the drink. She makes us go. She’s extremely competitive and really has a strong passion for the game.”
Miller, who served as the La Salle women’s basketball coach for 18 years, is concerned about Nanticoke’s size advantage. “It’s important for us not to allow Acker to get second and third shots. We realize that’s going to be a big challenge.”

Nanticoke starters: Aly Byorick, 6-0, Sr., 23.0; Sarah Acker, 6-4, Sr., 22.0: Lauren Dembowski, 5-6, Sr., 3.8; Jen Harnischfeger, 5-2, Fr., 5.0; Leigh Ann Rentko, 5-3, Jr., 8.9.
Mount Saint Joseph starters: Elle Hagedorn, 5-10, So., 8.0; Ryann Gallagher, 5-8, Jr., 6.3; Laura Johnson, 5-8, Jr., 13.0; Sarah Mc Gorry, 6-0 Jr., 13.1; Jen Sabia, 5-5, So., 5.2

Acker leads Trojanettes
Nanticoke Area will face D1 champion Mount St. Joseph in the quarterfinals Saturday.

Sarah Acker was so pumped up when she got to school Wednesday, she couldn’t contain her energy.
“I started running up and down the halls like a crazy person,” she said. “Finally, I calmed down.”
Unfortunately for the Boiling Springs girls basketball team, Nanticoke Area’s 6-foot-4 senior center saved the rest of her anxiety for the basketball court.
Acker scored 28 points, pulled down 18 rebounds and blocked 10 shots to lead the Trojanettes to a 53-32 victory against the Lady Bubblers in second round play of the PIAA Class 3A state tournament Wednesday at Martz Hall.
District 2 champion Nanticoke Area (29-0) will face D1 champion Mount St. Joseph (26-2) in quarterfinal action Saturday at a site and time to be determined.
Aly Byorick added 11 points for the Trojanettes, becoming the school’s all-time leading scorer. She now has 2,568 points, surpassing the total of 2,559 points scored by former standout Paul Guffrovich.
Acker dominated a much smaller Boiling Springs (26-4) team. The Lady Bubblers’ tallest starter is 5-9 and Acker simply had a picnic. The Trojanettes did an excellent job of feeding her in the paint, and she scored at will almost every time she touched the ball.
“What can you say about the big girl?,” observed Nanticoke coach Jack Rentko. “She did it all.”
Acker has been prone to getting into early foul trouble during the season. But that’s a problem against the Lady Bubblers.
“Before the game, Coach Rentko told me to pretend I already had two fouls,” Acker said. “I just tried to keep my hand up about a half-inch higher than usual and stay out of foul trouble.”
Byorick, a 6-0 senior guard, seems to be making remarkable progress from a severe foot injury, which she suffered in the district finals. She played only two minutes in Nanticoke Area’s first-round win against Athens, but saw extended action against Boiling Springs. She started and played approximately 25 minutes.
“It was amazing just to be back out there,” said Byorick. “It feels good to get set the record, but not as good as getting to play most of the game. It (left foot) was 10 times better than it was on Saturday.”
Once again, the Trojanettes got a solid effort from guards Jen Harnischfeger and Leigh Ann Rentko, who did a great job of getting the ball up the floor and causing havoc on defense.
Nanticoke never trailed, but the Lady Bubblers kept it close in the first half. They drew to 20-19 on a long-range three-pointer by Kirsti Larsen with 2:59 remaining in the second quarter. The Trojanettes took a 22-19 halftime lead on an Acker basket with 40 seconds left.
“We hurt ourselves by committing 16 turnovers in the first half,” Rentko said. “I think we came out a little nervous, but that may have had something to do with playing in Martz Hall. “We turned up our defense in the second half.”
The Lady Bubblers scored just 13 points in the second half. Nanticoke opened up a 37-23 lead after three quarters, and broke the game open in the final period.
Boiling Springs was led by senior guard Kourtney Ehly with 16 points, followed by Kirsti Larsen with 11 points—including three treys.
Tickets for the Nanticoke Area-Mt. St. Joseph game will be on sale at 2:45 p.m. today at the school. Ticket prices are $6 for adults and $3 for students.


Breaking It Down
Nanticoke Area (28-0) vs Boiling Springs (26-3)

When: Tonight, 6 p.m.
Where: Pottsville's Martz Hall

What’s next: The winner advances to to face tonight’s winner of the Mount St. Joseph/Lampeter Strasburg game on Saturday.
Breaking it down: In the face of adversity, Nanticoke picked up major points for pulling together as a team in Saturday’s win over Athens. While Athens never gave Nanticoke a reason to panic, every member of the Trojanette squad did their part, rallying around Byorick, who sat injured on the bench for all but two minutes of the game.
Byorick could barely run on Saturday. She left the game early in the first quarter. She’s been rehabbing her foot since the initial injury and coach Jack Rentko says she is improving each day.
“We’re going to start her and see how she does and go from there,” Rentko said.
Acker scored a triple-double in Saturday’s win (24 points, 11 blocks, 18 rebounds) and could have another big night against a Boiling Springs team that’s biggest players are 5-9 (Ali Aunkst 7.9 ppg and Kayla Fulfer 4.8 ppg).
Kourtney Ehly, a 5-6 senior point guard, is perhaps Boiling Springs’ top player. She leads the team in scoring with 14.7 ppg, while fellow guard Kirsti Larsen has a team-high 54 3-pointers on the season.
“They are nice team,” Rentko said. “But they’ll have a hard time stopping Sarah.”

O’Reilly, Nanticoke favored to advance
The Queenswomen and Trojanettes prepare for PIAA second round games.
By vrose@timesleader.com

The Bishop O’Reilly and Nanticoke Area girls basketball teams have one thing in common as they head into second-round action of the PIAA state tournament tonight. Both are coming off impressive victories in opening-round play.Z
Bishop O’Reilly (22-7) will take on Reading Central Catholic (23-6) at 7:30 p.m. at Blue Mountain High School in Class A action, while Nanticoke (28-0) faces Boiling Springs (36-3) in the 3A bracket at 6 p.m. at Martz Hall in Pottsville.
The District 2 champion Queenswomen advanced with a 37-18 victory over D1 champion Jenkintown in last Saturday’s opening round. Nanticoke posted a 54-24 win over D4 runner-up Athens, even though star player Aly Byorick spent most of the game on bench with an injured foot.
Bishop O’Reilly and Nanticoke appear to be solid favorites to move on to Saturday’s quarterfinals in their respective classifications.

Here’s a capsule look at tonight’s game:
Nanticoke Area (28-0) vs. Boiling Springs (26-3)

Class 3A second round
7 p.m.. Martz Hall Pottsville

Nanticoke is a combined 57-1 over the past two seasons. The Trojanettes’ lone setback was in the second round of last year’s state playoffs.
It isn’t likely to happen again.
Coach Jack Rentko’s team is playing solid basketball, and the team seems more determined than ever to reach its goal of winning the state championship. The Trojanettes turned in an awesome performance in their win over Athens.
Nanticoke is led by senior guard Aly Byorick and 6-foot-4 senior center Sarah Acker.
Like Nanticoke, Boiling Springs comes into tonight’s game on a roll. The Bubblers, who are the No. 3 seed from D3, coasted to a 55-36 victory over Prep Charter in the opening round.
Boiling Springs has an exciting player in 5-foot-6 senior point guard Kourtney Ehly, who averages 14.8 points per game. Ehly possesses extreme quickness and can hit the pull-up jumper off the dribble.
“She’s a good guard,” said Boiling Springs coach Rick Falk. “She’s a smart player and provides us with leadership.”
The Bubblers’ tallest starter is 5-foot-8 senior guard Kirsti Larsen, who averages 9.7 points and is a dangerous three-point shooter.
“We have to shoot a good percentage and limit Byorick and Acker,” said Falk. “Between the two of them, they’re averaging 45 points, so we have to do what no one else has been able to do.”

Nanticoke starters: Aly Byorick, 6-0, Sr., 23.0; Sarah Acker, 6-4, Sr., 22.0; Lauren Dembowski, 5-6, Sr., 3.8; Jen Harnischfeger, 5-2, Fr., 5.0; Leigh Ann Rentko, 5-3, Jr., 8.9.

Boiling Springs starters: Kourtney Ehly, 5-6, Sr., 14.8; Kirsti Larsen, 5-8, Sr., 9.7; Ali Aunkst, 5-9, Jr., 8.0; Megan Beck, 5-7, Jr., 6.2; Kayla Fuller, 5-10 Jr., 4.8.

Getting defensive for the victory
Nanticoke routs Athens as injured star Byorick makes a cameo appearance.
By vrose@timesleader.com

All season long, Nanticoke Area girls basketball coach Jack Rentko has adamantly stated that his team’s greatest strength is its defense. On Saturday, the unbeaten Trojanettes made a strong argument to support his point of view.
Nanticoke held Athens scoreless during a 16-minute stretch and Sarah Acker poured in 24 points en route to a 54-24 romp over the Wildcats in opening round play of the PIAA Class 3A tournament at King’s College.
The District 2 champion Trojanettes (28-0) will face D3 third seed Boiling Springs (26-3) in second-round action on Wednesday at a site and time to be determined. Boiling Springs defeated Prep Charter in its opener.
“Our guards did a terrific job,” Rentko said. “Leigh Ann (Rentko) and Jen Harnischfeger caused a lot of havoc on the perimeter, which caused a lot of turnovers. We did a great job of putting pressure on the ball.”
Nanticoke’s quickness and defensive pressure disrupted the Wildcats from the outset, forcing them to cough up the ball several times. Acker, a 6-foot-4 senior center, was an immovable force defensively in the paint.
Time after time, Acker swatted away the ball from Athens players that tried to drive in for a layup. She wound up with 18 rebounds, 11 blocked shots and five assists.
“They’re a lot bigger than us, which was a concern,” Rentko said. “But we pressured the ball well and Sarah was outstanding.”
Nanticoke star Aly Byorick, who suffered a severe foot injury in last week’s win over Bishop Hoban in the district final, started Saturday’s game. She scored the opening basket, but played only two minutes.
The 6-foot- senior could barely walk. She hobbled up and down the floor with a noticeable limp, and appeared to be in pain.
“We put her in the starting lineup because we wanted to keep her streak of 115 games alive,” Rentko said. “She was just limping out there after the first 30 seconds. She has a deep bone bruise.”
Byorick, who leads the Trojanettes in scoring with a 23-point average, said she quickly realized that she couldn’t go full force.
“Sitting on the bench was really tough,” said Byorick, who will play at Xavier University next season. “I couldn’t sit still because I wanted to be out there so bad.”
Even without Byorick, the Trojanettes had no trouble whatsoever. They simply ran roughshod over the outmanned Wildcats. D4 runner-up Athens (20-8) scored seven points in the first four minutes, but the Wildcats didn’t score again until making a free throw at the 1:34 mark of the third quarter.
At the time, Nanticoke held a 40-8 lead, and four of the Trojanettes starters were on the bench.
“I thought it was going to be much tougher,” said Acker, a Saint Joseph’s recruit. “We really played well. Everybody did what they had to do to step up without Aly.”
Acker and Byorick have been teammates since the eighth grade. Acker said she had a difficult time adjusting to Byorick not being on the floor. “It felt weird. I know where she is at all times, and vice versa. We did the little things we had to without her in the lineup.”
Rentko added 12 points for the Trojanettes, followed by Lauren Dembowski with eight points.

Trojanettes cruise to win over Athens
By Jill Snowdon - Citizens' Voice

There was no denying Aly Byorick’s pain, Saturday in the first round of the Class AAA state playoffs.
The Nanticoke Area star hobbled through warm-ups, jogged down the court during her brief time in the game and limped off the court when a reserve came in to relieve her.
But it was the idea of not playing a role in her team’s first-round victory that hurt her most.
Recovering from a foot injury she suffered in last weekend’s District 2 final, Byorick watched from the bench as her team coasted to a 54-24 win against Athens at King’s College.
Nanticoke (28-0) will face Boiling Springs on Wednesday at a site and time to be determined.
“It’s a whole different view from the sidelines,” Byorick said. “I can’t stand to sit and I wanted to be out there so bad, but we wanted to do what was best for the team. The guards were great today and Sarah (Acker) was phenomenal.” Byorick, who is riding a 116-game starting streak, reported for duty in the Trojanettes’ line-up. She scored Nanticoke’s first basket, bringing her within two points of Paul Guffrovich’s school record of 2,259, and then she made an early exit.
From there her Trojanette teammates made sure she wasn’t disappointed as she sat anxiously and helplessly on the bench.
“It was kind of weird not having her in there,” Acker said. “I’ve been playing with Aly since we were in fourth grade and I always know where to find her, so it was definitely different. But everyone stepped up and did their part.”
Acker was without question the most dominant player on the court. The 6-foot-4 center scored 24 points in three quarters to go along with her 11 blocked shots, 18 rebounds and five assists. She created a number of her own opportunities on swift moves to the basket and she got plenty of looks from the Trojanettes’ backcourt.
“If it wasn’t for the guards I wouldn’t have been as dominant,” Acker said. “They help me with everything and do a great job getting me the ball.”
Nanticoke grabbed a 22-7 lead at the end of the first and kept Athens scoreless in the second quarter. While Acker was unstoppable under the basket, Nanticoke’s guards kept the action moving with sharp passes, steals and opportunities from around the perimeter.
Leigh Ann Rentko scored 10 of her 12 points in the first half and dished out a team-high seven assists. Freshman Jennifer Harnischfeger set Acker up time and again and Lauren Dembowski played tenacious defense that created a number of Athens turnovers.
“Sarah set the tempo with her scoring and her blocking, but Leigh Ann, Jen and Lauren caused so much havoc,” Nanticoke coach Jack Rentko said. “Defensively they gave us so much energy.”
Athens didn’t score a field goal until the first minute of the fourth quarter when Meredith Hafer hit a 3-pointer. The Wildcats finished the fourth with 14 points.
Dembowski and Harnischfeger scored eight and six points respectively for the Trojanettes. Morgan Hafer paced Athens with six.


ATHENS 7 0 3 14 — 24
NANTICOKE AREA 22 20 7 5 — 54

Nanticoke chasing 3A crown
By vrose@timesleader.com

The Nanticoke Area girls basketball team goes into today’s first-round of the PIAA Class 3A tournament with a great chance to capture its first state championship since 1990.
Nanticoke (27-0) is ranked No. 2 overall in the state by MaxPreps.com and is favored to win the 3A championship. Led by all-staters Aly Byorick and Sarah Acker, the Trojanettes face District 4 runner-up Athens (20-7) at 3 p.m. at King’s College.
Byorick led the Wyoming Valley Conference in scoring, averaging 23 points per game. The 6-foot-4 Acker is a dominate center, who averages 22 points and 16.5 rebounds.
Byorick suffered a foot injury during Nanticoke’s win against Bishop Hoban in the District 2 Class 3A title game, but is expected to play today.
“She will be in the starting lineup,” said coach Jack Rentko. “Beyond that, I can’t say anything.”
Rentko makes no secret about having high expectations for his team. “We know what our goals are. I think we’re ready to go out and do what we have to do.”

Nanticoke Area (27-0)
vs. Athens (20-7)

PIAA Class 3A first round

3 p.m. today, King’s College

Athens is talented, but young. The Wildcats starting lineup consists of four juniors and a freshman. The lack of senior leadership definitely appears to be a liability against Nanticoke.

The Wildcats are led in scoring by 6-1 freshman center Taylor Clark (13.5), who possesses the court savvy of a veteran player. She is quick for a post player, and is capable of bringing the ball up the floor. She’s extremely aggressive and can score from anywhere on the floor.

Christina Jacoski, a 6-1 forward, can post up or hit the outside shot. She leads the team in rebounding, averaging 10.5 boards per game.

The Wildcats have two outstanding guards in 5-9 twin sisters Morgan and Meredith Hafer. Morgan Hafer runs the point and averages just two turnovers per game. She leads the team in steals and assists, and serves as a coach on the floor.

“Athens is a nice team with nice all around height,” said Rentko. “Take Sarah (Acker) away and they’re a little bigger than we are.”

The winner will play Wednesday against the winner of the game between D3 third seed Boiling Springs (25-3) and D12 runner-up Prep Charter (17-4).

Athens starters: Morgan Hafer, 5-9, Jr., 9.3; Meredith Hafer, 5-9, Jr., 9.3; Molly Cotton, 5-10, Jr., 7.0; Christina Jacoski, 6-0, Jr., 11.1.

Nanticoke starters: Aly Byorick, 6-0, Sr., 23.0; Sarah Acker, 6-4, Sr., 22.0; 5-6, Jr., 3.8; Jen Harnischfeger, 5-2, Fr., 5.0; Leigh Ann Rentko, 5-3, Jr., 8.9.

Nanticoke star expected back
Aly Byorick is cleared to play for Trojanettes in Saturday’s state tournament opener.
By vrose@timesleader.com

Greater Nanticoke Area fans can breathe a little easier. It appears that star player Aly Byorick will be in the starting lineup on Saturday when the unbeaten Trojanettes face Athens in first-round play of the PIAA Class 3A state tournament.
Byorick suffered a foot injury in Nanticoke’s win over Bishop Hoban last Saturday in the District 2 championship game and sat out the fourth quarter. The 6-foot senior guard left the gym on crutches, raising the possibility of a season-ending injury.
However, coach Jack Rentko said Monday that Byorick is expected to return to practice on Thursday and will be good to go for Saturday’s 3 p.m. game at King’s College.
“Aly’s fine,” Rentko said. “She had a cyst on top of her left foot above her toes. She got stepped on and the cyst busted.”
According to Rentko, Byorick escaped serious injury.
“She didn’t twist her ankle or break any bones. Her foot was swollen for a couple of weeks before she got hurt, but she didn’t say anything.”
Byorick led the Wyoming Valley Conference in scoring with a 23-point average. The Xavier-bound recruit needs just 13 points to surpass Paul Guffrovich (2,259 points) as Nanticoke’s all-time leading scorer.
Nanticoke (27-0) is one of two unbeaten teams representing the WVC in the state tournament.
PIAA Championships
Class 2A
•Nanticoke (27-0) vs. Athens (20-7), 3 p.m., King’s College

Pain-staking performance
Trojanettes crowned, but Byorick injured
By vrose@timesleader.com

As soon as the final horn sounded, Nanticoke Area’s Aly Byorick was mobbed by her teammates and coach. She received a kiss on the cheek from coach Jack Rentko, and hugs from all of the players.
However, it wasn’t the kind of attention that the star player is used to. More than anything, it was a matter of concern as much as it was the joy of winning.
Byorick injured her left foot twice during the Trojanettes’ 61-45 victory over Bishop Hoban in the championship game of the District 2 Class 3A playoffs at Wyoming Valley West High School. Byorick, who sat on the bench in agonizing pain after getting hurt the second time, left the gym on crutches.
According to Rentko, X-rays revealed that Byorick did not break her ankle. “She will begin rehabbing (tomorrow),” he said. The coach is hopeful that Byorick will be able to return for the state tournament.
Nanticoke (27-0) will play District 4 runner-up Athens (20-7) this coming Saturday at a site and time to be determined. Bishop Hoban (18-9) will face the District 1 runner-up—Villa Maria Academy or Mount Saint Joseph – also on Saturday.
Byorick was first injured midway through the third quarter when she hit the floor hard while fighting for a loose ball.
“I really don’t even know what happened,” she said. “I had just missed a three-point shot and went in for the rebound. Then my foot hit the floor and I came down on my toe.”
Byorick needed assistance to leave the court. She hobbled on one foot as she was taken to the locker room to be checked out by the trainer. She returned a short time later, and Rentko put her back in the game with 52 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Byorick re-injured her foot less than 10 seconds later when a Bishop Hoban’s Laura Wingert accidentally stepped on her bad toe.
“I was out of bounds and the girl stepped directly on my foot,” she said.
Rentko said the reason he put Byorick back into the game is because he received clearance from the trainer. At the time, Nanticoke held a 42-26 lead.
“Wingert stepped on her foot as they were stepping out of bounds,” Rentko said. “It wasn’t intentional.”
Even without Byorick, Nanticoke was never in danger of losing, thanks to a monster effort by Sarah Acker. The 6-foot-4 senior center scored a game-high 31 points and completely dominated the paint on offense and defense.
“Acker is the most dominant player in Pennsylvania,” Rentko said. “She does everything. She really stepped up today, especially after Aly got hurt.”
The Trojanettes also got a big effort from freshman guard Jen Harnischfeger, who hit two straight key baskets in the fourth quarter to keep Bishop Hoban at bay. Harnischfeger’s long-range trey gave Nanticoke a 51-36 lead with five minutes left in the game.
“I had to step up,” Harnischfeger said. “I knew I had to make some big shots. Everyone stepped up after Aly got hurt.”
Bishop Hoban got within 55-45 on a three-point basket by Natalie Adams with 3:04 remaining, but the Trojanettes pulled away down the stretch.
“It was a great game,” said Argents’ freshman forward Monica Wignot, who scored 11 points. “Acker played well. We wanted it just as much as they did, but they came out on top.”
Byorick finished with 13 points. She needs only 13 points to surpass Paul Guffrovich (2,259 points) as Nanticoke’s all-time scoring leader. Harnischfeger added 11 points.

Nanticoke Area cruises to win over Honesdale

Unlike the rest of her Nanticoke Area teammates, Aly Byorick was feeling a little pressure in the fourth quarter of what turned out to be another in a string of easy victories.
With a pair of school records clearly in reach, coach Jack Rentko delivered Byorick an ultimatum at the beginning of the fourth quarter: she had two minutes. Few in the Wyoming Valley West gym knew exactly what was happening, it was evident it had something to do with 3-point goals.
When it was over, not only did Nanticoke Area advance with a 74-34 victory over Honesdale in the District 2 Class 3A playoffs, Byorick set school records for points in a game (37) and 3-pointers (7).
The Trojanettes, 26-0 and ranked second in the state behind defending champion Hopewell, advance to Saturday’s district championship game at a site and time to be determined. Honesdale, 10-16, will play for third place.
“(Rentko) told me I had two minutes so the pressure was on,” said Byorick, who needed a little more than her time allotted to reach the marks. “Overall I thought we played pretty well. I thought we hustled well and it was a total team effort.”
Nanticoke Area did trail in the game, falling behind 3-2 after Honesdale’s Katy Degraw hit a three-pointer. But with a 22-point lead at the end of the first quarter, the lopsided lead allowed Rentko to work on a few things defensively that may come in handy down the road.
“In the second quarter we went to a match-up zone just to work on that,” Rentko said. “We don’t play that much zone during the year so we went to that to get ready for the district final and the state tournament.”
Sarah Acker joined Byorick in double figures with 11 points but established herself down low, grabbing 17 rebounds. She also had seven assists. Leigh Ann Rentko chipped in with 10 points.
“We knew what kind of buzzsaw we were running into,” Honesdale coach Roy Gibbs said. “We wanted to play hard and play with class. We won two games and now we get to play again on Saturday. Our moral is not down, we are going to prepare for our next game and be ready to go.”

Top-seeded Nanticoke Area crushes Dallas

Nanticoke Area had two goals to accomplish in its District 2 Class AAA game with Dallas. The first was to play a solid game and the second was to not get anybody injured.
The Trojanettes accomplished both by placing four girls in double figures in a 76-36 victory. Nanticoke, the top seed in Class AAA, was led by Sara Acker, who dominated the interior with a game-high 19 points, seven rebounds and six blocked shots.
Nanticoke next plays Wednesday against the winner of Monday’s Coughlin-Honesdale game.
Guard LeighAnn Rentko contributed 14 points, while Brianna Borowski came off the bench to contribute 13. Lauren Dembowski rounded out the quartet with 10. For coach Jack Rentko, seeing the balanced scoring only added to the successful day.
“When you are the top seed, you know that the first quarter is going to be the toughest,” Rentko said. “Every team that we have played to date has been the toughest right out of the gate and today was no exception. I was happy with the unselfishness the team showed today. They were always looking for the extra pass and we got a lot of wide-open shots because of it.”
Dallas got off to a strong start as a 3-pointer by Melissa Gorski gave the Mounts an early 3-2 edge. Nanticoke responded with a 3 by Dembowski and an inside basket by Acker to put the Trojanettes ahead 7-3.
Dallas hung tough and forced Nanticoke into several early turnovers and made a game of it late in the quarter. Baskets by Lacey Davin and Kristen O’Brien cut the lead to 11-9. However, Acker answered with a layup and a perfect half-court pass to Rentko to give the Trojanettes a 15-9 lead at the end of the first.
From there, Nanticoke outscored Dallas 27-13 to take control of the game. Two straight 3-pointers by Borowski gave Nanticoke a 22-11 edge with 6:40 left before the half.
Acker then started to dominate inside, scoring 11 points in the quarter to give the Trojanettes a commanding 40-17 lead with 2 minutes left in the second.
“Breanna is our sharpshooter from the perimeter and she gave us a big lift as a time in the game where Dallas was starting to make things nervous,” Rentko said. “When she comes off the bench and plays the way she did today, it gives us another option and it opens the door for everyone else to get involved.”
In the third quarter, Nanticoke put away Dallas for good when consecutive 3-pointers by Dembowski and Aly Byorick gave the Trojanettes a 55-25 lead. Nanticoke will now meet the winner of the Honesdale-Coughlin game.
“The best thing that happened today is we played a good game and got everybody out of there without anything happening,” Rentko said. “It is only going to get tougher from here but I was pleased with the results this afternoon.”

CLASS 3A Predictions from Times Leader

Top-seeded Nanticoke (24-0) received a first-round bye. The Trojanettes will be well-rested and champing at the bit on Saturday when they take on the winner of tonight’s opening round contest between No. 8 Dallas and No. 9 Crestwood. No. 3 Bishop Hoban and No. 7 Pittston Area finished strong, but No. 2 Scranton Prep figures to return to the district finals.

Dark horse:
Pittston Area. The Patriots have three outstanding players in Regina Linskey, Marina Castellino, and Kristen Baumes. Toss in a pocketful of miracles, and anything is possible.

Nanticoke is still licking its wounds from last year’s upset loss to Oxford in the second-round of states. Aly Byorick and Sarah Acker will make sure nothing like that happens at the district level.

From Citizens' Voice

The Seeds: 1. Nanticoke Area (24-0); 2. Scranton Prep (19-5); 3. Bishop Hoban (15-8); 4. Coughlin (15-9); 5. Berwick (9-15); 6. Valley View (13-11); 7. Pittston Area (12-12); 8. Dallas (14-10); 9. Crestwood (10-14); 10. Western Wayne (7-17); 11. North Pocono (11-13); 12. Honesdale (8-15); 13. Wyoming Area; 14. West Scranton (4-20); 15. Tunkhannock (5-19).

First round match-ups: Thursday, Feb. 22 - Crestwood at Dallas, 7 p.m.; Honesdale at Berwick, 7 p.m.; Wyoming Area at Coughlin, 7 p.m.; West Scranton at Bishop Hoban, 7 p.m.; North Pocono at Valley View, 7 p.m.; Western Wayne at Pittston Area, 7 p.m.; Tunkhannock vs Scranton Prep, 7 p.m. at the old Marywood. Nanticoke Area has a first-round bye.

Defending champion: Nanticoke Area.

Moving on: Top three finishers advance to states.

Players to watch: Aly Byorick, Nanticoke Area (22.5 ppg); Sarah Acker, Nanticoke Area (21.0 ppg); Colleen McLane, Scranton Prep (12.1 ppg); Krystyn McIntyre, Scranton Prep (13.5 ppg); Allie Downing, Bishop Hoban (9.7 ppg); Lindsey Maximowicz, Bishop Hoban (9.5 ppg); Wendy Girmen, Coughlin (11.7 ppg); Lauren McGinley, Coughlin (11.0 ppg); Laura Taylor, Coughlin (9.8 ppg); Jordan Britt, Coughlin (8.7 ppg); Katlin Michaels, Berwick (15.1 ppg); Andrea Malatesta, Berwick (8.7 ppg); Katie Kahil, North Pocono (15.1 ppg); Andrea Beck, Western Wayne (11.6); Marina Castellino, Pittston Area (13.5 ppg); Regina Linskey, Pittston Area (13.2 ppg) Kristen Baumes, Pittston Area (12.9 ppg); Melissa Gorski, Dallas (14.0 ppg); Danielle Krawetz, Dallas (11.1 ppg); Erin Delaney, Dallas (9.5 ppg); Lyndsay Ellis, Dallas (7.2 ppg); Jade Dudley, Crestwood (9.6 ppg); Allie Scalzo, Wyoming Area (8.7 ppg); Kylie Sheplock (7.2 ppg); Kristen Condeelis, Tunkhannock (12.7 ppg).

Noteworthy: This likely will be a battle for second and third place as all eyes are on talented Nanticoke Area.

Bracketbuster: Either Bishop Hoban or Scranton Prep will get through their side of the bracket — opposite Nanticoke Area’s bracket — and meet the Trojanettes in the title game.

District 2 girls to open second season
By Jill Snowdon Staff Writer

Nanticoke Area coach Jack Rentko has told his team that anything can happen when it comes to district playoffs. But on Tuesday, he had something to back up his point and keep his team from thinking too far ahead.
“I told them today that in Class AAAA (District 3), No. 1 Red Lion got beat by the No. 16 team,” Rentko said. “It just goes to show that when the playoffs start, your record goes back to 0-0.”
That No. 16 team was Central Dauphin East and it pulled off a stunning 46-41 win over the 21-4 Lions Monday night in York.
Nanticoke is 24-0 and is the No. 1 seed in the District 2 AAA playoffs, received a first-round bye.
The Trojanettes closest game to date was back on Dec. 2, a six-point victory over Abington Heights. Nanticoke has also held its opponents to less than 49 points each game and it cruised to the Wyoming Valley Conference Division II championship.
Despite a number of lopsided victories, the Trojanettes have taken the same approach for each game and hope that paves a path into the state playoffs. “They play every game like it’s their last,” Rentko said. “The girls play hard no matter what and we have great senior leadership. Their goal is to get us to the district final.”

Trojanettes have Everything
Times Leader

Nanticoke’s Aly Byorick, who led the WVC in scoring with a 22.6 average, was named Player of the Year in Division II. The Trojanettes’ Sarah Acker, who led the league in rebounding with a 16.5 average, won MVP honors. Jack Rentko, who guided Nanticoke (24-0) to its second consecutive unbeaten regular season, was named Coach of the Year.
Greater Nanticoke Area (24-0) is the No. 1 seed in the 3A playoffs. The Trojanettes, 12-0 in Wyoming Valley Conference Division II play, received a first-round bye. On Saturday, February 24, 2007, Nanticoke will host the winner of the first-round game between Dallas (6-6) and Crestwood (6-8).

Trojanettes finish 24-0
Led by Aly Byorick and Sarah Acker, Nanticoke captures another unbeaten season.

By vrose@timesleader.com

Aly Byorick and Sarah Acker don’t really feel their team’s chances of winning a state championship rest entirely on their shoulders.
However, for anyone who watched the Greater Nanticoke stars tear apart GAR on Monday night, it might be difficult to argue otherwise.
Byorick poured in a game-high 29 points and Acker notched her 1,500th career rebound to lead the unbeaten Trojanettes to a 77-47 victory over the Grenadiers. Acker also scored 18 points and blocked eight shots.
With the win, Nanticoke (24-0) wrapped up its second straight undefeated regular season. The Trojanettes also captured the Wyoming Valley Conference Division II title and clinched the top seed in the District 2, Class 3A playoffs, while posting their 48th consecutive league victory.
Nanticoke also extended its home court winning streak to 45 games.
“Two straight unbeaten seasons is a great accomplishment,” said Nanticoke coach Jack Rentko. “It’s a tribute to the kids and to how hard they work. They’re really focused … they play hard during every second of every game.”
Monday night’s game was a testament to the Trojanettes’ fortitude and determination. Even though most of their players were suffering from a cold or the flu, they played at a breakneck pace throughout the game and finally wore down the Grenadiers with suffocating man-to-man defense.
“Our starting five players were sick,” said Byorick, a 6-foot senior guard who leads the WVC in scoring. “It’s hard to play defense when you’ve got a chest cold and have trouble breathing.”
Nanticoke was never in any real danger, but GAR stayed within striking distance until midway through the third quarter. The Grenadiers trailed only 37-25 at halftime, and pulled to within 43-33 at the 4:59 mark of the third quarter.
However, Nanticoke took total control of the game on a steal and layup by Byorick that extended the margin to 49-35 with 3:20 left in the period.
GAR got a superb effort from junior guard Paige Venson, who scored 25 points, including four three-point baskets.
“Aly and Sarah played really well,” Venson said. “They’re both having another great season.”
Venson doesn’t like Nanticoke’s chances of going all the way. She says last year’s Nanticoke team, which lost in the second round of the state playoffs, was better than the current squad.
“Their guards were better last year,” she said.
Play was stopped momentarily when Acker grabbed her 1,500th rebound early in the third quarter. She received the game ball and was photographed with her parents to mark the occasion.
“I was thrilled to get my 1,500th rebound,” said Acker, a 6-foot-4 senior center. “Only one other Nanticoke player hit the 1,000 mark. Rebounding is more important to me than scoring, because that’s my job.”
Byorick is confident the Trojanettes have the right stuff to win a state title. Nanticoke has earned a first-round bye in the District 2 playoffs.
The Trojanettes will scrimmage three 4A teams in the next week and a half before taking on the winner of the eight vs. nine game on Feb. 24.
“We’re going to be scrimmaging Abington Heights, Hazleton and Cheltenham,” Byorick said. “Those are three tough 4A teams, so we’ll be ready for the (3A) playoffs.”

The Rentko rules
Trojanettes coach enjoying pressure
of championship hopes
By vrose@timesleader.com

With his team expected to win a state championship this year, Greater Nanticoke Area girls basketball coach Jack Rentko entered the season with a whole lot of pressure on him.
But that’s OK with Rentko, because no one wants his team to win that championship any more than he does.
“I’d be ecstatic if we do it,” he said. “With my daughter playing an integral role on the team, it would be a great thing for my family as well as myself.”
Nanticoke is off to an excellent start. The 20-0 Trojanettes have run roughshod over most of their opponents, and were challenged only by Abington Heights and Archbishop Wood. They’re currently ranked No. 2 in the state by MaxPreps.com.
Normally, that would be a dream situation for any coach. But the team is still dealing with the disappointment of last year, when the Trojans went 29-1. Their only loss was a stunning 36-32 upset by Oxford in the second round of the Class 3A state playoffs.
It was a bitter disappointment for players, fans and coaches. It made the entire season seem like a failure.
“I thought we were just as good, if not better, than any team in the state,” Rentko said. “Our kids couldn’t accept the loss to Oxford.”
For Rentko, it was like a visit to The Twilight Zone. He watched in near disbelief as his team struggled to make a shot. Star 6-foot-4 center Sarah Acker was 7-of-12 from the field, but her teammates were 6-for-36.
“We had open shots, but we couldn’t knock them down,” he said.
Rentko, 54, appears to be the right coach in the right spot. He is a Nanticoke blueblood — born and raised in the basketball crazy town. He played high school ball for legendary Nanticoke coach Syl Bozinski and was a two-year starter at Luzerne County Community College under coach Jim Atherton.
“Bozinski built a lot of character in his players and Jim Atherton taught me the finer points of coaching,” said Rentko. “He was a great defensive coach, and was a master of X’s and O’s. Playing for him was a great educational experience.”
Rentko also gained much coaching expertise from his dad, John, who was one of the last two players cut by the NBA Syracuse Nationals in 1949 and was around pro greats like Dolph Schayes.
Prior to becoming the Nanticoke coach in 1994, Rentko spent one year as an assistant coach for the Hanover Area girls team, and 11 years at Crestwood under coach Barry Boone.
During his 13-year tenure with the Trojanettes, Rentko has amassed a 230-91 record, including District 2 Class 3A titles in 1999 and 2006.
Nanticoke lost three starters from last season’s squad — Ashley Makarczyk, Kaitlyn Malshefski and Abby Gesecki. However, the Trojanettes haven’t missed a beat, thanks to the return of all-staters Aly Byorick and Acker.
Byorick, a 6-foot guard, is the Trojanettes all-time leading scorer with 2,086 points. She’s bound for Division I Xavier University, and is the leading scorer in the Wyoming Valley Conference with a 23-point average.
“Aly is the total package,” said Rentko. “She eats and sleeps basketball, 24-7. Even after practice, she comes back and shoots around for another hour.”
Byorick says Rentko is a tough disciplinarian, but also is a father figure with a good heart.
“Personally, he’s like a father to me. I’ve grown up across the street from him since I was 2. During the basketball season, we spend more time with him than with our parents.”
But there’s no question who’s in charge of the team.
“He really treats us well,” Byorick said. “It’s nothing personal when he gets on us. One second he’ll be screaming in your face. The next minute, he’ll blow the whistle at you or pinch you under the arms.”
Byorick credits Rentko for helping her develop toughness.
“When I was a freshman, I was strong physically, but not mentally,” she said. “He has made me cry so many times in practice. He gets in my face and screams, but he’s really prepared me for how my coaches are going to treat me in college.”
Acker sports a 21-point average and recently surpassed the 1,500-point career mark. She’s averaging a league-best 16.5 rebounds and is bound for Division I Saint Joseph’s.
“Sarah is a left-handed center with great skills,” Rentko said. “It’s a joy to be around her.”
Leigh Ann Rentko, a 5-6 junior, is the starting point guard for the Trojanettes and coach’s daughter. She isn’t a great scorer, but her mere presence on the floor proveides Nanticoke with tremendous quickness.
“Leigh Ann makes our team go,” said Byorick. “We’re not the same team when she’s not out there.”
Freshman Jen Harnischfeger, junior Brianna Borowski and senior Lauren Dembowski also have played important roles for the Trojanettes this season.
But make no mistake, the team’s fate rests squarely on the shoulders of Byorick and Acker.
Rentko is well aware that the rabid Nanticoke fans will settle for nothing less than a state championship this time around. He doesn’t expect to disappoint.
“We’ve looked as good, if not better, than last year’s team,” Rentko said. “This team is a lot quicker, plays better defense, and plays hard all the time.
“It’s amazing how much these kids want to win.”

A case for the defense
O’Reilly hangs tough for a half, but Nanticoke eventually shuts down Queenswomen.
By vrose@timesleader.com Greater Nanticoke Area star Aly Byorick wasn’t surprised by the fact that upstart Bishop O’Reilly gave the unbeaten Trojanettes all they could handle in the first half of Thursday’s game.
“Every team gives us their best shot, especially in the first half,” said Byorick. “We’ve learned to just weather the storm and keep our heads in the game.”
After leading by just five points at halftime, Nanticoke conducted a defensive clinic in the second half en route to an overpowering 67-33 victory over the Queenswomen in a Wyoming Valley Conference Division II action.
Nanticoke held Bishop O’Reilly to 10 points in the second half and took complete control of the contest with Byorick and Sarah Acker leading the way. The 6-foot Byorick tossed in a game-high 27 points, including four three-point baskets, and the 6-4 Acker added 22 points.
Acker was dominant in the paint on offense, and came out on top in her much anticipated matchup against Bishop O’Reilly star Marissa Chesnavich, who wound up with 16 points.
“She (Chesnavich) was playing really hard,” Acker said. “It really got physical. There were a couple of times that she stopped me.”
During the first half, Chesnavich made a couple of nifty blocks on Acker—sending her to the floor on her back on one occasion. Not to be outdone, Acker countered with a stunning block on a Chesnavich drive to the basket that resulted in a jump ball.
“It was a lot of fun,” said the 6-foot Chesnavich. “Sarah’s a great player and I learned a lot by playing against her. Going up someone like her will make me a much better college player.”
Chesnavich is bound for the University of the Sciences, while Acker has signed with Division I Saint Joseph’s.
Bishop O’Reilly (1-1 Div. II) came out hitting on all cylinders. The Queenswomen jumped out to a 10-4 lead on a basket by Kelli Crossin. Nanticoke (18-0 overall, 2-0 Div. II) drew even 12-12 at the end of the first quarter, thanks to Byorick’s eight straight points.
Nanticoke took its first lead at 15-14 on a steal and layup by Byorick at the 6:15 mark of the second quarter. The Trojanettes wound up taking a 28-23 halftime lead on an Acker basket.
Acker scored two quick baskets to start the third quarter that gave Nanticoke all the offensive momentum it would need to conduct a reality check.
“We played strong defense in the first half,” said O’Reilly coach Abe Simon. “The difference was their two star players took over the game when the outcome was still undecided. I think we got a little tired in the fourth quarter.”
Nanticoke coach Jack Rentko said his team was a bit out of sync in the early going, which he attributed in part to the absence of his daughter, Leigh Ann Rentko. The junior point guard is sidelined with a mild concussion.
“We’re a little slower with her out of the lineup. Bishop O’Reilly played a very good game. They came out and shot really well.”
Byorick, the WVC’s leading scorer with a 23-point average, said one of Nanticoke’s greatest assets is its ability to stay 100 percent focused, especially during blowout wins.
“I talked with Holly Kozlowski, who helped led the 1990 team to the state championship,” said Byorick. “She says you have to play at full speed every second you’re on the court.”
According to Chesnavich, Nanticoke is capable of great things. “They’re a great team. They’re going to go far in states.”
Times Leader Athlete of the Week
Nanticoke Area Senior, Basketball

The 6-foot-4 senior center scored 75 points in three games, including 30 points in a victory over Dallas. She also had 20 rebounds and had 11 blocked shots. Acker scored 27 points in a win over Meyers..including her 1,500th career point...and scored 18 points in a win over Lake-Lehman.

Trojanettes beat GAR, claim Division II first-half title

With Nanticoke Area’s high-powered offense, the Trojanettes beat GAR 69-47 in Wyoming Valley Conference girls basketball action.
The Trojanettes’ Sarah Acker connected on nine of 11 free throws for a team-high 33 points. Teammate Aly Byorick drained five three-pointers in her 27-point performance as Nanticoke Area won the WVC Division II first-half title. Others scoring were Harnischfer, Dembowski, and Borowski.

More milestones for Byorick, Acker

Nanticoke Area basketball standouts Aly Byorick and Sarah Acker both reached career scoring milestones in the Trojanettes' 79-21 Wyoming Valley Conference girls basketball win over Meyers on Friday.
Byorick, the school's all-time scoring leader, totaled 18 points, including her 2,000th point on her final basket of the game, a third-quarter three-pointer.
Acker surpassed the 1,500 mark with about three minutes left in the first half on her way to a game-high 27 points. She now stands at 1,513.
"It's just very nice to have both girls reach these marks in the same game," said Nanticoke coach Jack Rentko. "(Byorick and Acker) put a lot of time and effort into their game, it's great to see it pay off.
"They were happy to just win the game. To them, it's not about the numbers, it's about the team."
Meyers was led by Christa Tutella's six points.

Athlete of the Week
Nanticoke Area Senior, Basketball

Age: 17
Family: Parents, Dan and Trish; brother Danny, 13, and sister, Erin, 9.
Accomplishment: Byorick celebrated two major accomplishments this week. She was presented a basketball from her team after becoming the program's all-time leading scorer with 1,774 points, which she set in an exhibition game. She also made her 100th consecutive career start on Jan. 3 in a game against Bishop O'Reilly.
Byorick is currently third in scoring in Division II with 18.5 points per game.

Getting to know ALY BYORICK
Favorite food: chicken wings
Favorite restaurant: Chili's
Favorite movie: "Love & Basketball"
Favorite actor/actress: Chad Michael Murray and Cameron Diaz
Favorite TV show: "Grey's Anatomy" and "One Tree Hill"
Favorite hobbies: Playing volleyball and hanging out with friends
Favorite vacation spot: Cancun, Mexico
Favorite Web site: hollister.com
Pre-game ritual: "On game-days, I always talk on the phone with my Uncle Tom (Cywinski). We talk about the game and what players the other team has, things like that."
Thoughts on going to play at Division I Xavier: "Only six more months. I'm very excited to play at the next level, but I am definitely going to miss everyone around here."


Trojanettes’ pesky play leads to win

With a pair of Division I recruits grabbing most of the attention, the little things the Nanticoke Area guards do are sometimes overlooked.
There was no denying the pesky play of Nanticoke’s backcourt Wednesday in a 79-27 win over Bishop O’Reilly.
Leigh Ann Rentko and Jen Harnischfeger sparked the Trojanettes in the opening minutes of the first quarter and helped their team play well-controlled, unselfish ball the rest of the way in the lopsided victory.
“Leigh Ann (Rentko) and Jen (Harnischfeger) did a great job of shutting down every angle of O’Reilly’s offense,” Nanticoke Area coach Jack Rentko said. “Overall, it was a great defensive effort. We put Leigh Ann on one of O’Reilly’s best players and she did a nice job. And Jen, she’s just a gutsy player who knows the game well and plays like a senior.”
Leigh Ann Rentko and Harnischfeger combined for the first nine Trojanette points, setting each other up on each of their opening baskets.
Rentko scored 10 points in the first quarter, including a pair of 3s, while Harnischfeger scored four more and dished out three assists.
For the night, Rentko, a junior, scored a career-high 20 points and dished out six assists and Harnischfeger, a freshman, added eight points and a game-high 10 assists.
“I was really into the game and I felt that my shot was on during warm-ups,” said Leigh Ann Rentko, who sat from the middle of the third quarter on because of Nanticoke’s large lead.
“It’s fun playing with Jen. She’s only a freshman, but she’s really stepped up and I think we work well together.”
Aly Byorick, a forward who will play next season at Xavier, and Sarah Acker, a center who has committed to St. Joseph’s, dominated in their roles as well. Acker had eight points and seven blocks, while Byorick added 19 points in her 100th career start as a Trojanette.
Nanticoke Area’s lead was never in jeopardy and that allowed coach Rentko to substitute freely. Each reserve showed promise when they stepped on the floor and even more noticeable was their generous passing.
“At practice we always tell them that if they have an open shot, fine, take it,” Coach Rentko said. “Otherwise we want them to keep looking for that extra pass. There might be someone who has a more open look than they do.”
Brianna Borowski and Morgan Thomas combined for 22 points for Nanticoke. Marissa Chesnavich led O’Reilly with 10. Melissa Rukstalis and Megan Kazmerski each had six.

Prior to the start of the varsity game, Byorick was honored for passing former Trojanette Ruth Maley as the program’s all-time leading scorer. Byorick broke Maley’s record of 1,772 points when she scored 24 points in an exhibition game last week.
Harnischfeger 4 0-0 8; Thomas 4 0-1 10; Malishchak 0 0-0 0; Borowski 5 0-0 12; Byorick 7 2-3 10; Yohey 1 0-0 2; Rentko 8 0-4 20; Coughlin 0 0-0 0; Acker 4 0-2 8; Totals 32 2-9 79.

BISHOP O’REILLY 7 12 4 4 — 27
NANTICOKE AREA 24 21 24 10 — 79

Acker leads Nanticoke to Taylor Lions title

Sarah Acker scored 20 points and grabbed 17 rebounds as Nanticoke defeated host Riverside 67-40 Thursday in girls basketball to win the Taylor Lions Club Tournament.
Aly Byorick had nine steals for Nanticoke, while Brianna Borowski had 11 points an
d six assists.
Leigh Ann Rentko netted nine points.

Argents can’t stop GNA’s Byorick
Trojanettes senior scores game-high 27 despite Hoban’s defensive tactics.
By vrose@timesleader.net

The Bishop Hoban girls basketball team took its best shot defensively at Aly Byorick on Monday night. The Argents consistently double- and triple-teamed the Greater Nanticoke Area star, and did a great job of denying her the ball.
They knocked her to the floor face-down on one move to the basket, and swarmed her every time she got the ball into the paint.
But in the end, Byorick proved to be unstoppable. The 5-foot-11 senior forward tossed in a game-high 27 points to lead the unbeaten Trojanettes to a 53-29 victory over Bishop Hoban in a Wyoming Valley Conference Division II game.
The Argents did a commendable job defensively against Nanticoke’s 6-foot-4 senior center Sarah Acker, who came into the game averaging 22 points. Acker, who normally dominates in the paint, missed a few inside shots that are almost automatic.
More importantly, Acker got into foul trouble early in the second half, causing her to spend 10 minutes on the bench. She wound up with 14 points.
“We spent all our preparation on defense,” said Bishop Hoban coach Rich Nemetz. “I thought we did a really good job. We got Acker into foul trouble, and Byorick wound up with four fouls. We contained Acker, but Byorick took over the game.”
Byorick scored from everywhere on the court. She made three three-point shots, including a long-range trey that gave the Trojanettes a 17-9 lead late in the second quarter. She also hit several mid-range jumpers, and took the ball to the basket with a vengeance in the second half.
To their credit, the Argents made Nanticoke work hard for every shot.
“This is a good win for us,” said Byorick, “We went out and played hard. Hoban came out strong, and that really psyched us up. Their defense was good, but once we got into the flow, we clicked.”
Nanticoke (7-0 overall, 1-0 Div. II) came out a bit sluggish on offense in the first quarter. The Trojanettes scored just 11 points, but held a four-point lead at the end of the period. Nanticoke finally got in gear in the second quarter, taking a 21-9 lead on baskets by Leigh Ann Rentko and Acker.
The Trojanettes forged a 28-10 halftime lead. The Argents played Nanticoke on even terms in the third quarter, with both teams scoring 11 points. However, Byorick went on a tear in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.
She hit a twisting lay-up with three minutes left, giving the Trojanettes a 45-27 lead.
Hoban (3-3, 0-1) got solid performances from Lindsay Maximowicz and Rachel Keefe, who scored 10 points and eight points, respectively.
Maximowicz was knocked to the floor on two occasions, but displayed exceptional resiliency. Keefe did a good job of hitting short jumpers inside the paint. “They both played well,” Nemetz said.
Nanticoke coach Jack Rentko said Hoban’s defense on Acker was very good.
“Sarah got frustrated. She had some open shots, but didn’t put the ball in the basket.”
The coach was almost lost for words when talking about Byorick.
“What can you say about Aly?,” Rentko said. “She took over the game.”

Hazleton Area, Nanticoke Area lead way in WVC

The usual suspects are once again anticipated to rule the Wyoming Valley Conference girls basketball standings this season in Division I and II. Division III, however, is up for grabs as the season kicks into gear this week.
At the recent WVC coaches’ meeting, each Division I coached voiced Hazleton Area as the favorite to repeat as division champs. That’s a fair assumption, considering the Cougars are ranked 10th in the state among AAAA schools.
With the return of all-stars Sarah Acker and Aly Byorick, Nanticoke remains the top team in Division II. The Trojanettes finished 29-1 last season and are ranked second in the state in AAA.
Seton Catholic finished first in Division III last year, but was hit hard by graduation. The Eagles are certainly talented enough to defend their division title, but could see some strong competition from Wyoming Seminary and Hanover Area.

Players to Watch
Aly Byorick, Nanticoke Area: Was first-team all-state selection last year after leading the Trojanettes to the second round of the AAA state playoffs. She has 1,657 career points and 710 career rebounds. She recently earned Street & Smith’s honorable mention All-American status for the third straight year. She will be going to Xavier on a full scholarship next season.
Sarah Acker, Nanticoke Area: The senior center grew a couple of inches over the summer and now stands at 6-4, making her even more dominating under the boards. She enters the season with 1,227 career points and 1,126 rebounds as well as 397 blocked shots. Like Byorick, she was also named a Street & Smith’s honorable mention All-American and will attend St. Joseph’s on a full scholarship.

Head Coach: Jack Rentko
Outlook: Nanticoke cruised through the conference last season and didn’t pick up a loss until the state playoffs, finishing 29-1. Aly Byorick and Sarah Acker are the best players in the entire conference and should once again carry the Trojanettes to the post-season.

3 Jennifer Harnischfeger 5-2 Fr. Guard
10 Morgan Thomas 5-5 So. Guard
11 Lauren Dembowski 5-6 Sr. Guard
12 Gaby Malishchak 5-1 So. Guard
13 Brianna Borowski 5-7 Jr. Guard
15 Aly Byorick 6-0 Jr. Guard/Forward
22 Keira Lohman 5-3 Jr. Guard
23 Kelsey Yohey 5-7 So. Guard
32 Leigh Ann Rentko 5-3 Jr. Guard
33 Amanda Coughlin 5-8 Sr. Forward
44 Rachael Richards 6-0 So. Center
51 Sarah Acker 6-4 Sr. Center

Another big win for Trojanettes
Nanticoke Area beats ninth-ranked team in Eastern Region at home.

By lsokolowski@timesleader.com

The Greater Nanticoke Area girls basketball team doesn’t usually find itself trailing. A four-point quarter isn’t typical either.
But it isn’t everyday that the Trojanettes host – and beat – a team like Archbishop Wood, which has been ranked as high as ninth in the Eastern Region by USA Today.
Nanticoke posted a 56-49 win Tuesday night over the visiting Lady Vikings, which won the Philadelphia Catholic League title the past two years.
“You play the best to be the best,” Nanticoke coach Jack Rentko said.
He and the Trojanettes knew inviting the Lady Vikings to their gym might be the blemish on Nanticoke’s thus-undefeated record.
“Coming into this game, we knew this could be the game we would lose,” said forward Aly Byorick, who finished with a game-high 23 points. “We were not expecting it, but we were understanding.”
Nanticoke (5-0) opened the scoring, but Archbishop Wood went on a 14-3 run. It went up 14-5 with 2:40 left in the first half. Nanticoke ended the quarter with six unanswered points.
Leigh Ann Rentko’s steal, which lead to a Byorick basket, cut the deficit to 14-11 heading into the second. That was during the Trojanettes’ turn on the scoring seesaw. Fueled by Byorick, Nanticoke held the Lady Vikings scoreless for 8:50 and went on a 17-0 run that lasted into the second quarter.
A few big baskets by Archbishop Wood’s Ashley Robinson (14 points) tied the game at 25-25 with 1:40 left in the first half. Nanticoke’s Sarah Acker (22 points) broke the tie and sent the Trojanettes into halftime with a 30-26 lead.
Then both teams got a bit complacent.
Nanticoke outscored Archbishop Wood in the third quarter, but by a narrow margin of 4-3.
All of Nanticoke’s third quarter points were scored by 5-foot-1 freshman guard Jennifer Harnischfeger, the shortest girl on both rosters. She also lunged to the ground often to force jump balls.
“She’s so small, but she’s so tough,” Byorick said. “She works so hard, and she plays so hard. She’s half the size of everyone else, but she puts the shots in.”
The fourth quarter was the Acker show. She had 13 points in the final period, scoring all but two of Nanticoke’s baskets. And she risked her body to get those.
Acker was trying to keep possession with about 2:15 left in the game when she fell out of bounds into the only available seat in the packed bleachers.
She admitted she thought about sitting there. She has been to a doctor about a pain in her side that was initially diagnosed as a potential kidney problem. But she thinks it might just be a pulled muscle from volleyball season she didn’t let heal.
But when she saw Byorick miss a shot, she bounced off the bleachers and got the put-back. Talk about dedication.
“I knew I had to come up big, especially in the end,” Acker said. “It was hard, and I was tired, but I had to.”


1. Nanticoke. The team lost three starters, but is still ranked No. 3 in Class 3A by the Harrisburg Patriot-News. It helps having two Division I players as its returning starters.

2. Hazleton Area. The Cougars lost three starters, but was ranked No. 10 in Class 4A by the Harrisburg Patriot-News in the preseason. “I don’t know why, but I’ll take it,” Gavio said.

3. Berwick. Everyone underestimated the Bulldogs last year, and first-year coach Bill Phillips took the team to its first PIAA tournament in eight years. The team has a target on its back this year.

4. Pittston Area. The team’s upside? The Patriots return a good amount of players who remember what it was like to upset Hazleton Area last year. The downside? Hazleton does, too.

5. Wyoming Valley West. The team returns four starters and eight letter winners from last year. But with the addition of 6-2 center Samantha Himlin, only a freshman, the team should be strong.


1. Aly Byorick, Nanticoke. This is finally her senior season, although it seems she has been in Nanticoke’s starting five for longer. Byorick, who has already accepted a full ride to Xavier after earning first-team all-state honors last year, has 1,657 career points and 710 rebounds.

2. Sarah Acker, Nanticoke. Acker already accepted a full ride to St. Joseph’s and has 1,227 career points. As a junior, she broke the school record for most rebounds in a season with 442. When you’re a 6-4 center, there isn’t really anyone who can challenge you under the basket.

3. Marissa Chesnavich, Bishop O’Reilly. This will be the first year that Chesnavich isn’t playing under the shadow of her older sister, Erin. But the question will still loom: Can Marissa, now a senior, carry the team on her shoulders like her sister?

4. Kristen Baumes, Pittston Area. Baumes, a 5-6 guard who can score, will be the difference in Pittston Area’s success this season.

5. Monica Dennison, Hazleton Area. Joe Gavio always said that Dennison was a good player, but her senior year is the year for her to become a great player. But keep your eye on Alyssa Flanagan, who is being touted early in the season as one of the top guards in the conference.

Friday, Dec. 15, 18: The WVC season officially begins. Feb. 24: The regular season officially ends. March 23 and 24: PIAA Championship weekend.

Battling the elements
GNA takes rough road in beating state power

By lsokolowski@timesleader.com

“We’ve been waiting a long time for (the start of the season). It’s nice to get that first ‘W’ under our belts.”
Jack Rentko GNA coach

Thank goodness basketball is an indoor sport. If it wasn’t, most people probably wouldn’t have braved what seemed like the apocalypse on Friday night to get to the opening round of the Hazleton Area Tip-Off Tournament.
Despite branches in the road, lightning over Hazleton Area High School and a tornado warning, Greater Nanticoke Area still showed up to defeat Cheltenham 63-44 in the tournament’s opening game.
Abington Heights defeated host Hazleton Area 59-52 in the nightcap, setting up today’s 7:30 p.m. championship game between the Trojanettes and the Comets.
“The bus trip was up a little adventure,” said Nanticoke coach Jack Rentko. “We couldn’t see. The bus was going 20 miles per hour for 10 miles.”
Cheltenham, ranked No. 4 in Class 4A by the Harrisburg Patriot-News, scored the game’s first basket, and that lit up Nanticoke doubters. With the loss of three starters from last year’s 29-1 squad, there are a lot of people who questioned this year’s team, although the Patriot-News ranked the Trojanettes (1-0) No. 2 in Class 3A.
The negative thoughts were squashed when Nanticoke went on a 6-0 run en route to a 13-8 first quarter lead.
Saint Joseph’s-bound Sarah Acker had nine of her game-high 25 points in that period. Nanticoke inflated its lead to 34-19 by halftime, thanks to Xavier-bound Aly Byorick’s 11 second-quarter points.
“Obviously there is pressure on us,” Byorick said, referring to herself and Acker. “We have to step up, but we’re used to it. The younger girls really stepped up.”
Junior Leigh Ann Rentko started despite being sick, and freshman Jen Harnischfeger had six points off the bench in her first varsity game. She didn’t start but played the majority of the game – and was chewing gum the entire time. It was as if she was in a nonchalant game of street ball, not her varsity debut against a big-school power.
After crediting youngsters with their contributions, Byorick (23 points) said, “Lauren Dembowski was diving all on the floor. (Acker and I) might have scored, but they did all the unsung hero work, the dirty work.”
Acker and Byorick, who combined for all but 15 of the team’s 63 points, played nearly the whole game. In fact, Byorick never left the court – not even when she picked up her fourth foul with six minutes left in the fourth quarter.
“It’s fun,” Acker said. “I can’t remember the last time I played (that much).”
Acker and Byorick are going to get used to that. The Trojanettes’ bench is deep, but the team will rely on the two Division I-bound players.
“It’ll help us when we get to states,” Byorick said.
That’s looking ahead a bit. Coach Rentko is a little more myopic.
“We’ve been waiting a long time for (the start of the season),” he said. “It’s nice to get that first ‘W’ under our belts.”