With the top three scorers returning from a breakthrough season – and each of them still underclassmen – the Susquehanna girls basketball team has high hopes for this season and beyond.
The Lady Sabers won their first-ever District 2 championship and state tournament games last season when they also won the first-half title before falling short against Forest City in the Lackawanna League Division 4 all-season championship game.
Taylor Huyck and Mackenzie Steele were the top two scorers on that team as freshmen and each provided much more. Junior point guard Bethany Maby also returns to the starting lineup.
All three played AAU basketball with JB Hoops, continuing their progress.
Together they have already led the Lady Sabers to the first Denise Reddon-Jill Hoffman Memorial Christmas Tournament title in school history and have the team in the role of favorite to claim its first Lackawanna Division 4 all-season title.
The Lady Sabers started on that path Monday night with a 43-39 win at Montrose, the same team they beat in the Christmas Tournament final.
Huyck, a 5-foot-9 sophomore, was already an effective scorer, but coach Errol Mannick said she is now a better shooter.
“She’s going to be our best scoring guard,” Mannick said. “She has gotten a ton stronger. Last year, it took me quite a bit of the season to get her to shoot from the outside on a consistent basis.
“She’s not afraid of that now. She’s very comfortable with that. And, she’s tall enough, too to get a shot off over just about anyone.”
Huyck had 13 points Monday when the Lady Sabers overcame a four-point first quarter to rally for the road win.
An effective rebounding and defensive team, the Lady Sabers biggest needs are in producing points against tough opposition.
Mannick expects Steele, a 6-2 center, to help there as well after dominating on the defense end while averaging 8.3 points, 12.9 rebounds and 6.0 blocked shots last season.
“I think Mackenzie has definitely gotten a lot strong,” Mannick said. “The thing I’ve noticed is she has gotten a lot more aggressive. She was a little timid in the scoring aspect last year and that has changed. She’s making moves and going over people.
“She’s gotten comfortable with her jumper and we’re very comfortable with her taking jump shots.”
Maby is an effective 3-point shooter, ranking second to Huyck on the team in that category last season. She also tied for second behind Huyck in assists.
They are again the top three scorers on the team.
The Lady Sabers recovered from a slow start last season to go 9-3 in Division 4 and finish 15-14 overall.
They are 5-3 overall this season and ranked fifth among District 2 Small Schools in the NEPABasketball Super Six Power Rankings. The three losses have come on the road against Wyoming Valley Conference Big Schools Wyoming Area, Dallas and Nanticoke, who are a combined 21-2.
Susquehanna won its tournament title Dec. 28 when it shut out Montrose in the first quarter of a 41-22 romp at Blue Ridge.
Steele led the defensive effort, blocking 10 shots and grabbing 10 of her 13 rebounds on the defensive end while earning all-tournament honors. She also had eight points in the win.
Huyck led the team with 12 points and 6 steals and Maby added 10 points.
In the 45-33, first-round win over Elk Lake, Huyck scored 10 of her 11 points in the second half. Maby added 10 points.