By Tom Robinson
WILKES-BARRE TWP. – The JB Hoops AAU program was prominent when District 2 girls basketball championships were being decided at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza for fourth straight season.
Four of the six teams that won championships in the February 28-March 2 series of title games did so with multiple prominent players who had spent the spring and/or summer of 2018 playing on JB Hoops teams.
Scranton Prep, Dunmore, Susquehanna and Abington Heights all made the most of the JB Hoops influence while repeating district championships.
When Scranton Prep defeated Lake-Lehman, 46-43, to repeat as Class 4A champion, it did so with three starters and its top sub coming from the team that is based out of Backcourt Hoops in Scranton.
JB Hoops accounted for four starters and five of the six players Dunmore used while again claiming Class 3A with a 33-27 victory over Holy Redeemer.
Susquehanna, which is coached by an alum of the AAU program’s boys teams, had three of its starters come from the JB Hoops in its 39-21 victory over Forest City for a third straight Class A title.
Abington Heights had two starters on the team that beat Wyoming Valley West, 33-19, in Class 5A for a fourth straight district title.
In all, 40 percent of the starters on District 2 championship girls teams played for JB Hoops last year.
The two teams that had to get through close games used winning plays from young JB Hoops players to pull out their championships.
Sophomores Rachael Rose and Cecelia Collins scored the winning and clinching points in the final minute for Scranton Prep.
Freshman Moriah Murray hit what proved to be the game-winning 3-pointer with 3:02 left in Dunmore’s win.
Points were hard to come by all weekend, with none of the 22 boys and girls teams hitting 50 points in a game.
Rose was a notable exception.
The all-state guard scored 21 points, including the biggest two of the Class 4A final.
After Lake-Lehman went ahead, Rose took the in-bounds pass and maneuvered the length of the floor, going right to the basket to draw a foul with 30.5 seconds left.
Rose hit the tying and winning free throws.
Collins then added two more free throws with eight seconds left.
There was no hesitation by Rose on the winning play.
“I thought I could beat their girls,” she said. “I had a step ahead of them, so I just finished it, made contact and was able to hit those free throws.”
Collins grabbed a defensive rebound to set up her late free throws.
Kathleen Rose, Rachael’s older sister and another JB Hoops player, made an early impact on the game. The senior had assists on all four baskets – two each by Rachael Rose and Collins – for a quick 11-3 lead.
Maria Belardi was the only Scranton Prep sub to score. She hit a 3-pointer to begin the fourth-quarter scoring and put the Classics lead at 34-28.
Rachael Rose and Collins, the team’s second-leading scorer with nine points, each finished 4-for-4 from the line.
Kathleen Rose had a game-high seven assists and Rachael Rose led the team with two steals.
Belardi also had the team’s only blocked shot.
Dunmore was tied, 26-26, with Holy Redeemer until Murray’s 3-pointer with 3:04 to play.
The Lady Bucks outscored the Lady Royals, 7-1, down the stretch with Murray scoring five of the points and JB Hoops teammate Lisa Tallo adding the other two.
Victoria Toomey, who had seven rebounds, and Murray led Dunmore with nine points each.
Tallo added eight points, a game-high four assists and a team-high three steals.
Gianna Delfino, the other starter from JB Hoops, had a game-high nine rebounds and four points.
Toomey hit two to start a stretch in which Dunmore went 6-for-6 from the line in the final 4:37.
Anna Talutto was the only sub Dunmore used.
Kirk Fallon coached Susquehanna, which got strong games from Mackenzie Steele, Taylor Huyck and Bethany Maby while winning its third straight title.
Steele led the way with 14 points. Huyck had the weekend’s top defensive performance, making 8 steals and blocking 2 shots along with 7 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists.
Maby, who scored nine points, and Steele each grabbed five rebounds.
Huyck made half of her steals while Susquehanna was holding Forest City scoreless for the first 6:24 to take a 9-0 lead.
JB Hoops players accounted for 37 of the 46 points by Scranton Prep, 30 of 33 by Dunmore and 30 of 39 by Susquehanna.
Only one Abington Heights player contributed more points than Rachel McDonald’s six and Clair Marion’s five in the low-scoring Class 5A final.
The Lady Comets held the Lady Spartans to the lowest-scoring output by a girls team in four years and 20 games of state finals at the arena.
McDonald led the team with three steals. Marion grabbed four rebounds.