LEWISTOWN?-?Thursday marks the beginning of the District 6 Class AAAA playoffs for the fourth-seeded Mifflin County boys basketball team as it will travel to Tyrone to take on the fifth-seeded Golden Tigers of Hollidaysburg.
It's the first of two - possibly three - games featuring Husky teams this week. The girls take on Hollidaysburg Saturday; the boys will be there as well with a win in their first one.
Also starting their quests this week are boys and girls teams from East Juniata (District 4) and the Greenwood boys (District 3). Juniata, whose girls team began play Tuesday in the District 6 Class AA tournament, will appear in the quarterfinals Friday.
Mifflin County boys
With a win, the Huskies will move on to play top seed State College, which topped the Huskies 71-68 to in a heartbreaking loss late in the regular season.
Thursday's contest with Hollidaysburg will be the second game between the two schools in nine days, and Huskies coach Aaron Gingrich has high expectations for the rematch but remains aware that in order to play on the weekend, his team must take care of business in Tyrone Thursday.
"Hollidaysburg is a dangerous team," Gingrich said. "They have several explosive players, who, if left alone, will punish you - especially from three."
Gingrich cited his team's defensive effort in the 54-47 victory on Feb. 12 as something that his players will have to carry over in order to be successful in the quarterfinal district contest.
Unlike the previous matchup, when the Huskies found themselves battling through their third game in four days, including the heart-wrenching defeat by State College the night before, Mifflin County should be well rested.
The long layoff can be a momentum killer for some teams and for others, a much needed period to get healthy. Nonetheless, it's a crucial time that must be utilized properly.
"The week to eight days from the end of the regular season to the playoffs, you can either get better or get worse, the teams that get better at this time of the year are the ones that experience success and have enjoyment the rest of the year," Gingrich said.
He also noted that the fundamentals and playing to its strengths should help the team move on to play in the semifinal round Saturday.
"Playoff games are about taking care of the ball, playing incredible defense and winning the war on the boards - those three aspects of basketball are always going to keep you in the game," Gingrich said.
With a rematch against State College looming, the Huskies remain conscientious of the task at hand, Hollidaysburg.
"At this point of the season, I don't look at their record and overlook them toward getting to the weekend because they've played a difficult schedule," Gingrich said. "We are not taking them lightly in any way, despite beating them a week ago."
Gingrich will look to Seth Wagner, Hunter Wright, Curtis Jerzerick, John Michael Maclay and Cy Treaster for the bulk of the team's production and says his substitution rotation will be dictated based on in-game situations.
Mifflin County girls
The fourth-seeded Mifflin County girls will start their quest for a District 6 Class AAAA title Saturday at Bald Eagle Area against the top-seeded Hollidaysburg Golden Tigers, a tall order for the girls who clinched the playoff berth by finishing the season with a .500 record overall, in their first year as a member of the powerful Mid-Penn Conference.
The rematch comes 29 days after a one-sided opening round, a 42-point loss sustained by the Huskies, who coach Kevin Kodish says, are playing a lot better basketball as of late.
"The intensity level has picked up and the last few weeks we've been practicing a lot better and playing a lot better," Kodish said.
As far as Hollidaysburg, Kodish was not short on praise, knowing the challenge that lies ahead.
"They do everything well and they're a very good team. We played them about a month ago and they beat us badly - that was our worst game of the year," Kodish said.
The Huskies will attempt to neutralize the Golden Tiger attack with hopes of improving on what Hollidaysburg exploited in the 42-point loss in late January.
Mifflin County finished its season with two convincing wins but playoff basketball is a different animal and so is Hollidaysburg. Kodish is optimistic and confident his team can pull of the upset victory.
"We're looking forward to the challenge and we're anxious to get another crack at it," he said.
East Juniata's (18-4) boys basketball team will take its record-tying 18-win season to Montoursville Friday night to face fifth-seeded Towanda (17-5) in the District 4 Class AA quarterfinals. The Tigers look to add a playoff win to its most updated resume following a disappointing performance and first-round ousting at the hands of Southern Columbia a year ago.
East Juniata's girls basketball team also finds itself in the District 4 playoffs - in the Class A field - after a one-year sabbatical with hopes to make some noise. The seventh-seeded Tigers (12-10) will face another group of Tigers, No. 2 Benton (18-4).
In District 3, the defending champion Greenwood boys (19-3) will start the road for their fourth straight appearance in the Class A title game. The Wildcats host Lancaster County Christian, a 73-53 winner over Harrisburg Academy in the opening round.
And Juniata's girls, after winning their opener in District 6 play, take on No. 4 Blairsville at a site and time to be determined.