District playoffs set to begin

Most of the basketball brackets are out and there’s no question it’s been a banner year for local high school quintets.

It’s hard not to appreciate the success that has led to 11 hoops squads from six local schools to the postseason. Here’s what’s coming up next week:

District 6: The Juniata boys begin Monday and Mount Union’s boys and girls will start Class AA play on Tuesday. The Juniata girls got a bye in the first round of their Class AA bracket. Mifflin County won’t know its first-round opponents until later in the week; because of the limited number of Class AAAA schools, their tournament won’t be announced until the regular season is complete.

The Husky boys may well end up as the top seed in their bracket. Although they officially clinched with a second win over State College under the school’s alternate qualification rule, there was no backing in for this team when it was all said and done – the worst they can do is finish .500, which is the general standard for a playoff spot.

The girls also clinched at .500, but will still have to fight past State College and Hollidaysburg for a state berth. Both teams have games left and could end the season on a winning note, quite an accomplishment considering the opposition Mifflin County faces in its conference schedule.

The Juniata boys, whose run to success comes in the first year of Al Ream’s tenure as coach, travel to Altoona for the first round, where they will face Blairsville. The match between the two most distant schools in District 6 pits the No. 12 Indians against the fifth seed. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m.; a girls Class A game precedes the boys contest on the same court.

The girls, who are the third seed, will play the winner of a first-round contest between Tyrone and Central Cambria.

Both Mount Union teams will play on the same night, but in an effort to keep all teams from different schools together the Trojans will play in different buildings. The girls, making their first playoff appearance since Lewistown product Jenny Cunningham took the reins, will play Bellwood-Antis at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Hollidaysburg Middle School. Fans will have to scurry roughly 10 blocks to the senior high for the boys game, which pits the Trojans against Central at 8 p.m.

District 4: East Juniata also has two teams headed into the second season. The girls, who are in Class A, qualified late in the campaign. The boys have yet to suffer a loss in what has proved to be a history-making winter, with two 1,000-point scorers, one of whom broke the school record for all-time scoring, and most wins both in the regular season and overall.

The Tiger boys are in position to grab the top seed in their Class AA bracket. District 4 will announce its brackets on Sunday.

District 3: The Greenwood boys, almost perennial entries in the District 3 Class A tournament, are the No. 3 seed this year. The Wildcats will host the winner of a game between Lancaster County Christian and Harrisburg Christian on Feb. 21.

The Wildcat girls, overcoming a rough start to the season, roared back to playoff contention and will travel to Elizabethtown to face Mount Calvary on Wednesday.

ACAA: The Juniata Mennonite girls team is in their equivalent to the PIAA postseason, the Allegheny Christian Athletic Association tournament. The Lions are currently in second place and must beat Northumberland Christian in either of two meetings between the schools to clinch it, otherwise they fall to third place. The tournament begins Thursday.

Of course, it’s also wrestling time, with the individual tournament trail opening for business today. This weekend, District 6 wrestles its Class AA event at Altoona (Juniata and Mount Union), while District 4 has sectional tournaments in Class AA (Midd-West).

On Feb. 21-22, the District 6 Class AAA tournament (Mifflin County) is in Altoona, while District 4 holds is Class AA tournament in Williamsport. The month ends with regionals in Altoona, Johnstown and Williamsport. The state championships are March 6-8 in Hershey.

Other championship events upcoming include PTFCA indoor track and field, March 1 at Penn State; and District 6 Class AAA swimming, Feb. 28-March 1 at Penn State. Mifflin County has entrants qualified for both of these.