Daniel Boone and Schuylkill Valley’s youth show promise in 39-29 Blazers’ victory

BIRDSBORO >> With the foggy gloaming descending in the distance on Mount Penn, folks drove away from Daniel Boone High School Saturday with reasons to see through the gloom of two long seasons.

Both Daniel Boone’s Lady Blazers and Schuylkill Valley’s Lady Panthers were looking for their first Berks Conference win of the season. The Lady Blazers prevailed, 39-29, but it wasn’t so much the won-loss column numbers or modest scoring totals you came away with. There were the big-picture numbers that shine promise on both programs, and they are four and eight for Schuylkill Valley, five and five for Daniel Boone.

As in, four sophomore starters this season for the Lady Panthers varsity, eight underclassmen overall; five juniors and five sophomores for Daniel Boone.
Many of the non-seniors for both teams are seeing significant minutes. You see potential flashing in bursts. All this experience being acquired bodes well for both squads in the next couple of years.

”We’ve got a nice young nucleus of talent,” Daniel Boone third-year head coach Ray Cinquanto said. “We have the chance to really grow next year.”

“We’re inconsistent right now, a product of our youth,” Schuylkill Valley second-year head coach Jason Bagenstose said. “Hopefully next season we’ll be ready to win these kinds of close games.

“We have really good kids who work very hard in practice. And we never give up. I told them, ‘If you give up now, you’ll give up after you graduate.’ ”

There was no give-up by the Lady Panthers throughout against Daniel Boone (1-5 in Berks I, 5-10 overall). Despite offensive frustrations, much of which had to do with the Lady Blazers and their half-court trap, the Lady Panthers (0-5, 2-13) stayed within reach until the last couple of minutes.

Nine players scored for Daniel Boone, led by reserve sophomore forward Skylar Emory’s eight points. Emory has a nice shot, refined through extra-practice work, Cinquanto noted. Skill development leads to confidence and you could see that in Emory’s stroke, as well as in the guard depth comprised of junior starters Syd Hayes and Madison Spitko and sophomore sub Courtney Gabbett.

”It stinks to lose this season, but it gives us experience and helps the younger girls move forward to varsity from JV,” Spitko said. “That can be a big jump.

“We have a good group of girls. There’s no drama. We work very well together.”

Indeed they do. There was a lot of ball-sharing leading to Blazer buckets. A lot of help defense triggering transition opportunities. Two such consecutive baskets, first by steady senior Emily Houck and then by Spitko, helped Boone build a slight cushion, 26-18, early in the third quarter after leading by just two at halftime.

A hustling offensive-rebound score by Emory and her wing jumper stretched the lead to 10 in the early fourth.

“It feels great to end an eight-game losing streak,” Spitko said with a smile. “And it feels great to have a game where everyone contributed.”

The Lady Panthers did get a decent amount of good looks at the basket, but as Bagenstose pointed out, perhaps with more of the off-season diligence he’s trying to encourage, those misses will become makes. Bagenstose, in his second year at the helm, was an assistant for 13 years at Schuylkill Valley and experienced success. He knows what kind of work is required.

“You lose for a couple of years, and you can start to get a losing culture,” he said. “We want to make basketball cool at our school again. You lose a lot, and some kids start to think it’s not as cool and decide to play other sports.

“With more reps in the summer, shots will go in.”

Bagenstose has an improving 6-foot junior, Ann Civil, who he thinks “can be dominant” in the post area if she puts in the summer work. She showed signs with three baskets in one-on-one low-post situations Saturday.

Sophomore guard Alexis Kowalski led the Lady Blazers with eight (hitting two threes) and is joined in the starting lineup by fellow sophs Mikayla Davis, a guard, and Sydney Himmelberger and Alayna Cerankowski (forwards) along with senior Madison Sisco.

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