Four Somerset County basketball teams seek to defend District 5 titles

The top seeds in Class 1A and 2A men’s and women’s basketball in District 5 held their own in the playoffs. The only upset came among the 2A girls when Northern Bedford beat No. 2 Tussey Mountain.

The Pitt-Johnstown Sports Center will host the championships this season. The title matches will be played on Tuesday and Thursday.

Somerset County is sending six teams to the Championships, with four county teams looking to defend their respective crowns.

Here is an overview of each league match, match keys and predictions:

Tuesday

District 5 Class 2A Girls

(No. 1) Windber vs. (No. 3) Northern Bedford, 5:30 p.m.

Windber (22-3) choked McConnellsburg 60-35 in the semifinals. The Ramblers are currently on a 17-game winning streak while capturing their second consecutive WestPAC crown in the process.

Roll on:Windber passes McConnellsburg to win return trip to District 5 2A title game

Meanwhile, Northern Bedford (16-8) upset Tussey Mountain 54-42 on Thursday. It was the only District 5 semi-final played that night. The Panthers could potentially have to shed some early rust after an extended layoff.

Keys for Windber: Senior Gina Gaye is a 1,000 point scorer who leads the Ramblers. She averages more than 17 points per competition. The production behind Gaye has been consistent throughout the year. Sophomore Mariah Andrews, a double-double threat every game – along with juniors Rylee Ott, Shannon Tokarsky, Harmony Jablon and Samantha Horner – finds ways to impact the game every night.

Gaye and Ott are the only returning starters from last season’s squad that advanced to the PIAA quarterfinals.

Windber’s Achilles heel all season has missed layups and turnovers. If the Ramblers can convert on the inside and not give the Panthers extra possessions, they will win gold for a second straight season. Having already picked up a win at UJP this season will also help Windber’s confidence.

Prediction: Windber 50, Northern Bedford 43

District 5 Class 1A Boys

(No. 1) Southern Fulton vs. (No. 2) Berlin Brothersvalley, 7 p.m.

Southern Fulton (19-6) beat Shanksville-Stonycreek 62-33 in the semifinals. The Indians are tall, physical and often hold their opponents to 30 points or less with their methodical play.

Big win:Berlin Brothersvalley hot start leads to District 5 1A championship spot

Meanwhile, Berlin (16-7) edged past Fannett-Metal 89-35. Mountaineers are undersized, athletic, and love to turn matches into athletic competitions.

Keys for Berlin: The Mountaineers live by 3-ball. They prefer to push the tempo and move quickly from defense to attack. Sophomores Pace Prosser and Craig Jarvis lead the way in Berlin. If the climbers strike behind the arch, then they are most dangerous.

However, it wouldn’t hurt Berlin to make a conscious effort to attack Southern Fulton’s two 6ft 5in tall in a bid to put them in trouble. Ryan Blubaugh, Caleb Rohrs and Tyler Miller will have to provide a secondary score.

On the defensive side, the Mountaineers should accelerate the Indians with their press and force tempo. They have to help inside and make the Indians knock down jumpers.

Prediction: Berlin 55, Southern Fulton 42

Thursday

District 5 Class 1A Girls

(#1) Berlin Brothersvalley vs. (#2) Shanksville-Stonycreek, 5:30 p.m.

Berlin (19-3) had to recover from a half-time deficit to defeat Shade 63-40 in the semi-final. Shanksville (16-6) hung on for a 48-37 win over Rockwood.

Tale of 2 halves:Berlin Brothersvalley overcomes slow start to overthrow Shade in District 5 1A semis

The Mountaineers and Vikings were set to meet in the championship this season, it was just a matter of which team was going to be the playoff seed.

Hold on :Shanksville defense leads way to D5 1A semi-final win over Rockwood

Keys for Berlin: Junior Gracie Sechler guides the mountaineers on offense. Sophomores Regan Lauer and Ashley Brant are long-term specialists. Juniors Jenny Countryman and Peyton Grenke are impact players. A balanced score behind Sechler was key to success. A deep bench that provides a spark has also helped young climbers.

Berlin was called for a host of fouls against Shade. Berlin needs to stay aggressive defensively and play their game. In both regular season meetings against Shanksville, Grenke had a long night for Shanksville’s leading scorer, Josie Snyder. Brant also did an outstanding job on Rylee Snyder. Berlin’s collective goal should be to force anyone but these two players to beat them.

Keys to Shanksville: Shanksville only plays five girls unless coach Robert Snyder’s hand is forced. The Vikings are going to have to slow play against the Mountaineers. Shanksville, the two-time defending champions, like to run when possible, but the Vikings will need to be very deliberate in their half-court sets.

Anyone other than Josie Snyder and Rylee Snyder has to score. Senior Liz Salsgiver can knock down shots. She’s played in big games and produced. Kendahl Stutzman and Sam Creamer also need to find some confidence and contribute. Shanksville should try to match Berlin’s intensity at both ends of the field. The Vikings should strive to limit the Mountaineers to one shot as Berlin beat the teams on second-chance opportunities.

Prediction: Berlin 41, Shanksville 30

District 5 Class 2A Boys

(No. 1) Conemaugh Township vs. (No. 2) Windber, 7 p.m.

Conemaugh Township (20-3) beat Northern Bedford 52-26 in the semifinals. The defending champions have been on a mission all season with an experienced squad.

On the road to the championship:Conemaugh Township too tough for Northern Bedford in District 5 2A semis

Meanwhile, Windber (16-7) pulled out late to defeat McConnellsburg 61-48.

Late push:Fourth-quarter push propels Windber past McConnellsburg in D5 semis

The Indians and Ramblers were the favorites to play for district gold before the season even started. Conemaugh Township won both regular season games. A third victory over their rival would be the most significant.

Keys for Conemaugh Township: After a loss to Portage in the WestPAC title match, Conemaugh Township refocused. The veteran team led the way and received major contributions from second-year transfer Jon Updyke.

The backcourt duo of senior Jackson Byer and junior Tanner Shirley are as good as they come. But Conemaugh Township is at its best when Updyke, Ethan Black, Alex Gregory and Michael Shonko are also considered. Black’s mid-range play and defensive prowess are where he shines.

Coach Chuck Lesko wants balance in his group. If the Indians score up and down the lineup like they did against Berlin Brothersvalley in the conference semifinals and avoid scoring droughts like they failed to against Portage, Conemaugh Township will win at gold again.

Keys for Windber: Windber last played for a District 5 title in 2019-20 when the Ramblers were routed by North Star. Many of the players powering Windber this season were sophomores on the team that fell to the Cougars, but contributed to that team.

Seniors Keith Charney, who is one point away from the 1000 for his career, Caden Dusack and Aiden Gray have had many big games in their careers. They have to set the tone against the Indians. Windber should make it a priority to find junior John Shuster on the inside and try to put Conemaugh Township in trouble.

Both teams play mostly traditional man-to-man. Each team showed a zone sometimes against each other during the regular season. Attacking areas rather than just jump shots will be important for both teams.

Prediction: Conemaugh Township 60, Windber 52

Adam Ripple is the sports editor of the Daily American. He can be reached at 814-444-5926. Follow him on Twitter @ARipple_DAsport. Follow Daily American Sports on Facebook.