Wallenpaupack Area girls are Division II champs and read for a deep run at districts
Roy Gibbs is among the most highly pedigreed high school basketball coaches in the entire region.
One of the top scorers in Wayne County League history during his playing days at Lake Consolidated, Gibbs has mentored boys and girls teams for more than 25 years.
Over the course of that quarter century, Roy has enjoyed success from Honesdale to Scranton Prep. Now, as head coach of Wallenpaupack Area's girls varsity squad, Gibbs is prepping for what he firmly believes will be a deep run at the district tournament.
Poised to Pounce
Paupack is the reigning Lackawanna League Division II champion with an overall record of 15-7.
Additionally, the Lady Bucks are seeded second in the Class 5A power rankings and likely headed for an opening round battle with seventh seeded Crestwood (3-19).
“You hear coaches say it all the time, but I really am confident this team has a real shot at getting to the district finals,” he said.
“This is as talented and hard-working a group as I've ever had. They're very coachable and an absolute pleasure to work with. I am enjoying this season tremendously.”
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Paupack will open up its gold medal quest Wednesday, Feb. 20 versus the Comets.
Opening tip is tentatively slated for 7 p.m. at a neutral site.
Any discussion of this year's Paupack squad must begin with a talented trio of seniors.
Megan Guerrieri, Hannah Smith and Rachael Tirjan form the nucleus of a team that nobody wants to see at tournament time. All three are four-year varsity players and each brings something different to the table.
Guerrieri is one of the most feared scorers in the region. Megan became a member of the exclusive “1,000-Point Club” earlier this season. She's averaging 16.9 ppg, tops in all of Division II.
Smith is nearly as deadly when it comes to filling up the hoop. Hannah is closing in on 900 points for her varsity career and is second in the division at 13.4 ppg.
Tirjan is one of the truly elite defenders around.
A multi-sport star who also excels on the soccer pitch, Rachael draws the other team's top scorer every night and takes great pride in shutting that player down from opening tip to final buzzer.
“Unless something drastic happens, all three of those girls are playing 32 minutes night-in and night-out,” Coach Gibbs said.
“They are incredibly hard-working and relentless on the court.”
In addition, Guerrieri and Smith are two of the best free throw shooters in all of NEPA. Megan is currently approaching 90 percent at the stripe, while Hannah is pushing 80.
“If we keep the ball in those two girls' hands and get them to the line at the end of a game, we're in great shape,” Coach Gibbs said.
“Of all the boys and girls teams I've coached over the years, they are the best when it comes to free throw shooting … especially in late-game situations.”
While Paupack is undeniably paced by its dynamic senior trio, two other players have made significant contributions and warrant mention.
Devon Kiesendahl is jus a freshman, but has already carved out a spot for herself in the varsity line-up
Kiesendahl is showing poise and composure far beyond her tender years. She's fourth on the team in scoring and is solid at the free throw line (71 percent).
Rietta Steffen is another member of Paupack's talented senior class. She's a blue-collar kid who does many of the small things that don't often show up is stats or headlines.
Kiesendahl and Steffen each played a role in Paupack's regular season finale, a 42-22 rout of Western Wayne. Devon tickled the twine for eight points, while Rietta chipped in with six.
The Lady Bucks took control of this one early and cruised to victory. They led 15-9 after one period, then extended that advantage to 26-10 with an 11-1 second quarter run.
The local lasses held the Lady 'Cats to single digit scoring in every period, which is no small feat considering Western Wayne has two of the area's most explosive scorers in Gracie Guarino and Kaeli Romanowski.
“I'm thrilled with the job we did defensively,” Coach Gibbs said. “Western Wayne is a good team and we pretty much just shut them down.”
Should Paupack defeat Crestwood in the opening round of this year's district tourney, a semifinal match-up with either Valley West or North Pocono would likely be in the offing.
If the Lady Bucks survive that encounter, they will in all probability face an epic battle with Abington.
The Comets are seeded first in 5A with an overall record of 17-5 and a power rating of .697361.
These two teams met back in early January and Paupack suffered arguably its worst defeat of the season, 51-22. Guerrieri and Smith were held to a combined total of 12 points.
For the Lady Bucks to avenge that loss, those two girls must find a way to break out.
“We live and die by the jump shot,” Coach Gibbs admitted. “If Megan and Hannah are shooting the ball well, we can absolutely play with anybody.”