DuBOIS — The DuBois girls basketball team ended 24 years of postseason futility last season, besting Bellefonte 45-40 in the District 6-8-9 Class 5A quarterfinals to capture the program’s first playoff win since 1995.
That victory, a 42-39 win against Punxsutawney in the ’95 District 9 Class 4A championship game, halted the longest current postseason drought at DAHS. That distinction now falls to the football team, which hasn’t won a playoff game since 1996. The Lady Beavers then fell to Hollidaysburg, 49-19, in the semifinals to end their season with an 11-13 record.
If DuBois is to make its fifth straight trip to the playoffs, it must find a way to overcome the loss of graduated seniors Chelsea DeSalve and Maddie Smith. The duo were part of four straight playoff squads and were two of the team’s top three scorers a year ago.
DeSalve led DuBois in scoring with 285 points (11.9 ppg) and was second in rebounding with 148 (6.2 rpg), while Smith was third in scoring with 145 points (6.0 ppg). They were just as valuable, if not more, off the court as leaders a year ago on a young team that featured just a couple players with varsity experience.
That leadership role now falls to a small, but talented quartet of juniors — Abby Guiher, Olivia Johnson, Taylor Smith, Saige Weible — to guide an otherwise inexperienced squad that features no seniors, seven sophomores and nine freshmen. The only other returnee who saw extensive varsity time is sophomore Sarah Henninger.
Johnson led DuBois in rebounding last season with 161 (6.7 rpg) and was second in scoring with 183 points (7.6 ppg.). No other returnee scored over 100 points, with Weible and Taylor Smith finishing with 86 and 71, respectively. Smith was third on the team with 111 rebounds, while Weible was fourth with 94.
“Losing DeSalve and Smith, we need girls to step up and be the leaders now,” said Lady Beavers coach Keith Kriner. “And, all the juniors are doing that right now. They all have come together pretty well and are bonding because they know there are no seniors. They yell and give pep talks and encourage the girls, and that’s going to help tremendously I think.”
That experienced group will all factor into the starting lineup.
Johnson and Weible look to start inside, with Smith giving DuBois a strong trio in the post. Smith has missed some time in the preseason dealing with an injury but is back to practice.
On the perimeter, Guiher and Henninger will start at guard — with the fifth spot currently up in the air. Kriner said sophomores Allie Snyder and Isabella Geist-Salone are in the mix for that final starting spot among others. Snyder would give DuBois a bigger lineup on the floor as she can also play in the post.
“We’ve been stressing the girls that we need some guards to step up,” said Kriner. “If you look at that junior class we have three bigs (post players) in Johnson, Weible and Smith and just one guard (Guiher). We told them (guards), ‘You’re going to be thrown in to the lions den here real quick.’
“There are opportunities for playing time there. We have group of 5-7 players, and maybe even a few more, who all around the same ability level. Someone has to step out of that and show us they are rising above other ones.
“And, we need that, because we’re stressing the importance of team play this year. Obviously, we’re looking for big things out of OJ (Johnson), but I don’t want to say it’s all about OJ either (scoring-wise). If that’s the case, we’re in trouble because everyone is going to key on her. We’ve been stressing it has to be a team effort this year.”
Kriner, who will be assisted by Nicole Gralla and Chris Sheloski, is excited about his incoming freshmen class, which will largely make up the junior varsity squad. He did say a couple of them could see varsity time and pointed out Alexas Pfeufer as one of them.
“We still have a lot of unknowns, but we had two good scrimmages against Union and Kane, and the girls surprised me in those,” said Kriner. “Our league is going to be very tough this year, as is our schedule as a whole. We picked up a game against Warren and still play Hollidaysburg.
“Are we going to go undefeated ... no way ... but there are games on our schedule we’re hoping we can win. We’re hoping to get to .500 and obviously, we’d like to make playoffs.”
The Lady Beavers open their season Friday against Moniteau at 6:30 p.m. in the first game of the Brockway Tip-off Tournament. Brockway battles Clarion in the second game.
Juniors: Abby Guiher, Olivia Johnson, Taylor Smith, Saige Weible. Sophomores: Brooke Chewning, Sarah Henninger, Abigail Geist-Salone, Isabella Geist-Salone, Ashley Sandy, Allie Snyder, Lauren Walker. Freshmen: Kamryn Fontaine, Abby McCoy, Gabby Orzechowski, Maddy Orzechowski, Alexas Pfeufer, Teegan Runyon, Maddy Rusnica, Rylee Werner, Autumn Wilmoth.