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February 21, 2014

Spa, Eagles draw region champs to open playoffs

MEADVILLE — The road to a District 10 championship will be a challenging one for two area girls basketball teams.

Cambridge Springs and Conneaut begin those journeys today against region champions, General McLane and Hickory, respectively.

Cambridge Springs and Region 4 champ General McLane square off at 2:30 p.m. at Fairview High School in the District 10 Class AA quarterfinals. Conneaut and Region 5 champ Hickory tip off at 5:30 p.m. at Kennedy Catholic High School in the Class AAA quarterfinals.

Eagles draw state power for the second straight year

Conneaut finished atop the Region 3 standings for the second year in a row, but by District 10 rules was not eligible to win the region title. With that said, the Eagles were thrown into a pool of teams competing for an at-large bid and survived, but were dealt a state-ranked opponent in the opening round of the tournament for the second year.

This year’s opponent may be an even bigger challenge than Franklin, who beat the Eagles 68-33 in the postseason opener last season.

 The Hornets are ranked No. 7 in the state in Class AAA in the latest Harrisburg-Patriot News poll and are the only team in District 10 — boys or girls — to finish the regular season unbeaten.

“I’m fine with it,” Conneaut coach Bill Stevenson said of the matchup. “If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. We were hoping to have to play (Hickory) at some point in time. We were just hoping it was farther down the road.”

The Hornets are 22-0 and have outscored their opponents by an average of 37.6 points per game. They are led by a pair of players averaging double figures. Senior Nikki Arbanas leads the Hornets with an average of 19.2 points per outing. Arbanas has 62 3-pointers and is an outstanding 56 of 65 (86.2 percent) from the free throw line.

Holly Grober is averaging 14.1 points per game and Nicole Lacava is averaging 9.5.

“I think they are 22-0 for a reason,” Stevenson said. “They are obviously very, very good and very, very talented, and do a lot of things very, very well.

“We’ve worked on some things trying to control the pace of the game. We don’t want to get in a running game even though that is what we do best. They do it better than we do.”

Conneaut is 19-3 on the year and has done a fair job against fellow Class AAA opponents.

The Eagles are 4-2 against Class AAA teams. Three of those games were against fellow District 10 playoff participants. Conneaut fell to Warren 44-43 in overtime in the second game of the season. They split against Grove City, the only common opponent the Eagles have with Hickory.

Hickory outscored Grove City by a total of 50 points in two games. Conneaut outscored GC by 18.

“I told the girls (last night), Syracuse just got beat by a 7-19 team,” Stevenson said, referring to the top-ranked Orange’s loss to Boston College. “Anything can happen on any given day.”

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