Cedar Cliff is all about balance.
Few teams are as diversified in all aspects of the game as the Colts; there’s no single dominant rebounder, no elite defender that carries the rest of the squad. And there’s certainly no leading scorer.
Senior Rachael Reilly leads Cedar Cliff (14-5, 10-3 Keystone) with just 9.6 points per game this season. It’s among the lowest for a team leader in the Mid-Penn Conference. But it’s not because she can’t score — Reilly had 22 early in the season against Bishop McDevitt — it’s because she doesn’t have to.
Scott Weyant’s Colts are possibly the most balanced scoring team this late in the season, with seven players averaging four points a game or more. All seven have reached double figures at least once and four of them — Reilly, Maddie Sitler, Jannelle Robinson and Emily Esser — have done so at least five times. Six players have led the team in scoring in at least one game.
“It’s a great thing and it’s also a hindrance at times,” Weyant said on the phone Saturday. “There’s times where you sometimes hope you have that person. … It’s beneficial because it’s hard for teams to scout us.”
Largely it has worked out for the Colts, who are No. 6 in the latest District 3 Class 6A power rankings. They were in the Keystone hunt until recently, with Lower Dauphin pulling away.
Cedar Cliff plays good team basketball. The Colts average 48.3 points per game and have made 84 of their 3-point attempts — Esser, Reilly, Tehya Hosey, Ashley Hoagland and Natalie Sassano all have at least 12 — among the highest marks in the Mid-Penn.
“It’s not really a focus,” Weyant said. “We just have a lot of good shooters, and the style of basketball that we’re playing up and down the floor [helps].”
Part of Cedar Cliff’s success can also be traced to a senior-led roster that also has young depth making key contributions. And it’s a group that has seen success in different ventures.
Last year’s squad went 20-8 and made the PIAA Class 6A playoffs. A few months later, led by freshman breakout sensation Jimiah McDonald, Cedar Cliff’s softball team won its first District 3 crown, made its first PIAA appearance and pulled off what seemed impossible early in the season: making the state championship at Penn State, where it lost Donegal 9-8.
Many of Weyant’s players were on that team. And “success breeds success,” he said.
“It’s kind of they have that mentality, ‘Yeah, we’ve won and that’s our expectation,’” he said.
It’s also paid off for their futures. Robinson recently committed to Alvernia, while Sitler is a Pitt-Greensburg commit and Hosey is set to play at Bloomsburg next year.
The Colts should once again be in the thick of the District 3 Class 6A playoffs, which begin Feb. 19. Weyant believes Central Dauphin is the frontrunner, but Manheim Township and Elizabethtown are in the mix. It’s a fairly balanced 12-team field, at least as it stands right now.
“It’s very tight, everybody’s really close in power rankings,” Weyant said.
Greyhounds on a roll
For a while, at least locally, the focus in the Mid-Penn Colonial has been on Big Spring.
But Shippensburg’s emphatic 39-30 win over the Bulldogs, at home, flipped the narrative at the perfect time. Barring a collapse Friday against James Buchanan, the Colonial belongs to the southernmost team in Cumberland County.
Ship is led on offense by 5-foot-9 Mariah Martin, a crafty senior averaging 13.3 points per game with 16 made 3-pointers. She’s had performances of 26, 25 and 20 points this season already.
"She's really pulled up her free-throw percentage. She's taken a lot of good shots," Greyhounds coach Andrew Markel said Wednesday night on the phone. "She's playing like a senior. A senior should be able to get to the basket when they want."
She's one of just three seniors on the squad. In what might be one of the rarest occurances in high school athletics, Markel's roster includes three seniors, eight freshmen and no juniors or sophomores. He has played at least 10 freshmen in a game at some point this season.
"I think we just got a lot quicker," he said of the 'Hounds biggest improvement from last year. "We graduated three seniors and replaced them all with freshmen."
Where it's shown the most is on defense. The Greyhounds don’t score a ton, averaging 44.8 points per game, but have relied heavily on a defense that has been among the division’s best, routinely holding teams in the 20s and low 30s.
"This is the first year since I've been here that we're able to press, too," Markel said.
It’s a team hot at the right time. Ship has won 10 of its past 11, has climbed four spots in two weeks in the District 3 Class 5A power rankings to No. 9 and should be a favorite in their last few games except Thursday against Susquehannock. More on that game in 3, 2, 1 …
Upcoming games to watch
The Susquehannock-Shippensburg game could be a precursor to the Class 5A playoffs in a few weeks.
The Warriors (15-2) sit No. 4 in the power rankings as of Wednesday afternoon. The reigning district champs — they beat Harrisburg 44-42 last year in the title game, then went on to the PIAA semifinals, losing to eventual champ Archbishop Wood — returned the bulk of its core from 2016-17 that stomped the Greyhounds in last year's meeting.
"They absolutely kind of imposed their will on us," Markel said. "This year it's a playoff game. Period."
This is a good challenge for the Greyhounds, who should lock up the Mid-Penn Colonial the next night with a relatively easy contest against visiting James Buchanan.
Other matchups to check out this month: Northern at Big Spring, Mechanicsburg at Bishop McDevitt, Cumberland Valley at Carlisle (Friday); Cumberland Valley at Parkland (Saturday); West Perry at Shippensburg (Monday); Mechanicsburg at Northern (Tuesday); West Perry at Camp Hill (Feb. 8); Bishop McDevitt at Trinity (Feb. 9).
Leaders and notes
Top scorers: Diamond Bragg (Camp Hill), 424 points, 22.3 ppg; Sydney Hemler (Boiling Springs), 239, 13.3; Mariah Martin (Shippensburg), 240, 13.3; Corrina Smith (Northern), 221, 11.6; Sunshine McCrae (Trinity), 217, 13.6.
Top 3-point shooters: Haylee Reisinger (West Perry), 42; Madison Bishop (Big Spring), 36; Sheridan Reid (CH), 33; Tori Rumbaugh (Ship), 27; Abbey Engle (Mechanicsburg), 25.
Most points in a game: Diamond Bragg, 31 vs. Bermudian Springs; Sheridan Reid, 27 vs. Milton Hershey; Margrett Brown (WP), 27 vs. East Pennsboro; Mariah Martin, 26 vs. Northern; Cailey Joyce (East Pennsboro), 25 vs. Boiling Springs.
Notable local District 3 power rankings, Class 6A: No. 6 Cedar Cliff (14-5), No. 15 Cumberland Valley (6-12).
Class 5A: No. 9 Shippensburg (13-5), No. 12 Big Spring (12-5), No. 17 Northern (12-7).
Class 4A: No. 8 West Perry (12-5).
Class 3A: No. 1 Trinity (14-1).
Class 2A: No. 1 Camp Hill (15-4).