The Dallas and Lake-Lehman girls basketball teams have had the look of title contenders during successful seasons.
To contend for a championship in the Class AAA girls playoffs, however, they will have to make it through the toughest and deepest of the eight District 2 basketball tournaments that begin play in the next week.
We are loaded, Dallas coach Kelly Johnson said of the teams in the Class AAA field.
Dallas handed likely top-seed Scranton Prep its only loss in the first 21 games.
Lake-Lehman, one of nine Class AAA teams that entered the final night of the regular season with wins in two-thirds or more of its league games, has not been as consistent as its rival. It does, however, have wins to its credit over Dallas and Crestwood, two of the top three teams from Division 1 of the Wyoming Valley Conference.
Without a doubt, it should be an extremely tough tournament, said Lake-Lehman coach Charlie Lavan. There are some quality, quality teams.
It should definitely be a tough, very challenging tournament.
District 2's return to open tournaments on the Class AAA and AA levels this season leaves 18 eligible teams, 11 of which were at .500 or better going into Thursday as teams fought for final seeding position. Abington Heights, which has won three straight district titles, including the last two at Class AAAA before dropping back down this season, is looking at a first-round game on the road with its .500 record.
Dallas beat two of the three winning Lackawanna League Class AAA opponents it faced, topping Scranton Prep and West Scranton and losing to defending district champion Honesdale.
There are such good teams, even in the lower seeds, that you have to come ready to play every game or you could be knocked back on your heels, Johnson said.
Dallas was scheduled to play Pittston Area in a Friday division playoff game as of presstime. That game would determine the Wyoming Valley Conference Division 1 title, as well as the likely third seed in districts since division champions are seeded above other teams.
Scranton Prep appears headed for the top seed. The winner of the WVC Division 2 title in a playoff between Holy Redeemer and Nanticoke likely will be the second seed.
I'm pleased with our performance the last few contests we've had, Johnson said. We have a good group that works hard and we have inside and outside balance.
Lavan thinks Lake-Lehman, which finished 9-4 in league play, is close to being ready for its playoff challenges.
We're trying to make sure we're at our best at this stage, Lavan said. Our team's guard play has to improve, we have to work on boxing out and our man defense has to be better.
If we get those things, we'll be fine, because I think we'll get enough offense from (Cayle) Spencer, (Emily) Sutton and (Danae) Sutliff.
Lake-Lehman and Dallas are also in Class AAA for the District 2 boys basketball playoffs.
Both teams found themselves tied for key spots as they entered the last game of league play.
Lake-Lehman was tied among the teams trying for the eighth seed and a home game in the 17-game field.
Dallas was tied for the 16th spot, which would be required to play a preliminary game just to reach the round of 16.
The preliminary games were planned for this weekend.
The first full round of Class AAA boys is Tuesday. Class AAA girls conduct their first round, with Dallas and Lake-Lehman at home on Wednesday.
The remainder of the Class AAA boys tournament has the quarterfinals Friday, the semifinals Feb. 26 and the finals March 1.
The remainder of the Class AAA girls tournament has the quarterfinals Saturday, the semifinals Feb. 27 and the finals March 2.
Both Class AAA events include a third-place game because the district sends three teams into Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association tournament action.