---- — Steve Moser was moved to tears last week.
The good kind.
By a group of young ladies after his own heart.
You see, beneath Moser's smile-for-everyone, friend-of-yours-is-one-of-mine exterior (which is as genuine as the Hope diamond, we might add) lies a fierce competitor.
As Danville's coach of seven seasons and, more to the point, a father of two, Moser knows a young person's limitations.
His Ironmen wound up playing six games in as many days last week -- every day between Sundays -- due to their regular-season schedule, a couple make-up games and the new Pa. Heartland Athletic Conference tournament.
After four days, Danville won its way to consecutive winner-take-all games. The first was its regular-season finale against Shamokin with the HAC-I championship at stake. Next was the inaugural HAC Tournament championship the following day against Benton.
Moser wanted that HAC-I title, as did his girls.
Shamokin was two-time defending division champion, having beaten Danville for the title the previous season. And the Ironmen, after losing three starters from a 17-win team, weren't expected to be in the mix for the HAC-I crown; they were picked to finish fourth in the division by The Daily Item (Here's hoping that writer landed on his feet).
So, even though it might come at the expense of the HAC tournament championship, the Ironmen went all-in for the HAC-I title.
They won by 18, blanking the Indians in the fourth quarter.
The following day, running on little more than fumes, pride and want-to, the Ironmen were down eight to Benton with about three minutes to play. Yet they rallied into position for sophomore Paige Harris' putback jumper at the buzzer to force overtime, then made history by winning the first HAC tournament championship.
"The kids were unbelievable," Moser said later, admitting to being overcome by emotion at his team's remarkable feat.
Danville's week-long run stripped the cliché from "refuse to lose." The Ironmen trailed tournament favorite Mount Carmel 7-2 early in their HAC semifinal and fell behind Benton 10-0 after two minutes of the final. Both were overtime wins.
So you'd have to be a few beads short of an abacus to pick against Danville in the District 4 Class AAA tournament. Doesn't matter if the second-seeded Ironmen lost at No. 1 Athens by 16 a few weeks ago. Different time, different team. Danville is 8-1 since, it's only loss by a point to Milton.
In District 4 Class AA, we expect a Mount Carmel three-peat, with the Red Tornadoes winning a rubber match against Southern Columbia. In the last few weeks of the season, the Tornadoes tore through a second cycle of HAC-II games, including impressive wins over Southern, Montoursville and Lewisburg. They rebounded from the HAC tournament loss to Danville by beating 16-win Minersville.
The trio of senior post Christina Perles (16.9 ppg.) and juniors Ali Varano (13.9) and Ana Raybuck (9.4) pose match-up nightmares. The Tornadoes have been more prone to turnovers than in last season's run to the state quarterfinals, but if they don't beat themselves they won't lose in this tournament.
In District 4 Class A, four-time defending champion Lourdes Regional is the No. 3 seed but the choice here.
The Red Raiders' prospects were cast into doubt when Perles transferred to Mount Carmel. However, junior Rachel Schultz blossomed into a 15-point scorer with a 30-point game under her belt, while veterans Sarah Getchey (11.1 ppg.) and Nikki Komara (9.2) are still strong scoring options.
No team in the Class A field plays the caliber of competition Lourdes does in the Schuylkill League. The proof was in the Red Raiders' dismantling of unbeaten Line Mountain in last year's district final.
While we can't guarantee any of these predictions, we will guarantee tears.
n Scott Dudinskie covers girls basketball for The Daily Item. Email questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.