By Scott Dudinskie
The Daily Item
A couple years ago, the Milton girls seemed like a tough out entering the state tournament.
The Black Panthers had a pair of ace front-court players in the wiry, athletic Ali Derr and the relentless, punishing Madi Krebs, along with a quick guard who finished well in Mandy Metzger.
They didn't necessarily have the look of a team capable of winning it all, mind you, but certainly one that could strike fear into those who did.
Then along came Kerry Kinek.
Allentown Central Catholic's 6-foot-2 junior was the difference in Milton getting to play spoiler for a week or so, or making a U-turn for home after a first-round loss.
Kinek blocked four shots in the first quarter as the Vikettes came within seconds of blanking Milton in the period. She finished with a game-high 16 points, including 12 at the foul line as ACC pulled away in the fourth quarter.
These days, Kinek is a true freshman at Lehigh who leads her team at 13.0 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. She was a recent All-Patriot League first team selection.
Let Kinek's performance at Shamokin a few years ago stand as "Exhibit A," evidence as to how a solid post player can make all the difference in a one-and-done setting. She finished with modest point and rebound (nine) totals. Yet she was a headache on the defensive end, altering shots as ACC built an early 10-point lead, and a thorn on the offensive end, absorbing foul after foul and making 12 of 15 freebies.
The Black Panthers rallied for a third-quarter lead, but ACC outscored them 18-3 over the last 11 minutes to win by 14.
Mount Carmel and Danville each have that kind player this season, one who will give an opponent fits at the very least or, more likely, determine the outcome of the game.
Red Tornadoes senior Christina Perles played on her fourth district championship team this season. The first three came with Lourdes Regional prior to her transfer last year. She averages 17.0 points and 7.5 rebounds for the three-time District 4 Class AA champions.
In the postseason, however, which began for Mount Carmel with Pa. Heartland Athletic Conference Tournament, Perles' scoring average has been 18.6 ppg.
The Tornadoes (22-4), who went to the state quarterfinals last season, play Wilkes-Barre GAR (14-11) tonight at 6 p.m. at Shamokin H.S. Also tonight, District 4-AA runner-up Southern Columbia (19-6) plays Notre Dame-Green Pond (20-5) at 6 p.m. at Catasauqua H.S.
Danville freshman Amber Renz averages a team-best 16.6 points per game, and her total (432 points) trails only Perles (442) in the Valley. Despite being a focus of opposing defenses plus the general pressure of her first varsity postseason, Renz's scoring average hasn't wavered all that much (14.6 ppg.).
"I feel pressure before the game, but once I step out onto the court it just all goes away and I play as I usually do," Renz said earlier this season. "I can be a little nervous, a little shaky at the very beginning, but once that ball goes up (for the opening tip) I'm perfectly fine and ready to play my game"
The Ironmen (21-5) play Honesdale (22-5) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Marywood University. Also on Saturday, five-time District 4-A champion Lourdes Regional (20-5) plays Upper Dauphin (11-15) at 6 p.m. at Williamsport H.S.