Prior to this week, the last time Jim Thorpe lost a Schuylkill League girls’ basketball game was Feb. 5, 2018.

That’s a long time.

That loss, 55-25 at the hands of Division I rival Tamaqua, brought an end to a rough season for the Olympians.

They finished that 2017-18 campaign with a 1-13 league record, 6-16 overall.

Their best player, Kayley Kovac, now a sophomore at NCAA Division I St. Francis (Pa.) University, missed the final 13 games that year with an injury.

The 2018-19 season ushered in a new group of players who brought success like the program hadn’t experienced before.

With three freshmen — Skyler Searfoss, Leila Hurley and Olivia Smelas — leading the way, the Olympians swept through the Schuylkill League unbeaten last season, first claiming the Division I title, then defeating defending champion Mahanoy Area for their first league championship.

Rob Kovac’s young Olympians rolled, winning 26 straight games before falling to Bethlehem Catholic in the District 11 Class 4A final, then being eliminated from the state tournament by Lansdale Catholic in the opening round.

The success continued this season with a 20-1 overall record, 12-0 in league play, heading into the final night of the regular season on the road against Rich Wetzel’s youthful North Schuylkill team.

The Spartans, a team stocked with juniors, sophomores and some talented freshmen, have put together a strong season. They had already clinched the Division I wild card for the league playoffs.

Then they closed the regular season in style, handing Jim Thorpe its first league loss since that February 2018 setback to Tamaqua.

When the league playoffs open Tuesday night at Martz Hall, the Spartans and Olympians will be on opposite sides of the bracket.

North Schuylkill will meet Division III champion Mahanoy Area in the opener at 6 p.m. Jim Thorpe takes on Division II champion Minersville in the nightcap at 7:30 p.m.

The winners tangle at 6 p.m. Friday at Martz Hall for the title.

There are no guarantees when it comes to the Schuylkill League playoffs, but should the two Division I rivals win their semifinal matchups, the rubber game in the season series would really be interesting.



All four teams involved this year have a strong history in the league playoffs, combining to win the last six Schuylkill League titles.

Jim Thorpe, obviously, is the league’s most recent champion. Mahanoy Area won the 2018 crown, topping North Schuylkill. Minersville’s most recent championships came in 2016 and 2017.

North Schuylkill earned the most recent of its 14 titles with a win over Minersville in 2015.

Lourdes, last year’s Division II champion, and Tamaqua, last year’s Division I wild card, are the two teams from the 2019 playoffs that missed the show this year.


Behind the arc

Minersville, Mahanoy Area and North Schuylkill all bring teams to the party that love to take advantage of the long-range shot.

The Battlin’ Miners, led by Alex Kroznuskie’s league-leading 69 triples, have connected a league-best 160 times as a team from behind the 3-point arc. Mahanoy Area isn’t far behind with 143 as a team, while North Schuylkill has knocked down 112.

Other than Kroznuskie, individuals to watch from the outside include Miners’ teammate Abby Adams, who has 55, Mahanoy Area’s Jordan Karmonick and Claudia Clark with 44 each, and North Schuylkill’s Mya Wetzel with 36 and Katelynn Himes with 30.

Jim Thorpe shoots far less frequently from the perimeter, although sophomore guard Hurley is a sharpshooter and has connected for 39 of the Olympians’ 49 triples.

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Schuylkill League Girls’ Basketball Playoffs Preview Capsules

First Semifinal

  • Who: Mahanoy Area (18-4, 13-0) vs. North Schuylkill (17-5, 12-2)
  • When: Tuesday, 6 p.m.
  • Where: Martz Hall
  • Tickets: Advance tickets are available at both schools for $5 adults and $3 for students/senior citizens. All tickets will be $5 at the door.
  • Radio: WPPA 1360 AM, 105.9 FM; WAVT 101.9 FM, Pottsville
  • Live updates: Follow Chuck Curley on Twitter @ChuckCurley

About the Golden Bears

  • How they got here: Rolled through Division III and Division II-III crossover games without a setback. It was the Bears’ fourth straight division title, third straight without a loss.
  • Last league playoff appearance: Lost to Jim Thorpe in 2019 title game.
  • Team statistics: Offense (55.9 points per game), Defense (34.3)
  • Probable starting lineup: Emily Lawrence (sr., 9.0 ppg, 20 3-pointers), Jordan Karmonick (sr., 15.2, 44 3-pointers), Claudia Clark (jr., 12.2, 44 3-pointers), Cealinn McGroarty (jr., 4.8, 15 3-pointers), Meghan Macleary (jr., 5.5)
  • Key reserve: Allison Babinsky (soph., 1.6)
  • Notes: Mahanoy Area last won the league title in 2018 with a victory over North Schuylkill. … Defeated league semifinalist Minersville, the Division II champion, 78-42 on Jan. 17 … Hasn’t faced North Schuylkill or Jim Thorpe this season. … Bears have connected 143 times from 3-point range. … Put together two six-game winning streaks this season.

About the Spartans

  • How they got here: Won the Division I wild card. Only two league losses are one each to Division I champion Jim Thorpe and Tamaqua.
  • Last league playoff appearance: Lost to Mahanoy Area in the 2018 title game.
  • Team statistics: Offense (64.7 points per game), Defense (49.5)
  • Probable starting lineup: Katelynn Himes (soph., 7.8, 30 3-pointers), Mya Wetzel (jr., 10.9, 36 3-pointers), Kamryn Mengel (fr., 15.2, 14 3-pointers), Sarah Wagner (jr., 9.3, 10 3-pointers), Joslin Stitzer (jr., 3.3)
  • Key reserves: Maddy Wetzel (fr., 6.0, 11 3-pointers), Savannah Gawrylik (fr., 6.7, 7 3-pointers)
  • Notes: Spartans closed the regular season with four consecutive victories, including season-ender over Division I champion Jim Thorpe, giving them a split of their season series. … North Schuylkill has hit 112 3-pointers on the season. … Last won the league championship in 2015.

Up next

  • Winner faces either Jim Thorpe or Minersville in the league title game Friday.


Second Semifinal

  • Who: Minersville (16-6, 11-2) vs. Jim Thorpe (20-2, 13-1)
  • When: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.
  • Where: Martz Hall
  • Tickets: Advance tickets are available at both schools for $5 adults and $3 for students/senior citizens. All tickets will be $5 at the door.

About the Battlin’ Miners

  • How they got here: After missing the playoffs last season for the first time since 2013, Miners captured the Division II title.
  • Last league playoff appearance: Lost to North Schuylkill in the 2018 semifinals.
  • Team statistics: Offense (52.1 points per game), Defense (40.1)
  • Probable starting lineup: Shea Hossler (jr., 6.2, 13 3-pointers), Kaitlyn Koury (fr., 6.7), Megan Horan (jr., 7.0, 5 3-pointers), Abby Adams (soph., 10.7, 55 3-pointers), Alex Kroznuskie (sr., 16.5, 69 3-pointers)
  • Key reserve: Averee Horoschak (fr., 2.1, 13 3-pointers)
  • Notes: Miners’ longest winning streak this season was six games. … As a team, have connected a league-best 160 times from 3-point range. … Didn’t drop a game to a Division II rival. … League losses were in consecutive II-III crossover games to Mahanoy Area and Marian.

About the Olympians

  • How they got here: Captured second straight Division I championship, falling only in regular-season finale to North Schuylkill.
  • Last league playoff appearance: Defeated Mahanoy Area in 2019 title game.
  • Team statistics: Offense (61.8 points per game), Defense (34.7)
  • Probable starting lineup: Leila Hurley (soph., 16.8, 39 3-pointers), Skyler Searfoss (soph., 15.5, 7 3-pointers), Olivia Smelas (soph., 12.8), Kristen Scott (sr., 1.9), Leah Snisky (soph., 3.3)
  • Key reserves: Mackenzie Yuhas (fr., 6.2), Taylor Craigie (sr., 3.2)
  • Notes: Olympians claimed their second consecutive Division I title. … Lost to league semifinalist North Schuylkill in regular-season finale for a split in their season series. … Hurley, Searfoss, Smelas and Scott were all starters last season when they won their first league championship.

Up next

Winner faces either Mahanoy Area or North Schuylkill in the league title game Friday.