MARION CENTER — The switching of the scholastic sports season will be complete tonight. Both Punxsy girls' and boys' varsity basketball teams don game uniforms and lace up the high tops to start the winter sports madness at the Marion Center Tip-off Tournament.
The two Chucks squads will be part again this year of the two-day, 16-team tournament down Route 119.
Tonight's four-game docket features four varsity contests and determines Saturday's eight-game slate. Starting at 4:30 p.m., A-C Valley faces West Shamokin in boys action before the local action begins.
In game two of the night, Punxsy will play a tough and talented Westmont-Hilltop girls' team projected to tip-off at 6 p.m.
Host Marion Center will be featured in both late contests. The Lady Stingers will entertain the Lady Wolves of West Shamokin penciled for a 7:30 p.m. start.
The first day's final bout will pit the Punxsy boys against Marion Center for a scheduled 9 p.m. beginning.
The Marion Center gymnasium will be hopping from dawn to late evening on Saturday when the number of games doubles.
The games will be played in pairs, junior varsity followed by varsity, with matchups determined by tonight's results.
Beginning the second day, the two losing girls' teams junior varsity squads tip at 9 a.m. with the varsity matchups, to follow at 10:15 a.m. The next pairing would be the two losing boys' squads for 11:45 a.m. junior varsity and 1 p.m. affairs.
The championship couplings are set to commence with the girls' junior varsity at 2:30 and varsity title game at 3:45 p.m.
The final two contests, the boys' championship, will be at 5:15 p.m. for junior varsity and 6:30 p.m. for the varsity title tilt.
The Lady Chucks begin their quest to build upon last year's season of growth against the difficult Lady Hilltoppers of Westmont-Hilltop.
Punxsy will see an experienced stable of players but you would not know it by looking at its roster. On the 2012-13 team roster, the Lady Chucks lost their lone senior from a season ago and failed to replace it. The squad instead shows four juniors and six sophomores dotting the options for head coach Randy Reitz.
The young roster does have more varsity experience than most older teams agewise with only one of the team's 10 players not seeing court time last season.
Among those nine varsity returners, the Lady Chucks have seven of their top eight scorers including leading point producer Taylor Newcome, who averaged 11.3 ppg. She is joined by juniors Jensen Constantino (4.6 ppg), Emily Horner (3.6 ppg) and Ashley Reitz (3.3 ppg).
The Lady Chucks will be attempting to find the win column after failing to do so in last year's Marion Center Tournament. Punxsy dropped decisions to both Marion Center and Central-Martinsburg.
Punxsy was able to claim victory on the boys side in the Marion Center Tournament last December. The Chucks had to wait until Saturday to defeat the Wolves of West Shamokin, 33-25.
The new-look Chucks will try to reverse their opening night fortunes this evening against the Stingers. Marion Center was able to scratch out a 53-47 victory in the late affair.
Punxsy will take the floor for its first attempt for success after losing 64 percent of the point production and 63 percent of the team's rebounds along with leading scorer (13.4 ppg) and assist man (91) Daniel Triponey, who is now playing for Penn State-DuBois.
Much like the girls' squad, coach Dirk Neal's boys have an extremely green team with only two seniors, Garrett Zimmerman and Devin Nicholson, who possess varsity experience. Junior outside scoring threat Brandon Mancuso is the top scorer (9.7 ppg) back in the lineup. Last year, he downed 14 points in the season-opening defeat to Marion Center last Dec. 9.
Zimmerman will have to be strong on the inside for Punxsy after he posted a .510 shooting percentage and leads the returners with 5.5 rebound per contest average.