A preview of the playoff action that will unfold across the area in the next few days:
* Friday, Maryland Class 1A West East Sectional quarterfinal — Catoctin (15-7) at Boonsboro (10-12): The Cougars swept the Warriors in two games this season — 48-44 on Jan. 13, and 66-27 on Feb. 8 — and will be the favorite. But Catoctin is just 2-4 in its last six games and has had stretches of extremely poor shooting.
Boonsboro, like Catoctin, scores predominantly from the perimeter. The Warriors will need all their weapons, including Ashley Smothers (12.0 points, 3.2 steals per game), Kara Nettleton (8.1 points, 2.7 steals), Ashlyn Hawbaker (7.4 points) and Amber Smith (7.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.9 steals).
* Friday, Maryland Class 1A West West Sectional quarterfinal — Southern Garrett (11-10) at Hancock (7-14): The Panthers are 1-4 in their last five games and will be underdogs against the visiting Rams. Hancock will need a big game from Maureen Leavy, who has had a bunch of them while averaging 14.8 points and 15.4 rebounds this season.
* Friday, Maryland Class 2A West first round — North Hagerstown (12-6) at Francis Scott Key (1-20): This was as good a draw as the sixth-seeded Hubs could have hoped for. North beat FSK 51-35 a week ago and is playing its best ball of the season, going 7-2 in its last nine games.
Iman Scott (11.8 points per game this season, 17.0 points per game the last three games) has been the Hubs’ most consistent offensive player, and Akatshi Osongo (12.7 points per game the last six games) has given North a post presence over the last month.
It will get much harder for the Hubs after the first round: No. 3-seed South Carroll (18-3) awaits in the quarterfinals, and if North gets past that, No. 2-seed Liberty (16-4) will likely be the semifinal opponent. Liberty beat the Hubs 70-69 on a last-second 3-pointer on Feb. 16 and also eliminated North for the playoffs last season.
* Friday, West Virginia Class AAA Region II Section 1 final — Hedgesville (14-9) at Martinsburg (15-8): The top-seeded Bulldogs swept both meetings with the Eagles earlier this season, 64-53 on Jan. 20 and 62-59 nine days later.
* Friday, West Virginia Class AA Region II Section 1 final — Frankfort at Berkeley Springs (21-1): The Indians have had their best season ever — led by Deidra Burch (19 points, 6.5 assists, 5.7 steals per game) and Sarah Haynes (18.2 points, 5.4 steals) — and are looking to reach the state tournament for the second time in three years.
Frankfort is a dangerous opponent, as proved by its 61-39 home win over Berkeley Springs on Jan. 21. But this game is in the Indians’ gym, where Berkeley Springs beat Frankfort 62-55 on Dec. 21.
* Friday and Saturday, Mason Dixon Christian Conference final four at Grace Academy: No. 1-seed Heritage Academy (18-2) earned a bye into the final four and will be a significant favorite to win its semifinal and face either No. 2-seed New Life or No. 3-seed Faith Christian in Saturday’s final.
If that’s the case, it should be a very competitive final. The Eagles split two games with New Life (winning 77-57 at New Life on Dec. 14 and losing 49-46 at home on Jan. 27) en route to sharing the regular-season title. Heritage swept Faith (winning 50-33 on Jan. 4 and 47-45 on Feb. 4) but the second game was a nail-biter.
Heritage is led by Rachel Clarke — an all-MDCC first-team honoree — and Jessica Gaylor, who made the second team.
* Saturday, Maryland Class 1A West East Sectional quarterfinal — Manchester Valley (10-11) at Williamsport (7-15): The Wildcats have really struggled in the last couple weeks, going 1-5 in their last six games and averaging just 31.6 points per game in the last five — including a 62-33 loss to Manchester Valley on Feb. 15.
Kayla Ewing has played the best of any Wildcat of late, but Williamsport really needs to get bigger contributions from Stacey Christy and Chelsea Scott if the Wildcats are going to win. Christy is a sophomore and Scott a freshman, so Williamsport’s best days are likely to come in the next year or two.
* Saturday, Maryland Class 1A West West Sectional quarterfinal — Clear Spring (3-18) at Northern Garrett (18-4): The Blazers will be massive underdogs at the No. 2 seed in the sectional. They’ve been hurt by the losses of Dominique Forsman (left team for undisclosed reasons in early January) and Morgan Purdham (torn ACL earlier this month).
One bright spot for Clear Spring has been the play of Jess Barnhart, who is among Washington County leaders in scoring at 14.4 points per game.
* Saturday, Maryland Class 3A West first round — Tuscarora (11-11) at South Hagerstown (4-16): The Rebels, as expected, have had a rebuilding year but have found a gem in freshman Katrice Dickson, who leads South in every major statistical category (11.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.9 steals, 2.0 assists, 1.3 blocks per game). Should the Rebels beat the Titans and earn a quarterfinal matchup with top-seed Frederick, they’d have to consider that a success.