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The Hopewell Lady Vikings Enter the Playoffs With Something to Prove



Hopewell — Every team wants to enter the playoffs with momentum, hoping that it carries over in their pursuit of a championship.

Momentum is something that the Hopewell Lady Vikings girls’ basketball certainly has as the WPIAL playoffs get underway next week.

Tonight, in their final regular season game, the Vikings overwhelmed the Ambridge Briders, 67-25, to finish the season on a three-game winning streak.

The game was really never in doubt as the Vikings came out red-hot from the field, making their first four shots, three of which were 3-pointers.

Freshman guard Maya Richburg hit a 3-pointer to open the scoring, which was later followed by consecutive 3-pointers from senior Lauryn Speicher — the second of which gave Hopewell an early 11-2.

Later in the opening quarter, Hopewell had three consecutive defensive steals which led to transition baskets. Richburg was first and took it by herself for a left-handed layup. Next possession was sophomore Alyssa Spang with the steal and layup to stretch the lead to 20-7 and then it was a nice passing sequence as freshman Caylee Sundy stole the ball, pushed it up court and found Speicher for the layup.

The near-perfect first quarter was capped off with a 3-pointer from Speicher at the buzzer to give Hopewell a 27-7 lead.

The basketball clinic continued in the second quarter as it proved to be a total team effort.

Sophomore Emma Palmieri, with a nice pass from half-court, found freshman Allison Ramaley for a layup — and the foul. Palmieri then did it herself as she nailed a 3-pointer to extend the lead to 38-11. Later in the second quarter, it was once again defense leading to offense. Speicher stole the ball and connected with Sundy for the bucket and the foul.

The Vikings led 50-11 at the half, and head coach Jeff Homziak was able to get his entire bench playing time.

Speicher led Hopewell with 23 points, followed by Palmieri with 11, Sundy with 10 and Richburg with five.

The future for Hopewell girls’ basketball appears promising with only Speicher graduating after the season. This young roster will get a chance to experience playoff basketball, and excluding the 2021 season when every team in the WPIAL qualified, this is their first trip to the WPIAL playoffs since 2015.

“I told these girls at the beginning of the season, that it wasn’t our goal to be playing our best basketball in December and beginning of January, the goal is to be peaking and playing our best at the end of January and into February,” said Homziak. “We haven’t truly qualified for the playoffs since 2015. The last couple of years we’ve fallen just short, last year by just a game. This team worked really hard this year, they’re a close-knit group and got the job done.

“It’s special for this group to make the playoffs. Lauryn is a senior and has never been there. She was in the soccer championship when her sister was senior, and she was a freshman. So, she has some experience playing in a playoff game and the atmosphere. Our roster is so young, so they don’t know. After the game, I told them in the locker room, we qualified, but we have to continue to work. Let’s not be satisfied and our goal is to take the next step and get a playoff win.”

With the young talent that’s currently on the roster and within the Hopewell junior high program, this could be the first of many playoff appearances over the next handful of years. However, for Speicher, this was her last chance to accomplish a goal and she couldn’t be prouder of what her team was able to accomplish.

“This definitely means a lot. Since our freshman season, I felt as though we had the potential to accomplish this and weren’t quite at the level that we needed to be,” said Speicher. “This year, we have a lot of talent and were able to showcase it and everyone was able to see all the hard work we’ve put in. I’m very excited to see what the future holds for us in the playoffs.

“For me personally, this means everything. When I walked into the first day of practice this season, coach Homziak asked me what my goal was, and I told him that I wanted to make the playoffs. We never experienced the playoffs on our own and it was something that I definitely wanted to experience and I’m so excited.”

The Lady Vikings will find out their playoff opponent this Tuesday when the WPIAL playoff pairings are announced.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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