Monday, December 13, 2010
Boys basketball AA-A team capsules
The Trojans are one of the smaller teams playing in Class AA but that didn't stop them from qualifying for the postseason a year ago. California beat Apollo-Ridge in an entertaining, back-and-forth preliminary round game before being ousted by Greensburg Central Catholic.
Thanks to realignment, California and Greensburg Central Catholic are both in Section 4-AA. The Centurions are tabbed as preseason favorites to win the section and the WPIAL. California figures to be one of the teams GCC must contend with to win the section title.
Leading scorer John Tyler, a 6-0 shooting guard who suffered a season-ending foot injury before last postseason, returns.
So do sophomores Tanner Huffman and Brian Fisher.
Huffman was California's point guard and Fisher came off the bench to provide energy, rebounding and defense.
The Bulldogs have made three WPIAL playoff appearances during the 10-year coaching tenure of Barry Niemiec. If you know anything about the history of Beth-Center basketball, that's a successful run.
Making the playoffs from Section 4-AA, which includes preseason favorite Greensburg Central Catholic and Jeannette, won't be easy but Beth-Center returns three starters and eight lettermen, including Lucas Diethorn, to give Niemiec one of his more experienced teams.
The Cougars opened the season with a win at Belle Vernon. The Leopards played Ringgold earlier in the day after a scheduling mishap forced Elizabeth Forward to withdrawl from the Belle Vernon Tipoff Tournament.
Charleroi won't wow many in the point total but the Cougars play defense and rebound, plus have several key returning lettermen including Vinnie Scirotto.
Heading into tonight's non-section game at South Fayette, Fort Cherry senior Nate Bellhy needs 17 points to reach 1,000 for his varsity career. A 6-5 scoring a,d rebounding machine, Bellhy averaged nearly 29 points per game as a junior and he committed to Division II Seton Hill during the fall.
The Rangers will go as Bellhy goes and an improved defense could work wonder. Fort Cherry yielded 69.5 points per game. Only three WPIAL teams, one being Ringgold, allowed a higher average.
The Blue Devils are 0-2 after playing a pair of Class AAA schools in Washington and Trinity at the Canon-McMillan Tournament. Point guard Tyler Pavan was one of the top players in Section 5 last year, and that was with Washington in the league.
The Bucs return only two lettermen and no returning starters from last year's senior-filled lineup. First-year coach Eugene Briggs, the former head coach at Fort Cherry, will rely on Josh Counihan and Kevin Welsh and hope the sophomores and freshmen develop quickly.
The Greyhounds opted to remain in Class AA, they've been playing up for several cycles, but lost some natural rivalries when they were shipped to Section 3. Instead of playing Washington, Burgettstown or even teams from Section 4, Monessen draws Bishop Canevin, Seton-La Salle, Steel Valley and others.
It wasn't a popular move in Monessen, but it shouldn't keep the Greyhounds from contedning for a section title and a possible deep postseason run.
Monessen is 1-1 after playing in Franklin Regional's tipoff tournament and the loss was a 94-90 setback to Class AAA Norwin. With point guard Jalen Madison, athletic swingman Jaisen Irwin and big man Cam Johnson, the Greyhounds are on of Class AA's more talented teams.
The Eagles haven't won a section championship since 1970 and there are only two in team history. According to coaches in Section 3, Avella could add to that number this year.
Head coach Joseph Hough has four starters back and a nice mix of height and experience.
Junior guard Joe Yamber averaged 15 points per game last year and he'll be complemented by 6-7 senior Neil Gossett and 6-5 senior Damon Cupp.
Avella, already 2-0 on the year, returns nine of its top 10 from a year ago, including Cameron Geresti and Jed Fernbaugh.
The Mikes lost leading scorer Bill Musgrove but returned the other four starters and six lettermen, which makes them a contender in Section 3 for head coach Don Williams, who has won 415 games in 35 years with the team.
Jon Krall, Seth Krall and Jordan Kennedy are three of the top returnees in a lineup that will rely on speed and defense to win games.
The Rockets will be guided by first-year head coach Chris Niemiec, brother of Beth-Center coach Barry Niemiec. Jefferson-Morgan will be one of the younger teams in Class A with no seniors and only six juniors.
The Bearcats' non-section schedule isn't made with ready-made victories in mind. It's designed by veteran head coach Joe Kennedy (pictured) to prepare Bentworth for the playoffs. That's why there's always games against the likes of Clairton, Burgettstown and OLSH.
The defending Section 3 champs return all-district guard John Barker (14.9 ppg) and forward Gannon Walls-Mitchell (12.1) and they should anchor a lineup that is expected to contend for another title.
Bentworth returns eight lettermen.
Junior Marcus Cumpston could be one of th top players in Section 3 for a Mapletown team that qualified for the postseason last year despite numbers problems. Head coach Bo Garnek has a few more bodies on the bench this year as Mapletown fields an 11-player roster.
The Pioneers won only one game and ranked last in the WPIAL in offense at 23.9 points per game last year. Curtis Jones is West Greene's top returning player.