FAIRLESS HILLS – To anyone who says Pennsbury is going to take a nosedive this year, the Falcons and their coach have just two words.
“Expectations don’t change from one year to the next,” said Pennsbury head coach Bill Coleman.
“We have four goals every time we come into the season – we want to compete for the league, we want to win the SOL Tournament, we want to get to Villanova or Temple – wherever the district 1 final is. And we want to get to states and see how far we can go.”
If they are to reach the heights they attained last season, the two-time state-qualifying Falcons will have to get there without the services of three First Team All-Suburban One League (SOL) players in Derrick Woods (St. Bonaventure), Cameron Jones (St. Peters) and Mekhi Bryant (Baltimore County CC).
“Last year, we ran everything through that big three,” said Carpenter. “And now, we have two different people and a whole different team to play around.
“It should be an interesting year.”
In addition to Woods, Bryant and Jones, last year’s point guard, Nick Cereby (Bryn Athyn) has also departed. The only returning starter is Rob Daly and he is still playing football.
Pennsbury is not worried however, not with a pair of 6-8 returning varsity players in Carpenter and classmate Mark Flagg.
“Not many teams can say they have two guys over 6-7,” said Daly. “We’re looking for them to have a good inside presence and work the offense inside out.”
“It’s actually an exciting time,” added Coleman. “We’re moving from one group that was very successful.”
“And now, we have a new bunch of kids that, if they put the work and the effort in, they can be pretty good themselves.”
With practice in only its second week, there are battles still open for positions including point guard where Corey Dea, Addison Howard or Tyler Sessa-Reaves could wind up.
Howard and Daly are competing for the shooting guard position.
“We have a couple of bigs in Mark and Isaiah; they’ll be our front-court,” stated Coleman.
“And we’ll be able to change the lineup with guys like Rob Daley, Addison Howard, Joey Monaghan, Corey Dea and Tyler Sessa-Reaves.
“We’ll be able to show a few different looks as the year progresses.”
Really, it’s the junior class that the Falcons are going to look to for answers. Last year, Jones (15.7 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 4.5 APG) and Woods (16.3 PPG, 11.5 RPG) combined on 32 points-per-game and Bryant added another 13.
“It’s about 250 points from those guys so all the juniors have to step up,” stated Coleman. “Only one or two of them played varsity last year so they’re going to get their feet put to the fire pretty quickly.”
Among others, the two forwards for Pennsbury spent their summer playing AAU ball with Flagg hitting the hardwood for the Jersey Shore Warriors and Carpenter crashing the boards for Philly Pride. While Mark is getting interest from Lafayette, Lehigh and Holy Cross, Isaiah is getting looks from St. Peters and Monmouth.
But first, the twin towers are expected to lead the Falcons back to the Promised Land, wherever that may be in 2016.
Last year, the team went as far as the state quarterfinals, where it lost by one point in regulation to eventual PIAA Class AAAA Champion Roman Catholic. In districts, Pennsbury fell at the hands of District 1-4A champ Abington.
But what about this season?
“We can definitely compete for a league title this year, a district championship as well,” said Daly. “We lost a lot of guys but we have a lot of guys who can come up and fill those spots.”
With the Ghosts coming off an unbeaten season in Suburban One League (SOL) play, all roads to the National Conference crown go through Abington. With the departure of 2014-15 leading scorers Amir Hintin (Lock Haven) and Matt Penecale (West Chester), the Falcons might stand a chance.
Last year, the Ghosts took four games from Pennsbury, winning by one at home, two at the Falcons Nest, 13 in the SOL Championship game and nine in the D-1 semis.
“We just need to come out and beat them,” said Carpenter. “Because we’re not losing to them four times ever again.”
In the SOL finale, then Abington freshman Robbie Heath led the Ghosts with 19 points including four three-pointers so the MontCo team still has some players who can put the ball in the basket. Seeded seventh in districts, Pennsbury got past CB South, Downingtown West and No. 2 seed Methacton before running into the Ghosts for the last time in the season.
From there, the Falcons went to states where they unseated Ridley, Cedar Cliff and Parkland before losing by the slimmest of margins in the PIAA quarterfinals to the state champion Cahillites.
That put Pennsbury in the top eight in the state and the top four in the district and the Falcons would like to reach those heights again in 2016.
It’s like the coach said – the expectations don’t change.
NOTES: At the end of last season, Woods was named all-state and both Derrick and Jones were named All-Southeastern Pennsylvania in 2015. Jones registered 21 points off the bench in St Peters’ recent battle with Princeton and was 7-for-11 from the floor including 5-for-9 from beyond the arch. Starting at St. Bonaventure, Woods poured nine points into the basket in a recent win over Canisius. Derrick reached double digits in the Bonnies’ exhibition win over Mansfield.
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