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Pioneer Athletic Conference

Senior-laden Upper Merion poised for big year

UPPER MERION >> The Upper Merion boys basketball team did not win many games during the 2014-15 season. It went 3-19 that year, but the core was a group of sophomores that showed more talent than the team’s record reflected.

Fast forward to present day and that group of sophomores is now a group of seniors with district playoff experience and high expectations for their final season of high school basketball.

“We’ve been looking forward to (our senior season) for a while,” point guard Aidan Newell said. “We want to do big things. Upper Merion hasn’t really been in a situation like this for a long time. We think we can make history.”

“It’s tough to always look towards the future,” fourth-year head coach Jason Quenzer said. “We had some nice teams, some really good kids, but at the same time you know that this group has been particularly special for a long time.

“(The senior) class is so deep in terms of the bench and just a lot of talent. We’ve been looking forward to it. I think this year we have a chance to do something really special.”

The team jumped to 16-7 in 2015-16, finished third in its final season in the Suburban One League American Conference and earned a district playoff berth. Almost the entire squad returns this year and features 2016 First Team All League selection Matt Faw, Second Teamer Ethan Miller and Newell, an honorable mention.

With Faw, a 6-foot-8 Holy Cross commit, 6-foot-7 Miller and floor-general Newell, Upper Merion enters this season in a new position. Teams know about the Vikings and they won’t be sneaking up on anybody.

“After last year it’s no longer an underdog story anymore,” Quenzer said. “We kind of had that target on our back this summer. We could feel teams really giving us their best. Us beating Plymouth Whitemarsh last year was something nobody really expected … We just feel a little different in terms of how teams approach us, which is good — that’s what we want.”

Seniors Andrew Persaud — an outside shooter — and Chris Carita — another big body to go along with Faw and Miller — figure to be key contributors to Upper Merion’s success.

“We have a lot of guys that will contribute this year,” Quenzer said. “A really deep bench. I really love different aspects of a lot of people’s games coming off the bench. I think everyone has something to offer whether it’s offensively or defensively — some good role players.”

This will be the team’s first season in the Pioneer Athletic Conference and it expects to be in the mix for the league championship right out of the gate.

“Expectation No. 1 is to win the PAC,” Quenzer said. “We want to make a mark our first year. We love the league. The coaches are great and we love the league so far. Obviously win the PAC — get a district home playoff game and then make it to states. Getting past that first round (of districts) is something that we need to do. I don’t think it would be acceptable any other way. I think the guys would agree with me on that.”

“We’ve seen some of the PAC-10,” Newell said. “We definitely can’t take them lightly — can’t take anybody lightly — especially because we feel like we have a target on our back this year because of how we performed last year.”

The Vikings get their season started Tuesday Dec. 13 against Methacton.

Top photo: Upper Merion coach Jason Quenzer talks to his team during practice Tuesday, Nov. 29 (Gene Walsh – Digital First Media).

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