BENSALEM – In the Bicentennial Athletic League (BAL) and beyond, high school hoops coaches always look for ways to replace talent lost by graduating players.
At Holy Ghost Prep, head coach Tony Chapman not only has to replace three starters, junior forward Ryan Staropoli decided not to play basketball this year on Bristol Pike. A dominant right-handed pitcher for the Firebirds, Staropoli will concentrate on baseball instead.
“It’s a tough loss but that’s his choice. He’s an outstanding baseball player and I respect his decision,” said Chapman.
“We certainly would have loved to have him on the team and I hope he does well in baseball.”
Chapman must also find replacements for starters John McCrane – a first team All-BAL selection in 2017, Aidan Bauer (second team) and Mike McFadden, the leading scorer from last season.
“We have the potential to be good or we could be just OK,” said Chapman. “Losing those three kids last year is the big difference.”
The ‘birds are coming off a campaign in which they finished 16-10, overall, 11-5 in the BAL, which was good enough for third place in the Independence Conference, just behind Church Farm and division winner Valley Forge Military Academy (VFMA).
This year, Ghost will look for guard play from 5-11 junior Greg Sylvester, who will play the point and senior Jack Elliot. The only returning starter who hails from Yardley, Elliot is a 6-2 shooting guard for HGP.
While they’re all new to the starting lineup, the Firebirds’ front-court certainly has some height, starting with junior Greg Calvin, a 6-4 forward who will play in the five-hole.
Calvin is flanked by forwards Jack Rittenmeyer, a 6-3 junior from Yardley who saw some minutes on varsity last year, and Sean Sylvester, a 6-4 junior transfer student from Archbishop Ryan.
Matt Sobon, a 5-11 junior from Langhorne who was primarily a JV player last season, is most likely the sixth man this season.
It’s going to be a brand new world on Bristol Pike, the coach explained.
“Jack (Elliot) played a lot of minutes but that’s it. Greg Calvin and Jack Rittenmeyer played but they didn’t have major minutes,” explained Chapman. “Sean wasn’t even here so it’s going to take a while for them to mesh.
“The early part of the season will be a challenge because of our lack of experience.”
Then there’s the other side of the coin.
“Conversely, they’re working pretty hard in practice and they seem to have a pretty good basketball I.Q.,” added Chapman, who is entering his 40th season.
“I’m looking forward to the point in the season where we become a decent team.”
The coach is counting on Elliot and Rittenmeyer for perimeter shooting.
“Elliot and Rittenmeyer are our best outside shooters,” said Chapman. “Greg Sylvester has improved his outside shot but that’s not what I’m looking for from him.
“I’m looking for him to take care of the ball, make good decisions on offense, get the ball to the right people and play good defense.”
Rebounding will have to be a collective effort, says the coach.
“We don’t have a 6-7 or 6-8 guy who can bring down eight to 10 rebounds a game,” said Chapman. “But I think we have enough size to hold our own with all of them.
“Rittenmeyer is 6-3, 6-4. Calvin is the most natural defensive rebounder. He’s very good with his timing and he’s pretty good at boxing out but he can’t do it by himself.”
“Rittenmeyer and Sean Sylvester are going to have to help him.
“The two guards will hold their own – Jack Elliot isn’t super strong but he’s competitive, he’ll rebound and Greg Sylvester is pretty athletic; he can get off his feet.”
Holy Ghost opens the season Dec. 8 in the Manheim Township Tipoff Classic. The Firebirds posted an even 1-1 split in the tournament a year ago, beating Elizabethtown and losing by three points to the host team. The ‘birds won the tournament two years ago with 2016 graduate Jack Coolahan (Babson) taking MVP honors.
Coming off the tipoff tourney, HGP opens league play Dec. 12 at Valley Forge M.A., the odds-on favorite to repeat in the BAL independence Conference which ousted Ghost from the BAL semifinals last season.
The Firebirds also have tough non-league affairs scheduled against Suburban One National League foes Neshaminy (Dec. 16 at HGP), Bensalem (Jan. 20 at BHS), and Truman. HGP takes on the Tigers in the Jack Schott Memorial Tournament Dec. 28 and 29 at Chapman Gym.
Philly Public League rival Abraham Lincoln took top honors in the Schott tourney last year with wins over Holy Ghost and Truman.
Holy Ghost Prep 2017-18 varsity schedule
(A) 12/02/17 11 AM vs. Council Rock South
(H) 12/05/17 4:30 PM vs. North Penn
(A) 12/08/17 6 PM Manheim Township Tipoff Classic vs. Red Land
(A) 12/09/17 Manheim Township Tipoff Classic vs. Opponent TBD
(A) 12/12/17 7 PM vs. Valley Forge Military Academy (VFMA)
(H) 12/15/17 7 PM vs. MaST Community Charter
(H) 12/16/17 7 PM vs. Neshaminy
(A) 12/19/17 7 PM vs. Devon Prep
(A) 12/21/17 7 PM vs. Morrisville
(H) 12/28/17 Jack Schott Memorial Tournament vs. Truman
(H) 12/29/17 Jack Schott Memorial Tournament vs. opponent TBD
(H) 01/03/18 7 PM vs. Church Farm School
(H) 01/06/18 7 PM vs. Dock Mennonite Academy
(A) 01/10/18 7 PM vs. New Hope-Solebury
(A) 01/12/18 7 PM vs. Bristol
(H) 01/16/18 7 PM vs. Lower Moreland
(H) 01/19/18 7 PM vs. Calvary Christian Academy
(A) 01/20/18 7 PM vs. Bensalem
(H) 01/22/18 7 PM vs. VFMA
(A) 01/24/18 7 PM vs. Delaware County Christian
(H) 01/27/18 1:00 PM vs. Devon Prep
(A) 01/30/18 7 PM vs. Church Farm School
(H) 02/02/18 7 PM vs. New Hope-Solebury
(A) 02/06/18 7 PM vs. Lower Moreland
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