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Basketball Preview: Strath Haven hopes Spangler’s ascension well-timed

After 33 wins in two seasons in charge, Dave McFadden abruptly stepped down in September from the helm of Strath Haven, citing family reasons.

In the quest to perpetuate their recent success, the Panthers dug into the program’s roots for a new coach who tracks back decades.

Dan Spangler takes charge, his latest role in a climb that started as a ball boy and extended through his playing days and stints on the freshman and JV team coaching staffs.

Spangler inherits a solid framework, though the biggest cog from last year is absent in All-Delco forward John Harrar, now at Penn State. Cooper Driscoll, who endured an injury-plagued junior campaign, will provide the height in the post to contrast the Panthers’ passel of guards. Ryan Morris, a Monmouth lacrosse commit, differentiated himself down the stretch last year by averaging six points per game; he, Jordan Graves and Chris Rosini all hit 20 or more 3-pointers.

AJ Santisi and Jeff Conner contributed significantly last year. Luke Mutz, Justin Morris, Ibo Pio and Brady Mutz fill out the spine of the team.

Garnet Valley’s Austin Laughlin tries to drive past Perkiomen Valley’s Justin Jaworski during the first half of a District 1 Class 6A game last year. Laughlin is back as the Jags hope to replicate their districts-qualifying feat. (Sam Stewart/Digital First Media)

There may be no bigger figure returning in the Central League than Penncrest guard Tyler Norwood, the reigning Daily Times Player of the Year for the District 1 Class 5A champs. Norwood averaged 23.0 points per game last year and has surpassed 1,000 for his career.

Forwards Chris Mills, Matt Arbogast and Malcolm Williams give the Lions length. Justin Heidig was a regular last year off the bench; he and Dylan Bittle will fill the gaps in the backcourt.

Five of the players that powered Springfield’s berth in the PIAA Class 5A tournament last year have moved on, but key pieces remain in the effort to replicate that achievement. Kyle Long, the lacrosse and football All-Delco, will run the point again, while football All-Delco Ja’Den McKenzie is the leading scorer among the returnees, having averaged 8.6 points per game. Mike Webb was near the same average after transferring in during the winter break and shifts the strength of this team away from last year’s long-range shooting to a more dynamic, off-the-bounce attack.

The Cougars will dip into the school’s multi-sport excellence with football players Kevin Deal, Frank Durham Jr. and Ben Konah; baseball player Mike Conran and lacrosse player Mike Tulskie.

One half of the high-powered duo that powered Garnet Valley to its first postseason last year is gone in the form of Brandon Starr. But senior All-Central guard Austin Laughlin, who averaged 22.3 ppg, is back among eight contributors to last year’s 15-win team. That includes guard Connor O’Brien, who looks set to occupy Starr’s vacated role as top outside threat, while junior Cade Brennan will fill the paint at 6-4.

Junior Greg Vlassopoulos and senior Mehkhi Stephens should step into the rotation for Jaguars coach Mike Brown.

Kevin Kelly inherits a rebuilding project at Ridley, though the well-traveled coach has the experience to plot the next steps after Mike Snyder led the Green Raiders to two Central League titles and three PIAA tournament appearances in six seasons.

John Mastella, who averaged 2.2 points in 10 outings, is the closest thing to a returning anchor, while Kyree Capers and Dan Begley have also been in the varsity program. Enoch Clark, Meese Tobey, Samir Neal, Jack Grace and Malachi Williams are among the new faces Kelly will turn to.

Marple Newtown turned heads by winning five of its last six games last year — beating Strath Haven and Garnet Valley — to threaten for a districts berth and illustrate the progress in Sean Spratt’s first season.

Mike May, who averaged 12.6 ppg last year, is back as the primary scoring threat. Matt Peel and Anthony Paoletti will provide length in the lane. Alden Mathes, Tommy Gardler and Aziz Khammassi are up-and-comers.

Injuries did a number on Radnor in an eight-win season, leaving Jamie Chadwin with a young team. Vernon Harper (8 ppg) is back and Zahir Lee gained valuable experience in the backcourt. Lew Robinson, Jackson Birtwistle and Doug Campbell are new faces for the Tigers.

A lack of experience last season doomed Upper Darby to a six-win campaign. But a five-game winning streak in January illustrated the talent and potential at Bob Miller’s disposal. Magd Abdelwahab, who averaged 10.1 points per game last year, returns in the backcourt to pair with senior Jalun Trent.

Trent and Mamadou Toure will rotate at the point, while the Royals are deep on the wing, led by Diby Keita. Kymir Roper also saw time last year, and a number of others will vie for time in the paint, including Phil Williams, Chris Martin, James King, Floyd Wedderburn, Erodnay Sawyer.

Haverford endured a one-win 2016-17 season, but those struggles were expected with coach Keith Heinerichs vetting a raft of young players, many freshmen and sophomores. But the Fords’ top seven scorers from a year ago are all back in the fold.

JT Smyth and Trey Blair clearly improved as last season wore on. Add in the deep threats posed by guards Luke Verzella, Dan Roe, Matt Gillen and Kevin DePrince, plus the height of John Scheivert and Matt Young, and the Fords have some viable cogs for Heinerichs’ system-based approach.

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