The 2018-2019 winter season kicks in this Friday, Dec. 7. Below is a team by team preview for all of the team’s in the Mercury’s coverage area.
Head coach: Mike Ludwig, 10th season
Last year’s record: 2-8 Pioneer Athletic Conference Liberty Division; 8-14 overall.
Players to watch: Hunter Borgman, 6-3 Sr. F; Aarick Salata, 5-8 So. G; Chris Kiefer, 6-3 So. F.
Outlook: The 2018-2019 season didn’t exactly go to plan for the Bears. With four returning seniors on the starting lineup, Boyertown looked poised to make a substantial run back to the postseason last winter. Yet that never panned out as the Bears fell victim to a loaded PAC Liberty Division. Now a year later, with all four of those seniors graduated, the Bears turn to their youth to pick up the pieces. Salata logged meaningful minutes as the team’s primary ball-handler and will be expected to carry a heavy load this season. “It is a young team who will need to develop its own identity as the season progresses,” said Ludwig. “There is a lot of potential for this team to grow as the season goes on. The goal for the season is to challenge for a playoff spot in both the PAC playoffs and District One play.”
Head coach: Jim Sands, second season
Last year’s record: 0-10 Berks Conference I; 4-18 overall.
Players to watch: Chaunce Johnson, 6-2 Sr. G; Jared Tranovich, 6-1, Sr. G; Chris Surkosky, 6-1 Jr. G.
Outlook: Challenges are always about for the Blazers, who share a conference with perennial powers Reading, Wilson and Exeter. Boone has won just two league games over the past four years and hasn’t finished with a winning record since the 2010-2011 season. Johnson returns for his senior season after averaging just under 18 points per game as does Tranovich (7.7 ppg.), the team’s leading 3-point shooter. The Blazers will be looking to replace Carson Zuber (graduation) and Dylan Walker (transfer) in order to compete once again in a loaded conference. “We are seeking the program’s first winning season since the 2010-11 season,” said Sands, “which is a great challenge with our tough out of league schedule, and playing in Berks Conference 1, where we play a talented, well-coached team each and every night.”
Head coach: Seth Eilberg, 17th season.
Last year’s record: 19-7 overall (Mid-Atlantic Prep League runner-up, PAISAA champions)
Players to watch: Caleb Dorsey, 6-8 Jr. G/F; Ryan Moffatt, 6-6 Sr. G/F; Xavier Mayo, 6-8 Sr. F; Gabe Dorsey, 6-5 So. G.; Daniel Nixon, 6-6 So. G.
Outlook: Eilberg watched from afar while on sabbatical last season as first-year head coach Phil Canosa guided the Blues to the PA Independent Schools Athletic Association championship last season. Gone from that squad are four senior starters, including All-Area Player of the Year Chase Audige (William & Mary) while Caleb Dorsey is the only starter returning. It may take some time to blend all of their talent, but The Hill certainly has the pieces to make a solid run. Dorsey and Xavier Mayo (New Jersey Institute of Technology commit) both logged meaningful minutes last season while Gabe Dorsey emerged as a 3-point shooting threat as a freshman. Newcomers Moffat (Colgate commit) comes aboard while Nixon looks promising as a sophomore.
Head coach: Jeff Derstine, ninth season.
Last year’s record: 7-3 PAC Liberty; 18-8 overall (PAC champ, District 1-6A qualifier).
Players to watch: David Duda, 6-3 Sr. G; Marcus Girardo, 6-1 Sr. G; Jeff Woodward, 6-9 Jr. C; Brett Eberly, 5-11 Jr. G.
Outlook: With all but one starter returning from last season’s PAC championship team, the Warriors look primed for another run this winter. The sharp-shooting guard Duda, who led the league in 3-pointers made last season, needs a hand in his face at all times while Woodward will again be a major force in the paint as he measures in as the league’s biggest. Methacton will need to replace Noah Kitaw, their key defender from last season, though Derstine notes that there are plenty waiting in the ranks. “Having lost only one starter in Noah Kitaw, the core of this team has been playing together for two full years,” he said. “In addition to the returning core, there is a talented group of newcomers led by junior Erik Timko, that will look to step on the floor and make an immediate impact.”
Head coach: Dana Johnson, second season
Last year’s record: 7-3 PAC Liberty; 18-10 overall (PAC, District 1-6A, PIAA-6A playoff qualifier).
Players to watch: Marcus Sanford, Sr. G; Vernon Tubbs, Sr. G; Mikeel Allen, Sr. F.
Outlook: Norristown is coming off its first state playoff run since 1990 and could very well be primed to make it back to back this season. The Eagles return three seniors from last year’s team in Sanford, Tubbs and Allen, though they’ll look to replace center Darius Hopewell.
Owen J. Roberts
Head coach: Kevin Kirby, sixth season.
Last year’s record: 4-6 PAC Liberty; 14-10 overall (District 1-6A playoff qualifier).
Players to watch: Sa’Vaughn Davidheiser, 6-1 Sr. F; Marcus Martin, 5-8 Sr. G; Nick Massa, 5-9 Sr. G; Ryan Sayers, 5-11 Sr. G.
Outlook: The Wildcats are coming off their most successful season in quite a while, finishing above .500 for the first time since 2010. Gone from that squad are steady contributors Dawson Stuart, Shyheed May, Sean Praweckyj and Justin Bailey, but OJR has plenty of talent waiting in the ranks. Massa and Sayers combined for 62 made 3-pointers last season and should be more impactful in a steady role while Davidheiser should be a presence in the paint coming off a strong junior season. “More important than their experience are their attitude and work ethic,” said Kirby of his seniors. “The league is once again loaded with an incredible amount of experience and talent returning, that coupled with the excellent coaches in our league should make for exciting games every night. We are hoping to build on our success from last year to once again be playing playoff games in February.”
Head coach: Thomas Baudinet, third season.
Last year’s record: 18-6 overall (PAISAA semifinalist).
Players to watch: Tautvydas Kupstas, 6-4 Sr. G; Connor O’Brien, 6-0 Sr. G; Keeshawn Kellman, 6-8 Sr. F; Chris Arcidiacono, 6-4 Sr. G; Sam Corrao, 6-6 Jr. F; Titus Wilkins, 6-4 So. G.
Outlook: At a glance, the Panthers appear to be the best team in the area, with their loaded roster having already won the season-opening Westtown Tournament earlier this month. Arcidiacono comes after finishing his career at Neshaminy with the second most points in program history (1,494), finishing only behind his older brother Ryan Arcidiacono. Princeton University commit Kellman also arrives after a strong career at Allentown Central Catholic. Those two should have no problem blending with key returners Kupstas, Corrao, O’Brien and Wilkins, all of whom played a strong role in helping Perk School get to the PAISAA playoffs. “This group has the potential to compete for a PAISAA state title at the end of the year,” said Baudinet. “We have good size, balance, and depth that gives us the flexibility to play a number of different lineups. Having the versatility to go big, small, put more shooting or more athletes on the floor will be a big positive for us.” Also worth noting, Perk is in the midst of a 26-game winning streak on their home court, where they haven’t dropped a contest since the 2015-2016 season.
Head coach: Michael Poysden, seventh season
Last year’s record: 4-6 PAC Liberty; 13-12 overall (District 1-6A playoff qualifier).
Players to watch: Tyler Strechay 6-2 Sr. F; Zack Krause, 6-0 Sr. G; AJ Hansen, 5-11 Sr. G; Connor McShea, 6-3 Sr. F.
Outlook: Last season, the Vikings pulled the carpet out from PAC champion Methacton with a surprise win in the first round of districts. This season, another run at the district playoffs shouldn’t catch anyone off guard. Although they graduated four starters from last season, the Vikings return the brunt of their scoring — most notably in talented wing Strechay — along with a good amount of size including seniors Ian and Bryce Streeper who both should come up big this year. “The senior class provides depth and based on their offseason performance and workouts, has high expectations that through hard work they can earn success,” said Poysden. “We return both size and experience. They enjoy pushing each other to improve and are rising to the task of program leadership.”
Head coach: Eric Burnett, fifth season
Last year’s record: 6-4 PAC Frontier; 9-14 overall.
Players to watch: Dylan Clark 6-0 Sr. F/C; Colton Brown, 5-10 Sr. G; KJ Quinn, 5-10 Sr. G; Steven Hamilton, 6-0 Jr. G; Clay Kopko, 6-0 Jr. F; Will Allain, 6-0 So. G.
Outlook: The Phantoms look loaded in the back court with plenty of experienced guards returning. Their biggest challenge, however, will in the front court following the graduation of 6-6 center Brendan Jenkins who led last year’s team in scoring. Junior newcomer Joel Peck is listed as the team’s tallest at 6-4 while Clark will assume the role of a forward/center coming off a good junior season. “This is one of the most balanced teams we have had during our time at Phoenixville,” said Burnett. “We are very deep at the guard position with several players capable of having big nights. Despite our lack of true size, we believe our guards and forwards can collectively compete with any team in the league.”
Pope John Paul II
Head coach: Brendan Stanton, first season
Last year’s record: 4-6 PAC Frontier; 6-15 overall
Players to watch: Tyshyre DeVeaux-Malachi, 5-8 Sr. G; Chris White, 5-10 Sr. G; Sean Bustynowicz, 6-2 Sr. F; Drew McKeon, 6-2 Jr. G; Justin Green, 6-4 So. F.
Outlook: Everything was going well for PJP last season before the Golden Panthers lost 10 of their final 11 to put a damper on the year. Now, it will be a complete turnover for the navy and gold as Stanton takes over a program that looks to rebuild following the graduation of 12 seniors. DeVeaux-Malachi and White both picked up playing time as juniors and will lead a crop of new faces. “We have an exciting mix of senior leaders and talented underclassmen,” said Stanton. “For what this team lacks in varsity experience, they make up for with their competitive spirit and positive energy. When they put it all together this group is capable of great team basketball.”
Head coach: Jack Flanagan, third season.
Last year’s record: 6-4 PAC Frontier; 12-11 overall (District 1-5A qualifier).
Players to watch: Manny Clark, 5-10 Sr. G; Khaliym Smith, 6-3 Sr. F; Justin Robinson, 6-2 Sr. G; Cameron Mowery, 6-5 Sr. F.
Outlook: The Falcons will have some reloading to do this season following the graduation of three of their four leading scorers from last season. Gone are big man Jason Hein, high-flying wing Mike Ziegler and 3-point specialist Jayden Blakey. But there is a bright side — guards Clark and Robinson both return coming off strong junior seasons and will be expected to carry the load for Pottsgrove while Smith and Mowery should be a presence in the paint. “We need to be committed to playing hard, playing smart, and playing together,” said Flanagan. “The league should be very competitive this year with many teams having their eyes on one of those coveted playoff spots.”
Head coach: Scott Palladino, first season
Last year’s record: 4-6 PAC Frontier; 6-16 overall.
Players to watch: Floyd Dashiell, 5-10 Sr. G; Anthony Brown, 6-0 Sr. G; Tre Bass, 6-1 Jr. G; Donovan Towson, 6-1 Jr. F.
Outlook: Palladino, who had previously spent 10 years as head coach at Pottsgrove from 2006-2015, takes over a Trojan program that looks primed to turn things around this winter. Pottstown returns three of its four leading scorers from last season including All-Area Honorable Mentions Brown and Dashiell along with Bass. Palladino plans to bring with him a new approach, one that could deliver the Trojans their first winning campaign since the 2011-2012 season. “I think we will have a little different look this season and have really been focused on playing like a team as opposed to playing as individuals in years past,” he said. “We feel we can be a very deep team and can get contributions from a lot of different guys on any given night. Our goals will be to compete for a Final Four spot, and qualify for the District and State playoffs.”
Head coach: Chris Talley, sixth season
Last year’s record: 5-5 PAC Liberty; 15-11 overall (PAC runner-up, District 1-6A qualifier).
Players to watch: Noah Baker, 6-3 Sr. F; Robert Bobeck, 6-4 Sr. C; Ryan Hagan, 6-0 Sr. G; Patrick Kovaleski, 6-3 Jr. G; Tre Medearis, 6-4 Jr. F.
Outlook: Per usual, the Rams will be a legitimate PAC championship contender. Baker has been a key piece for Spring-Ford since his arrival while Bobeck and Hagan proved to be plenty useful throughout Spring-Ford’s rally to a runner-up finish to Methacton last season. Kovaleski and Medearis both picked up some quality minutes as sophomores last year and that experience should go a long way. The biggest challenge will be replacing do-it-all wing Nestor Diaz, big man Austin Hokanson and sharp-shooter Harrison Pierce from last year’s squad, but Talley seems plenty optimistic that his team will hit that second gear when push comes to shove. “The focus is to be fundamentally sound and playing our best basketball down the stretch,” he said. “We look forward to competing in a tough league against teams who have high expectations.”
Head coach: Jason Quenzer, sixth season
Last year’s record: 2-8 PAC Liberty; 4-18 overall.
Players to watch: Matt Choi, 6-1 Sr. G; Chris Clark, 6-3 Jr. G/F; Nick Shepperd, 6-4 Jr. G/F; Dom Breece, 6-1 Jr. F/G; Lukas Kim, 5-10 So. G.
Outlook: The Vikings are coming off a down year and could have their work cut out for them again this winter with a starting lineup that features just one senior. Among the returners are Clark, a Second Team All-PAC selection who led the team in scoring last season. “The optimism is high at Upper Merion, despite coming off of a four-win season,” said Quenzer. “Losing always provides an opportunity to learn and it fuels the fire. These guys get a year older and can understand the mental aspect of the game more and more. We just want to keep it simple and focus on the minor details of the game that make a big difference.”
Head coach: Jared Krupp, sixth season
Last year’s record: 8-2 PAC Frontier; 15-9 overall (PAC playoff, District 1-5A qualifier)
Players to watch: Brody Case, 6-1 Sr. F; Brett Miller, 5-7 Sr. G; Tyrese Reid, 5-7 Jr. G; Hunter Flack, 5-10 So. G; Riley Decker, 6-2 So. C.
Outlook: The Tribe is coming off its most successful season in recent memory, one in which they earned a trip back to the PAC and district playoffs. Gone from that team is Ryan Kendra, the program’s all-time leading scorer (1,416 points) along with talented guard Liam Boyle and big man Will Walker. Although there are some big shoes to fill, Krupp has been preaching confidence and unity to his incoming players. “As always, our goal is to compete and improve on a daily basis. Our student athletes have embraced this ideal,” he said. “Although we have lost a lot of key pieces from last year’s successful team, our student athletes understand that if we play together as a unit and focus on getting better every day, we will see success.”
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