Reporter/Montgomery area teams brimming with potential as season opens

One of the most used words tossed around by teams in preseason is potential.
Every team harbors that belief that this is their year to do something big. Kids come back a year better, stronger and more experienced. Sometimes, a new face or two joins the squad and adds a new dynamic. High school sports mean that players will come and go every year, so every team enters the season with question marks and holes to fill.
But that also creates potential. There’s potential for a returning player to fill those roles, or use the new window to break out and start their own path.
Teams across the Reporter/Montgomery Media area enter the 2015-16 season with plenty of potential and for several of them, lofty expectations to go along with it.
Over in Abington, the Galloping Ghosts are one of those squads. Coach Charles Grasty led his team to a District I AAAA title, its first since 1986 but turns to this season needing to replace the remarkable guard tandem of Amir Hinton and Matt Penecale. Abington is looking at the potential of a big front line and sophomore Robbie Heath to continue contending in the SOL National, district and state.
Pennridge, off the most successful season in school history that saw the Rams win their first ever state game, is also hoping the potential of guys taking a bigger role helps them stay atop the SOL Continental. Senior Danny Long is back as one of the top guards in the league while veteran coach Dean Behrens has to replace the leadership of Zach Muredda, Joe Moletierre and Joe Unangst.
Last year, the PCL dominated on the state level, winning the AA, AAA and AAAA boys’ state titles. The league is again loaded and Archbishop Wood is hoping to make its move to the top tier this season. Coach John Mosco has been building a strong foundation in Warminster and with Army-bound point guard Tommy Funk leading the show, the Vikings have reason to believe they can.
Likewise, La Salle is hoping to continue its stay among the top of the AAAA schools in the PCL. The Explorers have to replace three talented seniors but they’ve shown an ability to retool on the fly. Down a few classes, Lansdale Catholic returns a number of players off last year’s young team with eyes on making noise at the AA level.
Districts I and 12 often kick out numerous college-level basketball players and this season is shaping up to be no different. Cal Reichwein, recently signed to Lafayette, leads a potential-laden group at CB West that took its first steps toward contention last year. Chuck Kornegay takes over at Souderton, bringing years of college, professional and coaching experience to a Big Red team that was a playoff squad a year ago.
The SOL American features a trio of teams in Upper Dublin, Wissahickon and Cheltenham trying to retool as they chase Plymouth-Whitemarsh for a conference title. The Cardinals will be shorthanded to start the season thanks to the football team’s remarkable year while the Trojans and Panthers are hoping to replace some impact seniors quickly.
Germantown Academy is looking to defend its three-peat in the Inter-Ac and as usual, coach Jim Fenerty has a lot of talented players back in the gym. The longtime coach does have to replace his top two scorers but with Devon Goodman, Gabe Alter, Joe Stinson and Kyle McCloskey back, he has the pieces to work with.
In the BAL, Jenkintown is banking on the potential of 1,000 point scorer Colin Mulvaney and a number of key seniors around him. Phil-Mont has versatile senior Sean Griffin back to anchor both sides of the ball for Glenn Dolton.
BAL tournament champ Lower Moreland brings back a lot, though losing Matt Cerruti to transfer hurts. Coach Seth Baron does have senior Danny Duffy, who is closing in on 1,000 points to run his high octane system while Nick Smolda can heat up in a matter of minutes from outside.
Nothing is determined in the preseason but if these teams can capitalize on their potential, it could be another year with a lot of playoff bids
Last season: 26-4, 14-0 SOL National. SOL tournament champion, District I AAAA champion, PIAA first round
Key losses: Matt Penecale, Amir Hinton, Brendan Gallagher, Jake Porter
Players to watch: Robbie Heath, BJ James, Jack Steinman, Brian Close
Outlook: It’s a time of transition for Charles Grasty’s Galloping Ghosts. Coming off the program’s first district title since 1986, Abington must replace mainstay guards Penecale (West Chester) and Hinton (Lock Haven). Sophomore Robbie Heath now takes over the reins of an offense that should feature plenty of size up front. It may take a few weeks to find an identity, but Grasty’s team are always a threat by the end of the season.
Last season: 10-16, 4-4 FSL
Key Losses: Darryl Bryant, Payton Johnson
Players to watch: Quadir Phillips, Xander Pendelton, Markus Stevenson
Outlook: The Lions are in a retooling mode after losing a handful of impact seniors, including two college players in Bryant and Johnson. Injuries hurt ANC early last season but it still made some noise in the postseason. Staying in one piece will be critical for a relatively young team as it tries to build chemistry through the opening weeks of the season.
Last season: 18-6, 8-5 PCL
Key Losses: Luke Connaghan
Players to watch: Tom Funk, Matt Cerruti
Outlook: The Vikings have been steadily improving in recent years and seemed poised for a breakout season in the PCL this year. One of the few teams to beat powerhouse Roman Catholic last year, Wood is led by Army-bound Tom Funk. Coach John Mosco is building a program at Wood and with Funk and Lower Moreland transfer Cerruti in the backcourt, has a team that could contend with the Catholic League heavyweights.
Last season: 6-16, 1-12 PCL
Key Losses: Jayson Clark, Emanuel Folkes, Fateem Jackson, Isaiah Brooks
Players to Watch: Chris Moore (SR guard), Peter Sholanke (JR forward)
Outlook: The Royal Lancers have a lot to replace with the graduation of seven seniors off last year’s team. Qadir Burgess is a solid athlete who’s able to put points on the board while Chris Moore and Peter Sholanke have varsity experience.
Last season: 17-7, 10-4 SOL Continental
Key Losses: Nico Munari, Owen Cooney
Players to Watch: Cal Reichwein (SR guard), Luke Irons (SR guard), Connor Lynch
Outlook: Cal Reichwein, recently signed to Lafayette, leads a talent group of Bucks looking to build off a promising 2014-15 season.
Outlook: The Bucks enter the season looking like a team capable of making some noise in the conference and the district scene. Reichwein, a Lafayette commit, leads the squad while Luke Irons is the steady had an point guard. Coach Adam Sherman has some experience pieces to work with and the Continental always manages to keep things interesting all season.
Last season: 12-11, 9-5 SOL American
Key losses: Faatir Al-Ahad
Players to watch: Justin Sutton (SR forward), Khalil White (SR guard), Anthony White (SR guard)
Outlook: The high point of the Panthers season was a stirring upset of Plymouth-Whitemarsh but they were never able to find consistency through the season. Still, senior Faatir Al-Ahad and coach John Timms led the team into the playoffs. Al-Ahad, a do-it-all player, is gone, but post man Justin Sutton is back while Anthony and Khalil White add a potent shooters on the outside. There is a senior-heavy presence with this team looking for a playoff run.
Last season: 9-16, 6-9 BAL Presidents
Key Losses: Tarrell Willis, Brennan Addley, Sean Hinson
Players to Watch: Jared Exler, Max Howald, Justin Burkholder
Outlook: Mike Fergus returns for his second season at Dock having to replace three key starters in Addley, Willis and Hinson. Long range specialist Jared Exler begins his first full season with the team while Burkholder adds more outside shooting. Replacing the three seniors is a tough task, but Fergus has plenty of experience to fall back on and a balanced lineup to work with.
Last season: 22-6, 9-1 Inter-Ac. Inter-Ac champion
Key Losses: Tim Guers (St. Anselm’s); Sam Lindgren (Colgate University)
Players to Watch: Senior starters – Devon Goodman (Penn Commit); Gabe Alter (Colgate Commit); Joe Stinson (NYU Commit) Junior Starters – Kyle McCloskey, Evan-Eric Longino
Outlook: Coming off a third straight Inter-Ac title, GA coach Jim Fenerty has plenty of talent and experience back again this winter. The key will be finding who steps up to fill the roles of leading scorer after the graduations of Guers and Lindgren. GA always plays a tough schedule and with Fenerty in charge, the Patriots will play good basketball.
Last season: 12-15, 6-8 BAL Constitution
Key Losses: Jamie Griffin,
Players to watch: Colin Mulvaney (SR forward), Frank Sobolewski (SR guard), Andres Madden (SR guard), Jameson Kolb (JR guard)
Outlook: The Drakes found their stride late in the season, advancing to the district title game and making the state tournament. Centerpiece Colin Mulvaney, already a 1,000-point scorer, is back for coach Wes Emme, as are a number of other key pieces. Emme stresses the fundamentals and his teams are always a tough time for whoever steps on the floor against them.
Last season: 11-12, 6-8 SOL Continental
Key Losses: Walter Kimble
Players to Watch: Zeke Sloan, Joe Russell, Brian McEachern, Clifton Moore
Outlook: The Hatters return some core pieces off a district playoff team from last season. Playing in the tough Continental, the Hatters will need to be stout defensively and take care of the ball on offense. Second-year coach Ed Enoch has some long and springy athletes on the back line and his guards are all hustle players. Floating at or above .500 in league play is critical for a playoff return.
Last season: 21-7, 9-4
Key Losses: Sean Witherspoon, David Krimpotich, Najee Walls
Key Returnees: Jarrod Stukes, Shane Stark, Ryan McTamney, Matt Paulus
Outlook: Explorers coach Joe Dempsey again must replace a big chunk of his team, with 75 percent of scoring gone between nine graduates. But La Salle has been a mainstay in the state playoffs the last few years and Dempsey is setting that as the bar once again. Shane Stark is the lone returning starter, so it’ll be some work in progress settling on a rotation around him. The PCL is always tough, but Dempsey has proven he can navigate a team through it, not matter the level of experience.
Last season: 5-17, 2-11 PCL
Players to Watch: Dan Modestine (SR guard), Tyler Grant (SR forward), Mike Ottoman (JR guard)
Outlook: Joe Corbett takes over at Lansdale Catholic with a group committed to working hard and getting better every day in practice and in games. While they haven’t taken the floor together in a game that counts yet, Corbett has been extremely pleased with the leadership from his veteran players including Dan Modestine and Tyler Grant. The Crusaders will be counting on a number of younger players to step in and contribute right away and those players will be challenged by a tough league and nonconference slate. However, Corbett hopes his team can continue improving through the season and all signs so far point to that happening.
Last season: 25-2, 14-0 BAL Independence
Key Losses: Phil Madden, Matt Cerruti
Players to Watch: Danny Duffy (SR guard), Nick Smolda (SR guard), Dicky Rhoads (SR G/F)
Outlook: A brilliant season for the Lions was brought to a heartbreaking end in the district final. Still, coach Seth Baron has a lot of horses back from his up-tempo team that blitzed its way to a BAL tournament title. Matt Cerruti’s transfer to Wood is a big hit, but senior Danny Duffy is on the cusp of 1,000 points and 500 assists and he has plenty of shooters to share the wealth with.
Last season: 11-12, 6-8 SOL Continental
Key Losses: Joey Richards (University of Wilmington), Jared Melone, Kyle Hulmes, Cordell Lord
Players to watch: JJ Melchior (SR guard), Matt Pickford (SR guard), Derek Heiserman (JR forward), Ricky Johns (JR forward)
Outlook: A last-second shot away from a massive district upset, the Knights enter the season with a couple of holes to plug in a tough conference. North Penn has good size across the board with 6-foot-5 Heiserman and 6-foot-4 Johns up front and Melchior a 6-foot-3 sharpshooter outside. The Knights are hoping they can be in the mix for an SOL title this year and once the football players catch up, they look like they could do it.
Last season: 25-5, 13-1 SOL Continental. PIAA second round
Key Losses: Zach Muredda, Joe Molettiere, Joe Unangst, James White
Players to Watch: Danny Long (SR guard), Stephen Lowry, Kyle Yoder, Ryan Cuthbert
Outlook: Off the most successful season in school history, Rams coach Dean Behrens has to replace some program mainstays in Muredda, Molettiere and Unangst. Luckily Danny Long is back to ease the ride. Senior Max Wagner (6-foot-7) has some size but like usual, the Rams will be undersized. Behrens pointed to defense, outworking opponents on the glass and not being satisfied with last year as the keys to the season.
Last season: 21-7, 11-3
Key Losses: Osaze Thornton
Players to watch: Sean Griffin (SR forward), Noah Baldez (SR forward), Matt Sieiger, Ethan Steiger
Outlook: The Falcons saw their terrific regular season come to an end with some postseason frustrations. A loss in the BAL tournament title game and in the district tournament denied coach Glenn Dolton and his group a chance for a state bid. Phil-Mont does have a wealth of skill coming back, notably versatile forward Sean Griffin and guard Noah Baldez.
Last season: 4-18, 1-13 SOL American
Key Losses: Sean Stovall, Christian Yoast, Brendan Dugan
Players to Watch: Justin Hill (SR guard), Larry Clark (SR forward), Ryan Daley (JR G/F), Quentin Johnson (SO forward), Ian Frasca (SR forward)
Outlook: The Spartans will be looking to be more competitive in the SOL this season under second year coach Gary Nolan. Sean Stovall’s departure leaves a void for a scorer to step up while Justin Hill is back to lead the offense. Quentin Johnson had nice moments as a freshman while a few other role players will take on more responsibility.
Last Season: 13-10, 9-5 SOL Continental
Key Losses: Evan Slone
Players to Watch: Ty Salone (SR guard), Tracy Simsick (SR G/F),
Outlook: Big Red opens 2015 coming off a playoff bid with a new coach at the head of the bench. Chuck Kornegay, a former standout at Villanova, takes over a team that hopes to be a contender in the SOL Continental and district scene. Evan Slone (Arcadia) is a big loss, but slasher Tracy Simsick and point guard Ty Salone are experienced and should help their new coach settle in.
Last season: 14-9, 10-4 SOL American
Key Losses: Matt Thompson, Luke Teesdale,
Players to Watch: John Barrett (SR guard), Ryan Stover (SR forward), Gary Fields (SR forward), Will Derr (SR forward)
Outlook: Coach Josh Adelman faces a unique situation to start the season. A couple of his key players are still fighting it out on the gridiron, so the Cardinals will be a bit shorthanded to start the season. One thing UD can count on is its depth, and Adelman is optimistic his guys can hold the fort until Fields, Barrett, Stover and Co. return. Simeon Fryer’s transfer to PW means UD needs to find a go-to scorer as well.
Last season: 7-16, 3-11 SOL American
Key Losses: James Martin
Players to watch: Brendan O’Donnell (SR guard), Shane Stone (JR forward), Casey Decker (JR guard), Ryan Coyle (SO guard)
Outlook: While the loss of Martin is big, the Golden Bears bring back a lot of youth for second-year boss Matt Heiland. UM was able to get into the District I AAA playoffs last year when the No. 8 seed opted out, but their goal this season is to qualify on their own merit. Last year was a progress through the season, so the Bears will look to get off to a faster start.
Last season: 13-10, 10-4 SOL American
Key Losses: Todd Bentley, Jake Segal, Ron Brundage, Stephen Driscoll
Players to watch: Tre Holcomb (SR guard), Yondell Dudley (SR forward)
Outlook: The Trojans scrapped their way into the district playoffs as the final team in the AAAA field. With a big number of seniors lost to graduation, coach Kevin Wilson will have a bit of a rebuild on his hands this year. Wissahickon didn’t have one big scorer, but its balanced style means there’s still a lot of points that need to be replaced on a young team.
Last season: 7-15, 6-8 SOL National
Key Losses: Kevin Simonsen, Nick Clark
Players to watch: John Ryan (SR forward)
Outlook: The Panthers are hoping this is the time they can make a breakthrough in the SOL National. John Ryan returns off a strong junior season, though he will need some help with the departures of Simonsen and Clark. Getting off to a fast start in nonleague is critical, especially with perennial heavyweights Pennsbury and Abington waiting in the SOL.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply