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2021 Mercury Boys Basketball Team-by-Team Preview

Boyertown

Boyertown’s Tre Diguglielmo (22) shoots a three against Upper Merion. (Owen McCue – MediaNews Group)

Head Coach: Mike Ludwig, 11th season

Last Year’s Record: 6-4 Liberty, 11-5 PAC, 16-8 overall (PAC Final Six, District 1-6A first round)

Players to Watch: Tre Diguglielmo, Sr., F; Aarick Salata, Sr., G; Chris Kiefer, Sr., F; David Leh, Sr., G/F; Christian Renninger, Sr., G; Eddie Higgins, Jr., F; Griffin Hummel, Jr., G; Roman Marinello, Jr., G; Ryan Schafer, Jr., F; Jordan Butler, Jr., G; Jake Kapp, So., G

Outlook: The Bears return four starters from a squad that broke a five-year PAC playoff drought last season and put together the program’s best season in 13 years. Senior guard Aarick Salata (9.3 ppg) has been with the varsity team since his freshman year and watched Boyertown climb up toward the top of the league hierarchy. He and senior Tre Diguglielmo (12.6 ppg) will lead the senior-laden group that also includes senior forwards Chris Kiefer (4 ppg) and David Leh (6.2 ppg), who missed the latter part of last season with an injury. The Bears’ 2020 class has been building toward this season over the last four years. Boyertown’s size and experience should make the Bears one of the favorites in Liberty Division and the league this season.

Coach’s Thoughts: “Our versatility on offense and ability to defend at a high level will help us compete on a nightly basis,” Mike Ludwig said. “We have older guys looking to leave their mark on our program and younger guys pushing them, leading to a highly competitive environment.”

Daniel Boone

Head Coach: Craig Tranovich, first season

Last Year’s Record: 0-10 Berks I, 2-20 overall

Players to Watch: Larnell Towson, Sr., C; Dalton Cymbalski, Sr., G; Colton Yenser, Sr., F; Mahmood Hashamy, Jr., G; Michael Gregos, Sr., F; Nate Tindall, Sr., F; Ahmad Hashamy, Jr., G

Outlook: The Blazers remain in rebuilding mode after a third straight winless league season and with a new coaching staff. They will build around senior center Larnell Towson, the top returning scorer in the division, who averaged 15 points per game as a junior. Otherwise Boone’s lineup is lacking in experience and size. A drop to Berks Division II level should favor Boone this year, but the Blazers will have a tough go of it in crossover games.

Methacton

Head Coach: Pat Lockard, first season

Methacton’s Brett Byrne, center, puts up a shot as Council Rock South’s Michael Stewart, left, and Luca Baratta defend in a District 1-6A playoff game. (Owen McCue – MediaNews Group)

Last Year’s Record: 10-0 Liberty, 16-0 PAC, 28-2 overall (PAC Champion, District 1-6A Champion, PIAA Class 6A quarterfinals)

Players to Watch: Ryan Baldwin, Sr., F/C; Steve Penjuke, Sr., G/F; Mike Merola, Sr., G; Jason Price, Sr., G; Brett Byrne, Jr., G; Cole Hargrove, Jr., F; Matt Christian, So., G

Outlook: Methacton replaced longtime coach Jeff Derstine with first-year head coach Pat Lockard, who’s been an assistant with the program for the last nine years. He has a tough act to follow of the departure of the class of 2020, which put together the two best seasons in program history over the last two years, winning three straight PAC titles, a District 1 championship and making two PIAA quarterfinal runs. Juniors Brett Byrne (5.7 ppg) and Cole Hargrove (4.6 ppg) both had big games during the Warriors’ District 1-6A title run last year, demonstrating the ability to be impact players. Senior forward Ryan Baldwin is the only other returner with significant varsity action. Expectations will obviously be altered from last year’s squad, which had eyes on a state title before the winter sports championships were cancelled, but if Byrne and Hargrove can continue where they left off and others find their way early, the Warriors should still be in the mix for a division/league title this season.

Coach’s Thoughts: “Our versatility on the offensive end will be a strength for us,” Pat Lockard said. “Most of our lineups will include interchangeable parts that can fill many roles on offense. Our guys saw the value of cohesiveness from last year’s team, so they understand the importance of sticking together and playing as a team.”

Owen J. Roberts

Head Coach: Bill Detweiler, second season

Last Year’s Record: 1-9 Liberty, 2-14 PAC, 4-18 overall

Players to Watch: Brody Bolyn, Sr., C; Chase Johnson, Sr., F; Sam Cerimele, Sr., G/F; Jake Bolyn, So., G; Luke Fryer, Fr., G; Preston Brindle, Jr., F
Outlook: The Wildcats graduated three of their top four scorers from last year’s squad, but second-year coach Bill Detweiler hopes his 2021 group can get the program trending in the right direction. Senior guard Sam Cerimele (5.1 ppg), forward Brody Bolyn (4.5 ppg) and forward Chase Johnson (3.7 ppg) saw plenty of action last year and will hope to lead this group. A few youngsters will also see significant action, giving a glimpse to what the future has in store for the Wildcats.

Coach’s Outlook: “I would like to see us get out of the gate strong,” Bill Detweiler said. “We have three tough games to start the season and that should give us an early gauge of where we are as compared to the rest of the league. But we are going to be a work in progress so I believe with experience we will be competitive. … With 3 seniors back and a good crop of young players the future is bright at OJR.”

Perkiomen Valley

Head Coach: Mike Poysden, ninth season

Last Year’s Record: 1-9 Liberty, 5-11 PAC, 8-14 overall

Players to Watch: Tyler Lapetina, Sr., G; Kameron Parks, Sr., G; Aidan Gansz, Sr., F; Ethan Kohler, Jr., F; Debebe Dawson, Jr., F

Outlook: The inexperienced Vikings had an unusual struggle last season winning just one division game. However, PV is poised for a bounce back year in 2021 with just one senior gone from last year’s team. Senior guard Tyler Lapetina (13.9 ppg) is the third-leading returning scorer in the PAC; senior forward Kameron Parks (9 ppg) was a contributor on PV’s state playoff team two seasons ago; and senior forward Aidan Gansz (7.2 ppg) was an all-league selection last year. PV made strides throughout last season and was on the wrong side of a number of close games. The Vikings should find themselves back in the mix this season.

Phoenixville’s Will Allain (13) goes up for a layup. (Owen McCue – MediaNews Group)

Phoenixville

Head Coach: Eric Burnett, seventh season

Last Year’s Record: 8-2 Frontier, 9-7 PAC, 14-12 overall (PAC semifinals, District 1-5A first round)

Players to Watch: Mike Memmo, Sr., G; Will Allain, Sr., G; Kade Breisblatt, Sr., G; Jackson Brutsche, Sr., F/C; Jared Orsatti, Sr., G; Elijah Martin, Sr., G; Josh Warren, Sr. F; Zavier Mayo, Jr., G/F; Jackson Kuranda, Jr., G; Chris Weiah, Jr., C; Gabe Massenburg, Jr., C

Outlook: Even with the departure of Steven Hamilton, the Phantoms should have one of the best returning backcourts in the league with seniors Mike Memmo (14 ppg, 50 threes) and Will Allain (8 ppg). Junior forward Chris Weiah (7.2 ppg) is the other of the three starters back for the Phantoms, while senior Kade Breisblatt (18 threes) and junior Zavier Mayo were two of the team’s top reserves a season ago. Coach Eric Burnett is excited about his team’s depth with the growth of several players in the program and a few others rejoining the program. Phoenixville should be able to hang with everyone in the league and fight for a spot atop the Frontier division. The Phantoms are also looking for their first district playoff win since 2016.

Coach’s Outlook: “Our team must understand that we have a lot of depth in all of our positions,” Eric Burnett said. “We must learn to gel quickly as there are new pieces that are going to play valuable minutes. We want our defense to be our identity this season, so if we can exhaust ourselves on that end of the floor, we believe we will compete with anyone in the league.”

Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II’s Luke McCarthy, right, shoots a layup as Allentown Central Catholic’s Tyson Thomas watches in a PIAA Class 4A game. (Owen McCue – MediaNews Group)

Head Coach: Brendan Stanton, third season

Last Year’s Record: 9-1 Frontier, 13-3 PAC, 21-6 overall (PAC runner-up, District 1-4A champion, PIAA Class 4A quarterfinals)

Players to Watch: Justin Green, Sr., F; Kevin Green, Jr., G; Luke McCarthy, Sr., G; Jaden Workman, Jr., G; J.P. Baron, Jr., G; Liam Haffey, Sr., F

Outlook: Like Methacton, the Golden Panthers were interrupted in the midst of a historic playoff run last year. Unlike the Warriors, PJP returns four of its top five scorers and five of the top seven players in its rotation from a season ago. Senior wing Justin Green (12.8 ppg), Luke McCarthy (9.6 ppg), Jaden Workman (8.3 ppg) and Kevin Green (8.2 ppg) can all carry the scoring load for a team that’s prided itself on its chemistry and balance during coach Brendan Stanton’s first two seasons. Along with winning the Frontier Division, the Golden Panthers went 4-2 in crossover games a year ago before making their first PAC title appearance since their inaugural season in 2010-11. The 2021 group enters this season as the favorites in the Frontier again and possibly the PAC overall and has the potential to make another long postseason run in the Class 4A field.

Coach’s Outlook: “This is an experienced and focused group that is looking to build on the success we had last year,” Brendan Stanton said. “There is a lot of work to be done but the goal for this season is to try and win a PAC title and get back to the state tournament to finish what last year’s seniors started. Along the way, we want to enjoy every chance we get to practice and play together as a group. Our guys remember the way our season abruptly ended last year and we will not take these moments for granted.”

Pottsgrove

Head Coach: Jack Flanagan, fifth season

Last Year’s Record: 1-9 Frontier, 1-15 PAC, 2-20 overall

Players to Watch: Nick Stringer, Sr., F; Zion Dyches, Sr., G; James Thompson, Sr., G; Luke Kaiser, Sr., F; Manny Allen, Jr., G; John Ryan McMenamin, Jr., G

Outlook: After an exciting 2018-19 season that featured a trip to the state playoffs, the Falcons had very little experience at the varsity level in 2019-20 as many Pottsgrove players saw significant action for the first time. The good news for Pottsgrove is almost everyone is back as the Falcons return six of their top seven scorers from a year ago. Seniors Luke Kaiser (7.8 ppg), Zion Dyches (7.4 ppg), James Thompson (6 ppg) and Nick Stringer (5.5 ppg) and juniors John Ryan McMenamin (4.8 ppg) and Manny Allen (3.5 ppg) should help Pottsgrove make great strides in 2021 in the group’s second full season playing together at the varsity level.

Coach’s Outlook: “This year’s team is excited to get out on the practice floor every day and get better to establish an identity that will make the Pottsgrove School District proud,” Jack Flanagan said. “Moreover, as a basketball program, we are extremely grateful to all of those people that have been going above and beyond to ensure that we have a season. We look forward to showing our gratitude to all of the administrators, teachers, staff, and essential workers in a multitude of ways but most easily expressed by our commitment to working hard, working smart, and working together … on the court, in the classroom, and in our respective communities.”

Pottstown

Head coach: Scott Palladino, third season (13th overall)

Last year’s record: 5-5 Frontier Division, 6-10 PAC, 9-13 Overall

Players to Watch: Corey Cottman, Sr., G; Darius Smallwood, Sr., F; Jahzeel Watson, Sr., G/F; John Toussaint, Sr., F; Christian Albert , Sr., G; Gage Sibilly, Jr., G; Isaiah Agusto, Jr., G; Nyles Bunn-McNeill, So., F; Joneil Oister, So., G; Rashean Bostic, So., G; Terryce Phillips, So., F

Outlook: While the Trojans graduated their top three scorers and the majority of their offensive production from a year ago, they still bring back a strong group of returners. Senior point guard Corey Cottman (5 ppg) has a year under his belt running the offense and junior Gage Sibilly gives Pottstown another experienced guard in the backcourt. Senior forwards Jahzeel Watson (4.5 ppg) and Darius Smallwood (5.5 ppg) give Pottstown some length, athleticism and scoring ability. The key for Pottstown will be having a handful of its less experienced players break out and make significant contributions.

Coach’s Thoughts: “Without being allotted a true off-season we will be looking to get better each day at practice,” Scott Palladino said. “We will be relying on some young guys to step into some big roles so we understand there could be some growing pains. We will look to be competitive on a nightly basis. … Our young guys are going to have to mature quickly, while we will rely heavily on our seniors for leadership and also to do the bulk of the scoring.”

Spring-Ford’s Zack Skrocki (10) shoots over Pope John Paul II’s Kevin Green. (Owen McCue – MediaNews Group)

Spring-Ford

Head Coach: Chris Talley, eighth season

Last Year’s Record: 7-3 Liberty, 12-4 PAC, 17-10 overall (PAC semifinals, District 1-6A second round)

Players to Watch: Zack Skrocki, G; Nate Santiago, Sr. F/G; Tyler Irby, Sr., G; Gavin Schauder, Jr., F; Jake Kressley, Jr., F

Outlook: Spring-Ford graduated three of its top four scorers from last year’s team, which won one game in both the PAC and District 1 playoffs. Senior guard Zack Skrocki (10.2 ppg) is one of the most experienced point guards in the PAC, while senior wing Nate Santiago (24 threes) and junior forward Jake Kressley (4.8 ppg) were significant contributors in 2019-20. Though they may lack some of the overall experience of other teams around the league, it’s hard to doubt the Rams as they seem to reload every year, making five straight PAC postseason appearances and seven straight trips to the district playoffs.

Coach’s Outlook: “In order for us to find success we will need to adapt, adjust and learn on the fly,” Chris Talley said. “With limited practices, our team will need to watch film and adjust as the season unfolds. Senior leadership will be key from Skrocki and Santiago as we navigate through an atypical season.”

Upper Merion

Head Coach: Jason Quenzer, eighth season

Last Year’s Record: 6-4 Frontier, 10-6 PAC, 11-11 overall (PAC Final 6, District 1-5A first round)

Players to Watch: Lukas Kim, Sr., G; Ty Jones, Jr., G; Collin Bowman, Jr., G; Madison Tatom, So., G; Frank Herman, Sr., F

Outlook: Injuries led to a slow start for Upper Merion in 2019-20, but the Vikings became red hot down the stretch to break a two-year absence from the PAC playoffs. Despite losing their second- and third-leading scorers, the Vikings bring back one of the more experienced rosters in the PAC as injuries forced a lot of UM players into action last season. Junior Ty Jones (10.4 ppg), freshman guard Madison Tatom (8.1 ppg), junior Collin Bowman (7.7 ppg) and Lukas Kim (6.7 ppg) are all capable of carrying the scoring load on a given night. The guard-heavy Vikings certainly have one of the deepest backcourts in the league and the dynamic group should make Upper Merion contenders in the Frontier with a chance to compete for a league title as well after going 4-2 against Liberty Division opponents in 2020-21.

Coach’s Thoughts: “We are a guard heavy team with a lot of speed and length that will help us on the defensive side of the floor. This is also a very tight-knit group with some great senior leadership that will really help us stay mentally prepared for anything. … Our goal is to get on the floor and demand the best from each other every day. Our guys would like to get over the hump of our first round exits in the past few years.”

Upper Perkiomen

Head Coach: Brandon Hibbler, second season

Last Year’s Record: 1-9 Frontier, 2-14 PAC, 4-18 overall

Players to Watch: Jack Cupitt, Sr., G/F; Nick Aaron, Jr., G; Adam Shaak, Jr., G/F; Dustin Hurlbrink, Jr., C; Isaac Wallace, Jr., F/C

Outlook: Upper Perk has had a tough go of things in the PAC the past two seasons, combing for just two Frontier wins. The departure of Hunter Flack (12.6 ppg), a Division 1 track and recruit who is focusing on track after missing last season, certainly makes things more difficult, but the Indians have four contributors back from last year’s squad. Junior point guard Nick Aaron (3.2 ppg) will run the show, with senior Jack Cupitt (2.3 ppg) and junior Adam Shaak with him in the backcourt and junior big man Dustin Hurlbrink (1.5 ppg) down low. The Indians have just two seniors and 19 underclassmen in the program, so the goals this season will be to improve throughout the year.

Coach’s Thoughts: “We have nice size this season with a true big guy in the middle,” Brandon Hibbler said. “We also have two or three guys who can shoot it when needed. We are athletic and will be looking to get up and down when needed. Defense has been our focus. Our best strength is our guys are all in. They are committed to getting better everyday. We are really building for the future.”

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