who 2 watch
preseason player of the year
6-1, Sr., G
players to watch
6-3, Sr., G, 23.4 ppg
6-5, Sr., F, 11.2 ppg
6-6, Sr., F, 18.8 ppg
6-2, Sr., G, 17.8 ppg
6-1, Sr., G, 15.6 ppg
1. Chartiers Valley (25-3)
The Colts move back to Class AAAA should be smooth despite returning one starter.
2. North Allegheny (22-5)
With four lettermen returning, the Tigers should return to the top of Section 3.
3. Hempfield (21-3)
The section champion Spartans return three starters: Harrell, Tony Pilato, Logan Swan.
4. Bethel Park (18-7)
G Joey Mascaro is one of four starters back for the Black Hawks in tough Section 4.
5. Gateway (14-11)
New coach Daryn Freedman has talent returning led by Dom Fultz, Harris and Aiden Howard.
6. Mt. Lebanon (11-11)
The Blue Devils return SG David and 6-8 F Pat Ehland.
7. Pine-Richland (9-12)
The Rams have a new coach, Jeff Ackermann, and return three starters, plus 6-5 freshman Phil Jurkovec.
8. Plum (18-4)
The Section 2 champions return three starting guards, led by junior James Edwards.
9. Latrobe (12-10)
The Wildcats are without G Matt Cullen for the year (knee) but return seven lettermen.
10. Penn Hills (6-16)
The Indians were a young team but are expected to compete in Section 2.
With the return of senior guard Kason Harrell (23.4 ppg) and forwards Tony Pilato (6-8) and Logan Swan (6-5), the Spartans hope to make another run at section title. It won't be easy. Despite losing all-section guard Matt Cullen (14.2 ppg) to a season-ending injury, Latrobe still returns seven lettermen. Kiski Area is led by senior guard Mike Simmons (20.4 ppg), and Norwin returns senior guard Curtis Perz (15.6 ppg) and the Deri brothers (Logan and Peyton).
New Gators coach Daryn Freedman promises a new style of basketball. He's counting on Dom Fultz, Daylon Harris and Aiden Howard to shine. Returning section champion Plum lost leading scorer Austin Dedert (14.5 ppg) but returns a trio of talented guards, led by James Edwards. Penn Hills (DeAndre Schifino), Franklin Regional (Todd Summers), McKeesport (Khali Purdue) and Fox Chapel (Bill Urso) all have talented lineups.
The Tigers and the rest of the section will benefit from PIAA and WPIAL champion New Castle and runner-up Hampton dropping to Class AAA. NA returns four lettermen, led by seniors Cole Constantino and Will Sandherr. Freshman Curtis Aiken Jr. also should contribute. Pine-Richland returns Ben DiNucci (14.0), G Paul Nussbaum and F Andrew Petcash. Seneca Valley returns Zach Snyder (18.8 ppg), and Central Catholic is back after two seasons in Section 2.
The Colts move up from Class AAA where they reached the finals in 2014. G Matty McConnell (21.8 ppg) is the lone starter back, but Eddie Fohr and Ross Wilkerson should be big contributors. Bethel Park returns G Joe Mascaro (16.8 ppg). Mt. Lebanon is led by G Johnny David and forwards Pat Ehland (6-8) and Matt Hoffman (6-5), who returns after sitting out his junior season. Defending section champion Upper St. Clair doesn't return a starter for the first time in coach Dan Holzer's career.
Kason Harrell remembers the good times and bad times of the 2013-14 basketball season.
The good times included a 14-0 record in Section 1, a 21-3 overall mark and being part of Hempfield’s first playoff win since 2003.
But as fun as the victory against Mt. Lebanon was, the 82-59 loss to North Allegheny in the next round was not.
“It was really disappointing, first of all to lose and second of all to get blown out like that,” Harrell said. “As I walked off the court and I was talking to the junior teammates, I told them I never want to feel that feeling again.
“It was great to finally get past that first step. It probably shouldn’t be forgotten.”
Harrell, who averaged 23.4 points last season, has signed a letter of intent to play at Division I IPFW.
Now the 6-foot-3 senior guard can focus on leading Hempfield to another section title and a deeper run in the playoffs. To do that, 6-8 senior Tony Pilato and 6-5 Logan Swan, coach Bill Swan’s son, have to become bigger scoring threats.
Swan returns as Hempfield’s coach after a five-year absence. He replaced Mark Marino, who lasted one season after replacing Jim Nesser, who originally replaced Swan.
“Everybody’s attention will be on Kason,” Coach Swan said. “We have two very good players in Tony and Logan. We’re working with Tony to improve his game. And we’re working with Logan trying to make him an offensive threat. The better Logan and Tony are, the better Kason will be.”
He likes the improvement of senior Zach Irwin and the play of juniors Chris Clayton and Dante Luther already. Two potential starters — Jay Flock and Mitch Golden — are sidelined with injuries.
“If we can find three or four guys to play hard and play their roles, we’ll be OK,” Swan said. “We’ll find them.”
Swan’s past teams found success through playing good defense. That approach won’t change.
“The greatest compliment I ever received was from former Latrobe coach Ray Zsolcsak,” Swan said. “He said, ‘You’re the closest team I’ve seen that played like we used to.’ That means the world to me.
“If you play hard on the defensive end, I think you’ll always have a chance.”
Harrell agreed: “It’s going to take a lot of hard work. We’re going to need a lot of young guys to step up. They’re getting a lot better in practice, and it’s going to take heart.”
Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.