WVC Boys Basketball Season Preview Capsules

By John Erzar - [email protected] | December 17th, 2017 7:31 pm

Note: Teams are listed in order of predicted finish.

DIVISION 1

1. HAZLETON AREA

Coach: Mike Joseph

2016-17 WVC record: 15-1 Div. 1, 1st; 21-4 overall

2016-17 postseason: D2/4-6A Playoffs – Scranton, W 68-62; Williamsport, L 64-56. D2-6A Championship – Delaware Valley, W 64-56

State classification: 6A

Key players lost: Michael Cusatis; Nolan Genasevich

Key players: Joey Grula, 6-5, Sr.; Adrian Otero, 6-2, Sr.; Jeffrey Planutis, 6-5, Sr.; Josh Samec, 6-8, Sr.; Scott Shamany, 6-2, Sr.; Da’Mir Faison, 6-5, Jr.; Sparky Wolk, 5-11, Jr.

Outlook: The Cougars should pick up where they left off last season. Planutis (15.6 ppg), Grula (10.6) and Samec (10.5) are not only big but have 3-point range. Faison (11.2) looked good when given the opportunity. Finding a new point guard and perhaps a couple bench pieces will be the main issues, but the Cougars should be able to solve those.

2. CRESTWOOD

Coach: Mark Atherton

2016-17 WVC record: 12-4 Div. 1, 2nd; 16-8 overall

2016-17 postseason: D2-5A Playoffs – Pittston Area, W 44-31; West Scranton, L 41-38 3OT

State classification: 5A

Key players lost: Nick Andrews; Lance Blass; Kyle Gegaris; Noah Jackson; Kyle Richards

Key players: Corey Chalk, 6-1, Sr.; Kevin Klusewitz, 5-10, Sr.; Evan Knapp, 6-2, Sr.; Camden Boris, 6-1, Jr.; Frank Casarella, 5-11, Jr.; Jimmy Curry, 5-11, Jr.; Sean Murphy, 5-9, Jr.; Don Shaw, 6-5, So.; Ryan Petrosky, 5-11, Fr.

Outlook: Klusewitz (6.1 ppg) is the only player back who has significant varsity experience, although a few others made cameos at that level. Size will be raw as most of the height is in the lower grades and lacks varsity time. The Comets, though, will be tough nonetheless because they play some of the best defense in the WVC annually.

3. DALLAS

Coach: Mark Belenski

2016-17 WVC record: 7-9 Div. 1, 4th; 12-12 overall

2016-17 postseason: D2-5A Playoffs – Wyoming Valley West, W 75-70; Abington Heights, L 61-42

State classification: 5A

Key players lost: Ben Donahue; Collin Pertl; Ethan Szczencinski

Key players: Jay Bittner, 6-0, Sr.; Alex Charlton, 6-2. Sr.; Nick Kocher, 6-4, Sr.; Matt Mathers, 6-2, Sr.; Joey Parsons, 6-3, Sr.

Outlook: The Mountaineers have the experience and talent to turn some of those close losses in 2016-17 into victories. Bittner (15.6 ppg) is back after missing the latter part of last season. Parsons (10.7), Charlton (9.3) and Kocher (4.3) return as starters as well, giving Dallas a balanced attack. The Mountaineers, though, need to tighten things up on defense.

4. PITTSTON AREA

Coach: Alan Kiesinger

2016-17 WVC record: 3-13 Div. 1, 5th; 6-14 overall

2016-17 postseason: D2-5A Playoffs – Crestwood, L 44-31

State classification: 5A

Key players lost: Chris Klein; Mike Mazurkivich; Pat Mitchell

Key players: Naseem Guillaume, 5-1, Sr.; Alex McAndrew, 6-3, Sr.; Matt McGlynn, 6-3, Sr.; Brian Miller, 6-5, Sr.; Trevor Tigue, 5-8, Sr.; Kolton Zafutto, 5-9, Sr.; Keemar Woodruff, 6-0, Sr.

Outlook: The Patriots should be strong in the backcourt with McGlynn (5.6 ppg), Guillaume (8.6) and Woodruff (4.5) all returning. The offense should get a boost from McAndrew (11.6), who saw his season end six games into the WVC season due to an injury. The trouble spot could be in the paint where Pittston Area doesn’t have the size to bang with bigger opponents.

5. WYOMING VALLEY WEST

Coach: Rich Jones

2016-17 WVC record: 9-7 Div. 1, 3rd; 12-11 overall

2016-17 postseason: D2-5A Playoffs – Dallas, L 75-70

State classification: 5A

Key players lost: Aaron Austin; Noah France; Amistad Hackett; Sean Judge; Savion Sanders

Key players: Cortes Adams, 6-3, Sr.; Draig Ruff, 6-1, Sr.; Sammy Solomon, 6-3, So.; Issac Sosa, 5-10, So.; Mason Mendygral, 5-10, Fr.

Outlook: Ruff (15.6 ppg) is one of the most talented offensive players in the WVC. Unfortunately for the Spartans, he is the only starter back and will likely draw more attention. Adams and Solomon were starters on the football team’s defensive line, so they’ll bring an element of toughness inside. Neither, though, has much experience. In a bit of a rebuild mode.

6. COUGHLIN

Coach: Mike Day

2016-17 WVC record: 1-15 Div. 1, 6th; 2-20 overall

2016-17 postseason: Did not qualify

State classification: 5A

Key players lost: Charles Cobbs; Thomas Davis; Marco Deluca; Anthony Hinkle; Melvin Robinson

Key players: Dominique Flippen, Sr.; Aaron Bennett, Jr.; Tony Egidio, Jr.; Jahsim Hall, Jr.; Najeeb Bilal, So.; Shawn Valenzuela, So.; Matt Egidio, Fr.

Outlook: Aside from Flippen (7.7 ppg) and Bennett (4.6), there is very little varsity experience on the rosters. Nor do the Crusaders have the height to match up with many opponents. The offense was a problem last season as Coughlin was able to crack 50 points only three times. The Crusaders will have to outhustle opponents to overcome some shortcomings.

DIVISION 2

1. NANTICOKE

Coach: John Beggs

2016-17 WVC record: 12-5 Div. 2, 3rd; 21-8 overall

2016-17 postseason: D2-4A Playoffs – Wyoming Area, W 60-36; Scranton Prep, L 72-66 2OT; Meyers, W 57-46. PIAA 4A Playoffs – Bethlehem Catholic, W 58-56; Conwell-Egan, W 62-54; West Philadelphia, W 78-62; Imhotep, L 60-23

State classification: 4A

Key players lost: Luke Butczynski; Zack Cardone; Justin Casey; Cody Piestrak; Rich Wiaterowski; Matt Piontkowski (transferred to Holy Redeemer/declared ineligible)

Key players: Nate Kreitzer, Jr.; Trahjan Krupinski, Jr.; Dylan Szychowski, Jr.; Colby Butczynski, So.; Andy Kozlofski, So.; Jake Krupinski, Fr.

Outlook: The Trojans lost the bulk of their size, rebounding and scoring from a team which made it to the Class 4A state semifinals. They’ll lean heavily on two players, at least early on. Kreitzer (10.5 ppg) is a dynamic point guard who can drilled 3-pointers with ease. Trahjan Krupinski (5.3) really came on as a rebounder and inside defender last season. After those two, the questions are many.

2. GAR

Coach: Jerry Altavilla

2014-15 WVC record: 14-3 Div. 2, 2nd; 19-8 overall

2014-15 postseason: D2-4A Playoffs – Berwick, W 51-33; Meyers, W 57-51; Scranton Prep, L 64-46. PIAA 4A Playoffs – Selinsgrove, W 72-59; West Philadelphia, L 74-60

State classification: 4A

Key players lost: Andrew Campbell; Keyshawn Palmer; Herman Suazo (transferred to Cardinal O’Hara)

Key players: Mufee Burney, 5-11, Sr.; Anthony Hawk, 6-2, Sr.; Simon Peter, 5-7, Sr.; Khalil White, 5-10, Sr.; Will Johnson, 5-11, Jr.; Jared O’Day, 6-1, Jr.; Tyler Young, 5-11, Jr.; Khairi Carson, 5-10, So.; Eli Ruiz, 6-2, So.

Outlook: Johnson (18.2 ppg) gives GAR a tremendous ballhandler and shooter. He’ll be surrounded by a much smaller squad as the Grenadiers lost their rebounders to graduation and transfer. The team will compete for the division championship, but the strategy could be different with the Grenadiers pushing the ball more to make up for a lack of size.

3. TUNKHANNOCK

Coach: Spencer Lunger

2016-17 WVC record: 6-11 Div. 2, 6th; 10-13 overall

2016-17 postseason: D2-4A Playoffs – Scranton Prep, L 79-60

State classification: 4A

Key players lost: C.J. Brennan; Ethan Hoefert; Avery Newhart

Key players: Paul DeMarco, 5-9, Sr.; Matt Goodwin, 6-2, Sr.; Sean Harder, 6-2, Sr.; Evan Turner, 6-4, Sr.; Erik Bennett, 5-9, Jr.; Avery Billings, 6-8, Jr.; Tyler Faux, 5-11, Jr.; Jack Chilson, 6-5, Fr.; Ryan Harder, 5-10, Fr.

Outlook: Plenty of talent returns headed by Faux (10.7 ppg), Goodwin (4.6), Harder (10.2) and Turner (8.9). Billings brings size to the lineup. So it’s easy to see why coaches believe the Tigers can make a big jump in the win column and contend for the division. However, the offense needs to crank it up a notch. The lack of production was a big factor in an eight-game losing streak to end 2016-17.

4. MEYERS

Coach: Pat Toole

2016-17 WVC record: 15-2 Div. 2, 1st; 17-7 overall

2016-17 postseason: D2-4A Playoffs – Valley View, W 68-44; GAR, L 57-51; Nanticoke, L 57-46

State classification: 4A

Key players lost: Matt Dessoye; Robbie Formola; Ryan Gilgallon; Levaugh Soules

Key players: Juwane Buckner, 5-9, Sr.; Janssen Wilborn, 6-0, Sr.; Keegan Brewster, 6-0, Jr.; Kendall Brewster, 6-0, Jr.; Najese Hood, 6-3, Jr.; David Kasper, 6-3, Jr.; Blake Masker, 6-3, Fr.; Tanner Nilon, 5-6, Fr.; Cole Walker, 6-0, Fr.

Outlook: Buckner, the Times Leader Player of the Year last season, is back. The ball-handling wiz averaged 13.9 points. But after him there are plenty of unknowns. This is the most inexperienced Meyers team in a long, long time. There will be numerous growing pains, but expect the Mohawks to be much better when the playoffs roll around.

5. BERWICK

Coach: Jason Kingery

2016-17 WVC record: 10-7 Div. 2, 5th; 15-8 overall

2016-17 postseason: D2-4A Playoffs – GAR, L 51-33

State classification: 4A

Key players lost: Matthew Champ; Jude Goddard; Justin Groshek.

Key players: Damon Beckhorn, 6-0, Sr.; Alec Markle, 6-1, Sr.; Ken Marshman, 5-11, Sr.; Joe Norce, 6-3, Sr.; Zach Evans, 6-3, Jr.

Outlook: Kingery believes his backcourt of Marshman (4.6 ppg), Beckhorn (12.9) and Markle (10.2) is the best he’s had in 20 years of coaching. All can handle the ball and put up nice scoring numbers. The caveat is the Dawgs lost guys very capable of banging in the paint. Plus, depth is a concern so there are holes to fill in order to remain one of the WVC’s better programs.

6. WYOMING AREA

Coach: Pete Moses

2016-17 WVC record: 11-6 Div. 2, 4th; 16-7 overall

2016-17 postseason: D2-4A Playoffs – Nanticoke, L 60-36

State classification: 4A

Key players lost: Mike Bonita; Anthony Nardell; Tony Saitta; Ryan Shuleski

Key players: Sam Greenfield, Sr.; Dylan Melberger, Sr.; Matt Wright, Sr.; Steve Yordy, Sr.; Kyre Zielinski, Sr.; Aaron Zezza, Sr.; Dominic Deluca, So.

Outlook: The Warriors broke out of the gate with 10 consecutive wins last season then leveled off. Greenfield (12.6 ppg), Wright (3.8) and Zielinski (7.8) return as starters so the team should be competitive if it can find a few more pieces. In all likelihood, the Warriors will look a lot like last season with a balanced offense and solid defense. Nothing spectacular but nothing bad either.

DIVISION 3

1. HOLY REDEEMER

Coach: Paul Guido

2014-15 WVC record: 11-5 Div. 3, 1st; 18-9 overall

2014-15 postseason: D2-3A Playoffs – Montrose, W 51-38; Dunmore, W 60-34; Mid Valley, W 38-36. PIAA 3A Playoffs – World Communications, W 64-42; Neumann-Goretti, L 72-27

State classification: 3A

Key players lost: James Kosik; Joe Layou; Luke Nealon; Jason Stachokus.

Key players: Jake Adonizio, Sr.; Tucker Ell, Sr.; Joey Judge, Sr.; J.D. Turosky, Sr.; Bryce Yencha, Sr.; Derek Answini, Jr.; Collin Cook, Jr.; Nick Prociak, Jr.

Outlook: The defending D2-3A champs return three starters – point guard Judge (7.3 ppg), big man Prociak (9.0) and versatile Cook (9.6). Turosky and Yencha also saw varsity time, so filling in the remaining spots shouldn’t be too taxing. There might not be a go-to guy on the roster, but there is enough talent to make the Royals the divisional favorite.

2. WYOMING SEMINARY

Coach: C.J. Kersey

2016-17 WVC record: 9-7 Div. 2, 2nd; 13-10 overall

2016-17 postseason: D2-3A Playoffs – Carbondale, L 49-45

State classification: 3A

Key players lost: Johnny Kehl; Noah Munley

Key players: Tyler Maddock, 5-9, Sr.; Dan Paglia, 6-1, Sr.; Nicolas Bufalino, 5-10, Jr.; Nicholas Ganter, 6-4, Jr.; Dimitri Gnall, 6-2, Jr.; Jeremy Callahan, 5-11, So.; Todd Phillips, 6-3, So.; Ethan Meuser, 6-3, Fr.

Outlook: The Blue Knights came on strongly at the end of last season and have the pieces to pick up where they left off. Callahan (13.8 ppg) can score from anywhere. Gnall (13.6) proved to be a huge addition and Ganter (7.3) showed he could score. Maddock (4.9) is a steady backcourt player. Seminary appears to be Redeemer’s biggest threat for the division.

3. NORTHWEST

Coach: Dustin Babcock

2016-17 WVC record: 4-12 Div. 3, tied 3rd; 7-16 overall

2016-17 postseason: D2-2A Playoffs – Mountain View, L 46-40

State classification: 2A

Key players lost: Nick Levandowski; Mitchell Mazonkey; Jesse Tarnowski

Key players: Brandon Hardiman, 6-1, Sr.; Bryce Koser, 6-4, Jr.; Sam Saxe, 6-0, Jr.; Tyler Stevens, 5-10, Jr.; Jaxson Yaple, 5-10, Jr.; Matt Saxe, 5-10, So.; Walker Yaple, 5-10, So.; Matt Pierontoni, 5-9, Fr.

Outlook: The Rangers will be looking to take the next step in Babcock’s third year. Many of the players were forced into the starting lineup as freshmen, but that on-the-job-training should pay off. Sam Saxe (13.3 ppg) and Jaxson Yaple (10.3) are capable perimeter shooters. Stevens (4.1) played a lot last season. Still, Northwest appears a year away from contending, but should be improved.

4. MMI PREP

Coach: Joe Flanagan

2016-17 WVC record: 3-13 Div. 3, 5th; 5-18 overall

2016-17 postseason: D2-A Championship – Susquehanna, L 55-32

State classification: A

Key players lost: Kyle Williams; Nick Young

Key players: George Palermo, 5-10, Sr.; Matt Marchetti, 6-3, Jr.; Zach Young, 5-8, Jr.; Philip Byriel, 6-8, So.; Marcus Kassick, 6-1, So.

Outlook: The smallest school in District 2 always had issues with a lack of size. Not so this season. Byriel (13.5 ppg) really came on late last season as did Marchetti (5.9). Palermo (3.6) and Kassick (3.5) logged plenty of time. Of course, being such a small school means depth could be a problem. Still, the Preppers should improve on last season’s finish if they stay healthy.

5. HANOVER AREA

Coaches: Chris Gray

2016-17 WVC record: 4-12 Div. 3, tied 3rd; 5-17 overall

2016-17 postseason: Did not qualify

State classification: 4A

Key players lost: Tyler Diggs; Abaad Hamlet; Luis Rivera,

Key players: Desmond Cannon, Sr.; Carlos Fernandez, Sr.; Mike Piscotty, Sr.; Tyler Thomas, Sr.; Evan Materna, Jr.; Asad Whitehead, So.

Outlook: Gray takes over after coaching the Meyers girls for several years. The Hawkeyes return some experience in Cannon (6.4 ppg), who used the surname McCance last year, and Piscotty (13.3). The defense wasn’t bad last season, but the offense really struggled to score. Teams may attack Hanover Area inside because it lacks size.

6. LAKE-LEHMAN

Coach: Nate Schlichter

2016-17 WVC record: 1-15 Div. 3, 6th; 1-21 overall

2016-17 postseason: Did not qualify

State classification: 4A

Key players lost: Adam Motovidlak; John Pelton; Tyler Scharff; Walkker Shaw; Mike Sikora; Cole Spencer; Garrett Weston

Key players: C.J. Cercone, Sr.; Nathan Labar, Sr.; Don Thompson, Sr.; Alex Magdalinski, So.; Max Paczewski, Fr.

Outlook: The Black Knights will be very inexperienced this season with Cercone (1.3 ppg) the only returnee with any significant varsity minutes under his belt. So this season will be part of a rebuilding process. There is some promising players in the sophomore and freshmen ranks, so gaining valuable court time and a few more wins are goals.

Jeffrey Planutis and the Hazleton Area Cougars are going for their third consecutive WVC Division 1 championship.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/web1_dv_ha4_CMYK.jpgJeffrey Planutis and the Hazleton Area Cougars are going for their third consecutive WVC Division 1 championship. Fred Adams file photo | for Times Leader

By John Erzar

[email protected]

Reach John Erzar at 570-991-6394 or on Twitter @TLJohnErzar


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