Mars: After winning a WPIAL first-round playoff game for the first time in school history last season, this has the makings of one of the best teams in Mars history. The Planets didn't have a senior on their roster a year ago and are a heavy favorite to win this section title. Senior guard Mitch Buzard and junior guard Owen Nearhoof both averaged 13 points a game. Senior center Josh Goetz averaged 8 points and 12 rebounds. Other returnees include senior guards Garrett Ashbaugh, Matt Getsy, Zach May and Alex Locher.
Knoch: The Knights have a new leader as Ron McNabb takes over as coach. McNabb is a former head coach at Valley and Burrell. He inherits a team that finished third in the section last year. Junior guard Austin Miller, senior forward Dakota Bruggemen and senior forward Marc Vaughan are the top returnees.
Kittanning: The Wildcats feature one of the section's best players in senior guard Sterling Henry, who averaged 18 points a game and made all section last season. Vince Mead, a 6-6 senior forward, averaged 10 points a game last season.
Indiana: The Little Indians could make some noise, moving over from Section 3. Darrious Carter, a 6-5 junior, showed promise last year as a sophomore.
Valley: The Vikings are hoping to improve on their 5-14 record from a year ago.
Freeport: The Yellowjackets move up from Class AA, where they were 10-10 last season and lost in the preliminary round of the WPIAL playoffs.
Highlands: New coach Tyler Stoczynski inherits an inexperienced team. High-scoring guard Micah Mason graduated, along with four other starters.
Beaver: Although this section doesn't have a prohibitive favorite, Beaver is as good a choice as anyone. The Bobcats have some key players returning, including forward Cory Nesmith and guard Austin Logan, from a team that advanced to the WPIAL semifinals last season and finished with a 19-8 record.
Central Valley: Michael Sims and Brian Kulich are two guards who showed plenty of promise last year as sophomores.
Blackhawk: Chandler Kincade, who was an all-section pick as a freshman but did not play last season, is back on the team. Cole Chiappelle and Alex Caratelli also are in line to start after not playing last year. Alex Cooke is the only returning starter.
Ambridge: New coach Mark Jula is back at his alma mater and has one of the best players in the section in senior forward Malik Walker.
West Allegheny: Mike Miara is a sharpshooting guard and 6-4 guard-forward Andrew Koester made an impact last year as a freshman.
Ellwood City: Anthony Ovial comes over from New Brighton and takes over as coach for the retired Al Campman.
Hopewell: The Vikings are hoping to improve on last year's 5-16 record.
Uniontown: Leading scorer Marcus Thomas (18 ppg) has graduated, but the cupboard isn't bare. Junior guard Jordan Pratt (9.5 ppg), senior guard Dreher Winfrey (8.4 ppg) and senior guard Christian Kezmarsky (6.2 ppg) make the Raiders the team to beat.
Mount Pleasant: The Vikings have their top three players back from last year. Ryan Gumbita, a 6-4 junior guard, averaged 11 points. The other returnees are junior forward Luke Liplando and senior guard Cody Monroe.
Greensburg Salem: Craig Mankins takes over the Lions after longtime coach Paul Sapotichne retired after last season. Mankins is a golf pro and he inherits a team whose top scorers graduated.
Yough: Yough could make some noise this year with senior forward Dom Miele (12.6 ppg, 9.8 rpg) and senior guard Ben D'Amico (11.8 ppg).
Laurel Highlands: The Mustangs were 5-17 last year but could find the competition a bit less difficult after dropping from Class AAAA.
Southmoreland: The Scotties finished 14-7 last year, but have some holes to fill with the graduation of a handful of the team's top players.
Derry: The Trojans hope to take another step forward after finishing 11-11 last season.
West Mifflin: The Titans lost in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs last year, but could make a deeper postseason run this season. Junior guard Ryan Maha (15 ppg) was all-section as a sophomore. Other returning starters are senior guard Derek Fulmore and senior forward Cye Murphy. Cleve Randolph, a 6-8 senior, will handle the inside.
Thomas Jefferson: Quarterback Joe Carroll and receiver Zach Schademan were a potent pass-catch combination in football and they make for an excellent backcourt on the hardwood for the Jaguars. Carroll was second-team all-section a year ago.
Ringgold: The Rams will be led by two returning starters at the guard position -- 6-foot Dayshore Majors and 6-foot John Maldonado. Both averaged 10 points last season.
Elizabeth Forward: New coach Gerald Grayson will have one of the section's best players in junior guard-forward JaQuan Davidson, who transferred from McKeesport.
Steel Valley: The Ironmen are new to the section, moving up from Class AA after going 9-9 last season.
East Allegheny: The Wildcats could improve on their 5-16 season as senior guard Jordan Williams (14 ppg) and senior guard Shawn Adair (10 ppg) return from last season.
Belle Vernon: The Leopards are hoping to improve after winning only four games the past two seasons.
Chartiers Valley: The perennially strong Colts move down from Class AAAA and are ranked No. 1 in Class AAA. Spencer Casson, a 6-6 senior, will be one of the top inside players in Class AAA. Junior Jerad Tuite, sophomore Matt McConnell and senior Mike Boulos should give Chartiers Valley good guard play.
Montour: The Spartans must replace some key players who graduated, but senior Devin Wilson is one of the best point guards in Western Pennsylvania. Senior Kevin Scuilli is an excellent shooter.
South Fayette: Zach Challingsworth is a standout senior guard-forward who was voted by the coaches as the top player in the section a year ago. Senior guard Evan Bonnaure averaged 11 points a game last season.
Keystone Oaks: Senior guard Cory Sevacko is one of the top players in the section after averaging 15 points a game last season. Senior forward Jared Skolnicki is the other returning starter.
South Park: Senior Carter Grote was second-team all-section last year and is one of the reasons the Eagles believe they can improve on last year's 7-16 record.
McGuffey: The team's top scorers graduated but senior guard Taylor Pasquariello (8 ppg) returns.
Waynesburg: After going winless in section play the past two seasons, Waynesburg hopes to be more competitive this year.
Rk. School (2011-12 record)
1. Chartiers Valley (20-3)
2. Mars (18-8)
3. Montour (24-5)
4. Beaver (19-8)
5. West Mifflin (13-9)
Spencer Casson, Chartiers Valley, 6-6, Sr., C
Zach Challingsworth, South Fayette, 6-2, Sr., G-F
Jaquan Davidson, Elizabeth Forward, 6-3, Jr., F
Josh Goetz, Mars, 6-8, Sr., C
Chandler Kincade, Blackhawk, 6-5, Jr., G
Brendan Lynch, Freeport, 5-9, Sr., G
Sterling Henry, Kittanning, 6-4, Sr., G
Ryan Maha, West Mifflin, 6-1, Jr., G
Owen Nearhoof, Mars, 5-11, Jr., G
Cory Sevacko, Keystone Oaks, 6-3, Sr., F
Jerad Tuite, Chartiers Valley, 5-9, Jr., G
Devin Wilson, Montour, 6-3, Sr., G
Mike White: firstname.lastname@example.org First Published December 7, 2012 5:00 AM