Boys Basketball: WPIAL Class AA preview -- Beaver Falls is seeking a championship repeat


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SECTION 1

Team to beat

Apollo-Ridge: After going just 5-5 in section play last season, the Vikings made a shocking run to the WPIAL semifinals behind all-section guard Tre Tipton (10.3 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists per game). Although Tipton returns for his junior season, the Vikings must replace three starters.

Contender

Ford City: The Sabers won just two section games last season, but have four starters returning, including senior guard Jesse Sequeira (15 ppg) and 6-foot-6 sophomore center Brandon Heilman (7 ppg, 6 rpg).

Others

Burrell: New coach Shawn Bennis takes over a Bucs' team that won 19 games and reached the WPIAL Class AA championship game, but must replace nine seniors.

Deer Lakes: The Lancers tied Burrell for the section title last season, but all five starters, including all-section selections Tim Jaczesko (22.5 ppg) and J.J. Kowalkowski (12 ppg), graduated.

West Shamokin: The Wolves will lean more on senior guard Zane Clowser (8 ppg) with the graduation of all-section guard Anthony Rocco (19.2 ppg).

Summit Academy: Former Kiski Area standout Adam Petrosky takes over the coaching reins from Art McCray after the Knights went 5-16 last season.

SECTION 2

Team to beat

Beaver Falls: The Tigers are the defending Class AA state champions and the two-time defending WPIAL champions. Returning senior starters Elijah Cottrill (16.3 ppg), an Akron football recruit and Post-Gazette Fab 5 member last season, and Dan Stratton make the Tigers the WPIAL favorites again.

Contenders

Neshannock: Seniors Ernie Burkes (21.1 ppg), Matt McKinney and Tyler Haswell return from last season's playoff team.

New Brighton: The Lions improved from six wins in 2011-12 to 13 victories last season and return leading scorers Craig Thompson (14 ppg) and Chris Pipkin (14 ppg).

Others

Riverside: The Panthers, a playoff team in 2012-13, will be inexperienced after losing all-section forwards Tyler Falk (15.5 ppg) and Gig Jewell (13.8 ppg) and their assist leader, Brent Molneix.

Aliquippa: New coach Nick Lackovich inherits a playoff team from a year ago that will be led by junior Patrick Anderson.

Mohawk: Senior forward Jonathan Grim (8 ppg) will try to replace the scoring lost by the graduation of his older brother, point guard Lucas Grim (12 ppg).

Shenango: The Wildcats will look to junior forward Brenton Booher (10 ppg, 10 rpg) to help them improve on their three section wins from a season ago.

Laurel: The Spartans have won just one section game over the past two seasons.

SECTION 3

Team to beat

Greensburg Central Catholic: The Centurions have won or shared the section title each of the past four seasons. The squad returns all-section guard Brian Graytok (21.2 ppg) and 6-foot-8 center Collin Bisignani and welcomes Bishop McCort transfer Billy Hipp.

Contenders

Jeannette: Junior point guard Julian Batts (15.1 ppg, 8 apg), the coach's son and a three-year starter, and senior forward Miles Sunder (9.9 ppg) return from last season's 18-win team.

Serra Catholic: Double-digit scorers Joe Satira, Tyler Grebur and Max Kaminsky return in the backcourt, but the Eagles must fill a big void in the middle with 6-10 junior George Prota transferring to Elizabeth Forward.

South Allegheny: All-section senior guard Kordell Thompson (15.3 ppg) is one of four starters back for the Gladiators, who haven't made the playoffs since 2003.

Others

Shady Side Academy: David Vadnais takes over as the head coach of a program that has qualified for the playoffs for 10 consecutive seasons.

Riverview: The Raiders will look to improve on last season's five wins with the return of its starting backcourt of Jason Anthony, Nick DiBucci and Zach Lesnick.

Springdale: Matt Matisko is the lone starter returning from last season's four-win squad.

SECTION 4

Team to beat

Seton-LaSalle: The Rebels return all-section performers in senior point guard Dale Clancy (13.6 ppg) and senior swingman Levi Masua (11.5 ppg), as well as senior forward Malik White, from last season's WPIAL quarterfinalist.

Contender

Washington: The Little Prexies will look to Dupree Jenkins and Quorteze Levy to fill the void of losing the section's top scorer, Josh Wise (22 ppg), from their 17-win team.

Others

Bishop Canevin: The Crusaders made it to the WPIAL second round for the third time in four years in 2012-13, but Jake Seligman (16 ppg) and Mike Tambellini (9 ppg, 11 rpg) graduated.

Brentwood: The Spartans advanced to the WPIAL quarterfinals last season, but must replace all-section guard Jason Pilarski (19.4 ppg).

Burgettstown: The Blue Devils, who have missed the playoffs each of the past two seasons, lost their top two scorers in Ryan Glover (10 ppg) and Josh Mack (12.6 ppg).

Chartiers-Houston: After winning eight games in its first season in Class AA, the Buccaneers will look to improve with the return of junior guard Alec Ferrari (13 ppg).

Fort Cherry: Rob Baier replaces D.J. Gambridge as head coach after the Rangers won just one section game last season. Zac Dysert (13.3 ppg) will lead the offense.

SECTION 5

Team to beat

Charleroi: All-section guard Matt Indorante (14.8 ppg) moves from shooting guard to point guard this season for a Cougars team that won 14 games in 2012-13 and will start five seniors.

Contender

Brownsville: Seniors Cole and Ryan Novotney return from last season's 16-win team.

Jefferson-Morgan: After making the playoffs in their first year in Class AA, the Rockets will try to get back behind the play of junior forward Rece Henneman (16 ppg).

Others

California: In their first season in Section 5, the Trojans won the title with a 13-1 record. But they must replace all-section guards Tanner Huffman (22.8 ppg) and Brian Fisher (18.5 ppg).

Beth-Center: Entering last season on a 25-game section losing streak, the Bulldogs won six league games in the 2012-13 season and return senior guard Adam Walters (11.6 ppg) and senior forward Dean Holt (9 ppg, 9 rpg).

Bentworth: The Bearcats return two starters from last season's seven-win squad, including senior guard Mike Clark (11 ppg).

Frazier: Leading scorer and rebounder Charlie Manack (14 ppg, 12 rpg) is back from last season's six-win team.

West Greene: The Pioneers have won a total of just three games over the past four seasons.

SECTION 6

Team to beat

Quaker Valley: The Quakers return four starters and eight letter-winners from last season's WPIAL semifinalist. Senior guard Qadir Taylor (8.7 ppg) and junior forward Chris Conlan (8.6 ppg) are the leading returning scorers.

Contender

Sto-Rox: The defending section champion Vikings return a strong 1-2 combination in senior guard Lenny Williams (12.4 ppg, 8 rpg) and senior forward Malik Allen (10.2 ppg, 14 rpg) and welcome a new coach, Jordan Marks.

Others

Avonworth: Senior forward Eric Gallupe (10.9 ppg, 11.4 rpg) will try to lead the Antelopes back to the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

Northgate: Senior guard Taymon Russell (13.7 ppg) is the leading returning scorer for a Flames team that has made the postseason each of the past three seasons.

South Side Beaver: The Rams lost their top two scorers from last season's team that went 5-7 in section play, but they return top distributor Nolan Lamont (5 assists per game).

Carlynton: Mason Follmer is the top returning scorer from a Cougars' team that improved by five wins from 2011-12 to 2012-13.

Freedom: The Bulldogs have won a total of three games in the past two seasons.

PRESEASON RANKINGS

Team (Last season)

1. Beaver Falls 28-3

2. Seton-LaSalle 21-3

3. Greensburg C.C. 23-3

4. Neshannock 17-6

5. Quaker Valley 20-6

Players to Watch

Malik Allen, Sto-Rox, 6-6, Jr., Forward

Julian Batts, Jeannette, 5-11, Jr., Guard

Ernie Burkes, Neshannock, 5-10, Sr., Guard

Dale Clancy, Seton-LaSalle, 5-8, Sr., Guard

Chris Conlan, Quaker Valley, 6-4, Soph. Forward

Elijah Cottrill, Beaver Falls, 6-3, Sr., Guard

Brian Graytok, Greensburg Central Catholic, 6-1, Sr., Guard

Matt Indorante, Charleroi, 5-11, Sr. Guard

Levi Masua, Seton-LaSalle, 6-5, Jr., Guard-forward

Jesse Sequeira, Ford City, 5-10, Jr., Guard

Danny Stratton, Beaver Falls, 6-2, Jr., Guard

Kordell Thompson, South Allegheny, 6-0, Sr, Guard

Craig Thompson, New Brighton, 5-9, Sr., Guard

Tre Tipton, Apollo-Ridge, 6-1, Jr., Guard

Lenny Williams, Sto-Rox, 5-11, Sr., Guard


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