Boys Basketball: WPIAL Class A preview -- Lincoln Park is team to beat

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SECTION 1

Team to beat

Lincoln Park: When sizing up the field in Class A, it's obvious the Leopards not only have the most size, but also the most talent. The starters include 6-9 senior Elijah Minnie, 6-6 senior Ryan Skovranko and 6-6 sophomore Maverick Rowan. Minnie (21.5 points per game last season) and Skovranko have Division I offers, and Rowan (22.9 ppg) has already committed to Pitt. Junior guard Antonio Kellem also returns for the Leopards, who have gone undefeated in the section two seasons in a row.

Contender

OLSH: Cameron Johnson, a 6-6 senior guard with Division I offers, averaged 15 points per game a season ago and could be poised for an even bigger season. The Chargers have finished first or second in scoring defense in Class A each of the past two seasons.

Others

Cornell: A year after making it to the WPIAL title game, the Raiders did not win a section game last season. However, optimism is high with the return of three starters, including 6-1 junior guard Dane Jackson (21.3 ppg).

Union: The Scotties lost four starters from last season's WPIAL quarterfinalist, but have an excellent returnee in 5-10 senior guard Ben Young.

Western Beaver: Nick Miller (24.4 ppg), a 6-2 senior guard, is the WPIAL's top returning scorer. Two other starters are back.

Rochester: Since going undefeated in the section three seasons ago, the Rams have won only three section games.

SECTION 2

Team to beat

Vincentian: The team that likes to turn its games into track meets hopes to run to its second consecutive WPIAL title. The Royals, who averaged a WPIAL-best 83.7 points per game last season, will be led by 5-10 junior guard Ryan Wolf (21.3 ppg). Senior forwards Jim Kenna and Kevin Fischer also return.

Contenders

Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic: The Trojans lost leading scorer Danny Savulchak (21.1 ppg) to graduation, but 6-5 senior forward Dominic Robb and 6-1 senior guard Ryan Kirby should keep them in the section title hunt.

Sewickley Academy: After leading his school to a WPIAL golf team title this fall, 6-foot senior guard Keenan Hickton will try to get the basketball team to the playoffs for the 12th season in a row.

Others

Quigley: A pair of all-section players graduated, so the Spartans will lean on the Herman twins -- senior guards Zach and Anthony -- to lead the way.

Eden Christian: Junior guard Carter Ehms will look to get the Warriors to the playoffs for the first time after falling one win shy the past two years.

Aquinas Academy: The Crusaders have gone winless in section play each of the past four seasons.

SECTION 3

Team to beat

Monessen: Five starters return for coach Joe Salvino, who has guided the Greyhounds to the playoffs in each of his previous 29 seasons. Senior guard Clintell Gillaspie (16.3 ppg) was named all-section last season. Joining him will be senior forward Justice Rawlins and senior guard Javon Brown.

Contenders

Clairton: Look for the Bears to mirror the school's football team from this fall -- lots of new faces; similar success. The Bears must replace all of their starters from last season's WPIAL finalist, but have an emerging star in 6-5 sophomore forward Aaron Mathews.

Carmichaels: Brandon Lawless (21.1 ppg), a 6-3 senior guard-forward, will be a handful for opponents to stop. On the other end, the Mighty Mikes (46.1 ppg) had the stingiest defense in Class A last season.

Others

Mapletown: Senior guard Dereck Riggleman (21.6 ppg) led the section in scoring a season ago, when the Maples made the playoffs after a two-year absence.

Avella: Last season's 3-18 finish in the rearview mirror, Avella will compete for a playoff berth with four returning starters, including leading scorer Brandon Miller, a senior guard.

Geibel: New coach Bill Hughes has a young team that has two seniors and brings back one part-time starter.

SECTION 4

Team to beat

Wilkinsburg: Eugene Wilson takes over as coach of the Tigers, who finished as section runner-up last season and should compete for the title this season with senior guard D'Shawn Adair and junior guard Eddie Risher.

Contenders

Trinity Christian: All-section performer John Wallace graduated, but the Falcons should be strong with senior guards Wes Lavrinc and James Chandler.

St. Joseph: No one player will match the scoring production of John Arcuri -- he averaged 25.4 points per game as a senior last season -- but a group led by senior guard Chris Gamble could get the Spartans to the postseason.

Others

Imani Christian: Last season's section champion must replace most of its key players, including all-section guard Troy Simons (21.2 ppg), who transferred to Renaissance Christian Academy.

Leechburg: Senior guard Ben Ritchie, a three-year starter, is the top returnee.

Winchester Thurston: Expect continued improvement from the Bears, who went 1-9 in section play last season, their first in the WPIAL.

PRESEASON RANKINGS

 

Team (Last season)

1. Lincoln Park 22-7

2. Vincentian 26-2

3. OLSH 19-5

4. North Catholic 16-7

5. Union 17-6

Players to Watch

Clintell Gillaspie, Monessen, 6-2, Sr., Guard

Keenan Hickton, Sewickley Academy, 6-0, Sr., Guard

Dane Jackson, Cornell, 6-1, Jr., Guard

Cameron Johnson, OLSH, 6-6, Sr., Guard

Jim Kenna, Vincentian, 6-2, Sr., Forward

Ryan Kirby, Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, 6-1, Sr., Guard

Brandon Lawless, Carmichaels, 6-3, Sr., Guard-forward

Brandon Miller, Avella, 5-10, Sr., Guard

Nick Miller, Western Beaver, 6-2, Sr., Guard

Elijah Minnie, Lincoln Park, 6-9, Sr., Forward

Dominic Robb, Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, 6-5, Sr., Forward

Maverick Rowan, Lincoln Park, 6-6, Soph., Guard

Dereck Riggleman, Mapletown, 5-9, Sr., Guard

Ian Schrenk, OLSH, 6-1, Sr., Forward

Ryan Skovranko, Lincoln Park, 6-6, Sr., Forward

Ryan Wolf, Vincentian, 5-10, Jr., Guard

Ben Young, Union, 5-10, Sr., Guard

 


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