WPIAL Class A Boys Basketball Preview
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Team to beat
Lincoln Park: Senior forward David McCauley (17.5 ppg) returns to help the Leopards defend their shared section title from last season. A charter school in Midland, Lincoln Park advanced to the quarterfinals in its first season in the WPIAL.
Monaca: Guards Skyler Shultz (11 ppg) and Tony Reda (7 ppg) and forward Chad Tokarski are part of an all-senior lineup, and each is a returning starter.
Union: Guards Jason Burkes (15.2 ppg) and Anthony Thomas (12 ppg) and center Matt Adamo (6 ppg) are back after leading the Scotties to the WPIAL semifinals.
Neshannock: The Lancers were a Class AA playoff team in Class AA last season and ended their regular season on a six-game winning streak.
Western Beaver: The Golden Beavers return only one lettterwinner, senior forward Hunter Creel, from a 7-14 season.
Beaver County Christian: The Eagles joined the WPIAL this season from the Southwest Christian Athletic Conference.
Team to beat
Carmichaels: The Mighty Mikes closed out at 14-1 last season but were upset in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs. With reigning section champion California moving to Class AA, Carmichaels is the team to beat. Senior guard Joby Lapkowicz and senior forward Ian McCombs averaged double figures last year.
Bentworth: The Bearcats join a new section after advancing to the WPIAL semifinals and PIAA quarterfinals last season. They return only one starter, 6-4 senior forward Jason Jansante (5 ppg), but should be playoff-bound for the third consecutive season.
Mapletown: The Maples have made the WPIAL playoffs the past three seasons. Junior guard Jarrett Porterfield is the lone returning starter.
Avella: New coach Joseph Hough has three returning starters -- guard Cole Heckman, guard Josh Carlisle and forward C.J. Gohardi.
Beth-Center: The Bulldogs move "down" from Class AA, where they went 3-21 last season. But all three victories came against Class A teams.
Jefferson-Morgan: The Rockets are coming off a 5-18 season and lost many to graduation.
West Greene: The Pioneers hope to improve on their 2-17 season, but leading scorer Aaron Gifford graduated.
Team to beat
Serra: The Eagles did not lose to a Class A team last season and won WPIAL and PIAA titles. Only two starters return, but one of them is senior guard T.J. Heatherington (17 ppg), a Post-Gazette all-Class A selection last season. Seniors Alex Matta (9.1 ppg) and Dave Menzies and junior Rob Heatherington also were contributors last season.
Clairton: The Bears might start slowly, as some of their top players are on the football team that is still alive in the PIAA playoffs. Clairton will be looking to make the WPIAL playoffs for the fifth season in a row.
St. Joseph: The Spartans qualified for the PIAA tournament but lost virtually all of their offensive production to graduation.
Geibel: Ryan Craft (12.5 ppg) and Brendan Costantino (12.3 ppg) were the Gators' leading scorers last season, when they made the playoffs despite a 6-15 overall record.
Leechburg: The Blue Devils followed up their WPIAL Class A championship of two years ago by going only 7-12 last season.
Elderton: Two of the Bobcats' top three scorers last season -- 6-8 center Dillen Statler and 6-1 guard/forward Dylan Lasher -- were freshmen.
Team to beat
Sewickley Academy: The Panthers will be led by guard Tom Drone, a 6-5 junior who led WPIAL Class A with 21 ppg last season. He was named to the Post-Gazette's All-Class A team and has scholarship offers from Pitt, Notre Dame and Davidson.
Cornell: Forward Brett Gibson (17 ppg last season), guard Ryan McCutcheon (8 ppg) and center Ed Bretch (5 ppg) are part of a projected all-senior starting lineup for the Raiders.
Our Lady of the Sacred Heart: The Chargers have finished a season with a winning record only twice since 2002-03 but missed the playoffs last season for the first time in that period.
Vincentian: The Royals, under new coach George Yokitis, went 3-20 last season, but have four returning starters. Junior forward Ross Cortese averaged 11 points and nine rebounds.
Quigley: The Spartans have won only one section game the past three seasons combined.
Trinity Christian: The Falcons have finished last in the past four seasons, but boast returning starters Joseph Sero and Jake Ford, both junior guard/forwards.
First Published December 5, 2008 12:00 am