WPIAL Class AA Boys Basketball Preview
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Team to beat
Springdale: With perennial power Jeannette in Section 4, this section is suddenly up for grabs, and the Dynamos look to be the best of the bunch. Senior forward Greg Arch (15.5 ppg) was an all-section pick last year. Senior guards Adam Shepherd and Alex Noriega also return.
West Shamokin: Senior guard Dylan Henderson (15.2 ppg) has scored 1,085 points in his career.
Ford City: Senior guard-forward Ryan Young (10.4 ppg) and senior guard Jordan Eckman (6.7 ppg) are returning starters. Senior forward Luke Prazenica (8.7 ppg) also returns.
Freeport: The Yellow Jackets have three returning starters -- senior forward Sean Carnahan (6-3), senior guard Harrison Wood (5-10) and junior guard Alex Isbenberg (5-8).
Burrell: The Bucs look to ride the momentum of a solid finish a season ago.
Riverview: Junior forward Jack Donahue (8.5 ppg) came on strong down the stretch last season.
Apollo-Ridge: With senior guard Cory Reilly (10 ppg), the Vikings hope to reach the postseason for the first time since 2003.
Team to beat
Mohawk: This spot is pretty much a coin flip between the Warriors and Shenango. The talented inside tandem of 6-foot-4 senior Matt Lorello (15.7) and 6-5 senior Michael Henry will help out a young perimeter game.
Shenango: Much like Mohawk, the Wildcats are big up front and inexperienced in the backcourt. Rich Gaston (17.6 ppg, 10 rpg), a 6-5 senior, and 6-6 senior Mike Murcko (12 ppg) man the front line.
Riverside: The Panthers must replace two all-section performers from last season's 25-3 team. Junior point guard Mason Marion (11 ppg) and senior guard Shane Rusnock are returning starters.
New Brighton: Moving over from Section 6, the Lions should make some noise with senior forward D.J. Pearson (19.6 ppg).
Laurel: Junior forward Jacob Dando (14.4 ppg) leads a group of four returning starters
Summit Academy: The Knights are in search of their third consecutive playoff berth.
Rochester: New coach Paul Long takes over a Rams squad that brings back three starters.
Team to beat
South Fayette: Four starters return from a section championship team. Senior guard Joe Silko (14.8), 6-5 sophomore forward Mike Lamberti (14.3 ppg) and 5-10 sophomore forward Pat Zedreck (11.5 ppg) all averaged in double figures.
North Catholic: The long and short of it: All three Longs (Matt, Joe and Martin) return. Those three, along with senior forward Henry Pwono, were key contributors to last season's WPIAL semifinalist.
Seton-LaSalle: New coach Hal Kestler has three returning starters -- 6-2 Matt Marasco, 6-3 Derek Law and 5-11 soccer star David DelGreco.
Bishop Canevin: New coach Reggie Warford has two returning starters in guard Jake Preskin and center John Roziel. Warford's son, Grant, is a 6-5 junior who transferred from Bethel Park and should help.
Carlynton: Senior guard Greg Koritsky (15.2 ppg) heads the Cougars attack.
Fort Cherry: The Rangers will ride the talents of senior guard Zach Bellhy (19 ppg).
Northgate: Senior guard Dan Webster scored in double-figures in each of the Flames' final nine games.
Brentwood: Reaching the postseason for the fourth time in five years won't be easy.
Team to beat
Jeannette: As was the case in football season, there is life after Terrelle Pryor for the Jayhawks. The reigning WPIAL and PIAA champs boast a strong backcourt, highlighted by seniors Jordan Hall (15 ppg) and Moziah Harris.
Greensburg Central Catholic: With four starters back -- including senior guards Adam Palcic (11 ppg) and Chris Tamasy (10 ppg) -- the Centurions figure to make a deep postseason run.
Shady Side Academy: Having fallen short of the playoffs just once since 1994, the Indians will try to keep it going behind junior forward Jerome Barnes.
Wilkinsburg: A WPIAL finalist in Class A last season, the Tigers move up a class with two returning starters -- 6-1 senior guard Cliff Staton and 6-3 sophomore forward Davon Washington.
Steel Valley: The Ironmen lost nine seniors from last season's Class AAA playoff team, but dropping down in class should help.
East Allegheny: Forward Trevor Lofton should build off an impressive junior campaign.
South Allegheny: Senior guard Richie White (14.1 ppg) hopes to get the Gladiators to the postseason for the first time in eight years.
Team to beat
Monessen: The defending section-champion Greyhounds should have a lot of bite once again. Keep an eye on 6-5 sophomore forward Terrance Stepoli, who opened a lot of eyes as a freshman.
Washington: Senior guard Nick Bryant (10.5 ppg), junior guard Troy Wilson and senior forward Mark Wise were all returning starters.
Burgettstown: The Blue Devils were hit hard by graduation, but bring back senior point guard Sean Tunno.
California: The Trojans are coming off consecutive Class A Section 2 championships but are moving up in class. Senior guards Ben Carson (8.9 ppg) and Jordan Michaux (6.7 ppg) are returning starters.
Beth-Center: Forward Ryne Niemiec, a 6-3 senior, (20.4) is the top returning scorer in Class AA.
Charleroi: The Cougars have a great post presence in 6-7 junior Eli Obade.
Brownsville: The Falcons look to build on their first playoff appearance since 2002.
Chartiers-Houston: A promising junior class should help the Bucs rebuild.
Team to beat
Beaver Falls: Could be the best team in the WPIAL, regardless of class. The Tigers are talented, experienced and big. A WPIAL finalist last season, the Tigers have three players in their regular rotation at least 6 feet 6, and boast senior guard Todd Thomas (16.6 ppg). Other returning starters are 6-3 junior point guard Brock Van Lier and 6-2 senior guard Kendall Dreher.
Aliquippa: This isn't a great Aliquippa team, but it still should be solid. Senior Terry Patrick and sophomore Troy Jeter are capable guards, while junior Rasheem Jones heads a solid frontcourt.
Quaker Valley: Could be the sleeper team in all of Class AA. Senior guard Korrtezz Martin, junior guard Casey Courneen and junior guard Nigel Gibson are three of seven returning lettermen.
Sto-Rox: With junior football standouts Paul Jones and Andrew Carswell back in the fold, the Vikings are a team on the rise. Jones was all-section a year ago.
Freedom: The Bulldogs have been dreadful in section play the past three seasons, but senior guard Cody Morgan provides some hope.
South Side Beaver: The Rams lost their top two scorers to graduation.
Avonworth: Like Freedom, the Antelopes are without a section win the past two seasons.
First Published December 5, 2008 12:00 am