WPIAL Class AAAA Boys Basketball Preview
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Team to beat
Latrobe: The Post-Gazette ranks five teams in Class AAAA. Latrobe would probably be No. 6. Jeff Yunetz, a 6-foot-1 senior guard, is one of the best shooters in the WPIAL and averaged 20.7 points last year. Senior forward Dylan Nowe and senior guard-forward Andrew Fisher also are returning starters.
Hempfield: Bill Swan has four returning starters, including 6-3 Nate Perry, one of the best junior guards in Class AAAA. Perry averaged 18 points last year. R.J. Pilato, a 6-5 senior forward, averaged 13 points.
Kiski Area: Brady Pacific, a 6-2 senior, has been a starter since his freshman year. Guards Tarique Gadson and Zack Barker, and forward Alex Pulsifer are the other returning starters.
Norwin: A WPIAL semifinalist last season, the Knights will be rebuilding. Mike Shanahan and Tyler Urban were both all-section, but graduated.
Albert Gallatin: The Colonials finished 4-20 a year ago, but senior guard Anthony Stevenson and junior forward Jarrett Dots both averaged 12 points a game.
Connellsville: The Falcons just missed the playoffs a year ago, but must replace their top two scorers.
Penn-Trafford: New coach Ryan Yarosik will lean on senior guard Mike Brown (14 points per game) to help the Warriors improve on their 6-17 record.
Team to beat
McKeesport: Ranked No. 3 in Class AAAA, the Tigers feature 7-footer Zeke Marshall, an Akron recruit. Ty-Meer Brown is a 6-1 guard attracting some attention from Division I schools, and Brandon Jackson is a promising 6-5 sophomore forward.
Penn Hills: The Indians should bounce back strong after going 10-15 a year ago. Senior Andre Anthony is one of the best point guards in Class AAAA and Barry Smith is a promising junior forward.
Gateway: The Gators don't have a senior starter, but they have one of the biggest teams in the WPIAL. Sophomore forward Devon Cottrell (6-6), junior forward Mike Kromka (6-7), junior forward Anthony Keel (6-2) and junior guard Steve Vranka (5-11) all started last season. The fifth starter will be 6-8 freshman Barnett Harris.
Fox Chapel: A newcomer to the section, the Foxes are good enough to earn a playoff spot as all five starters return. Senior guard Harrison Smith averaged 21 points last season and senior point guard Alex Vargo 14.
Franklin Regional: Nick Novak, a 6-1 senior, is a standout guard and averaged 21.1 points.
Plum: The Mustangs feature senior forward Andrew Cressler (17.7 ppg).
Woodland Hills: With senior guard Ron Flowers and a few other returning starters, the Wolverines expect to improve on last year's 4-19 record.
Team to beat
Central Catholic: The Vikings are the defending WPIAL champion and are ranked No. 1 in Class AAAA. But they will get some tough challenges in their new section. Lucas Mickens, a 6-3 senior guard, averaged 13.5 points and Evan Tsudis, a 6-5 senior forward, 12.1.
North Allegheny: The Tigers are experienced and good enough to win this section and make a playoff run. Forward Jeff Haus, a 6-5 senior, and guard Nick Dvorsky, a 6-1 senior, are two of the top returnees from a team went 23-3 a year ago.
Seneca Valley: C.J. Brown, the football team's standout quarterback, is also a talented basketball player. A 6-3 guard-forward, he averaged 12 points last season and made all-section.
Pine-Richland: Leading scorer Brett Matson graduated, but new coach Brian Gaetano has sophomore guard Eric Holmes, who averaged nine points as a freshman.
North Hills: Senior guard Cody Patton and senior forward R.J. Miller have been starters since their sophomore years.
Shaler: Leading scorers Dan Wirkowski and Ben Altmeyer graduated, but the Titans always seem to be in the playoff hunt.
Butler: The Golden Tornado lost most of their top players from last year's playoff team. This squad will be young, but has potential.
Team to beat
Upper St. Clair: The Panthers were 20-6 last season and figure to be even better this year. Most of the top players return and the backbone of the team will be senior guards Christian Shea (15.6 ppg) and Pete Serio (9.4 ppg, 4 steals).
Mt. Lebanon: This team figures to be much-improved from last year's 8-15 squad. The Blue Devils have good size and 6-4 sophomore forward Paul Lang averaged nine points as a freshman.
Peters Township: Big things are expected of the Indians as four starters return, including 6-4 all-section player Nick Wilcox (17.6 ppg). Steve Radke, a 6-5 senior forward, averaged 12.2 points.
Canon-McMillan: The Big Macs are coming off one of the best seasons in school history (18-9 record), but 6-2 junior guard-forward Chad Hagan (9 ppg) is the only returning starter.
Bethel Park: The Black Hawks will rely heavily on senior guards James Barton (15.5 ppg) and Shane Gilchrist (10 ppg).
Baldwin: Leading scorer Matt O'Brien (20 ppg) graduated, but the Highlanders figure to improve on last year's 10-13 record and could battle for a playoff spot.
Ringgold: The Rams were 8-17 in Class AAA last season and moved up in class this year.
First Published December 5, 2008 12:00 am