WPIAL Class AAAA Boys' Basketball Preview
Shaler's Geno Thorpe is the WPIAL's returning leading scorer.
Can Gateway's D.J. Boyce lead the Gators to a third WPIAL title?
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Penn-Trafford: One of the premier frontcourts in Class AAAA has Penn-Trafford thinking big. Corey Stanford (17.5), a 6-foot-4 senior forward, was tabbed the section's top player last season. Joining him is 6-5 senior forward Andy Abreu, whom Warriors coach Ryan Yarosik called the best big man in the section.
Hempfield: The Spartans, who shared the section title with Penn-Trafford last season, counter with a talented backcourt highlighted by 6-2 sophomore guard Kasen Harrell (15.5 ppg), the only freshman in the WPIAL to be named all-section. Senior point guard Tyler Handlan also returns.
Norwin: Matt Stewart (16.9 ppg), a 6-4 senior forward, is one of four starters returning for a Knights team that has a noticeable amount of size. Sophomore guard/forward Curtis Perz is a talented transfer from Greensburg Central Catholic.
Kiski Area: The Cavaliers finished third in the section with an 11-3 record last season, and should be strong again with senior guards Nick Stone and Adam Robison.
Latrobe: After falling one win shy of making the playoffs, the Wildcats will look to make the cut behind the play of senior guard Ben Havrilla and senior forward Will Wears.
Connellsville: The Falcons lost four starters from a team that had the best scoring defense in the section, but have a promising junior in forward Jade Maher.
Albert Gallatin: New coach Shea Fleenor will try to revive a program that went 0-21 last season and had the worst scoring offense and defense in Class AAAA.
Gateway: Tyler Scott and Barnett Harris are gone, but the two-time defending WPIAL champions have enough young talent to possibly make another title run. Senior guard D.J. Boyce is a three-year starter. Tom Kromka, a 6-5 junior forward, is the other returning starter. A trip to the finals would be the fourth in a row for the Gators.
Central Catholic: Last season, the Vikings went 12-10 in the regular season before making it to the WPIAL championship game. Minus Lincoln Davis (19.1 ppg) and several other graduated starters, the Vikings will rely on senior forward Sam Calhoun and senior guards David Urso and Garrett Vrbanic.
McKeesport: Coach Corey Gadson lost a superb player when JaQuan Davidson transferred to Elizabeth Forward, but Gadson still brings back three starters, a trio headed by senior guard Carlito Acie.
Fox Chapel: The Foxes have a pair of excellent junior guards in Matt D'Amico and Brian Papich who hope to end the team's two-season playoff drought.
Plum: With the school's all-time leading scorer, Nolan Cressler (25.8 ppg), now at Cornell, the Mustangs will look to senior guard Griffin Myers and 6-6 junior center Austin Dedert to pick up the scoring load.
Penn Hills: The Indians and coach Jim Rocco are in rebuilding mode after winning only two section games last season.
Franklin Regional: Junior guard Charan Singh is the top returnee for the Panthers, who must improve a defense that allowed 64.6 points per game.
Woodland Hills: The Wolverines won the section title last season, but new coach Odell Miller must replace a number of key players.
New Castle: In what appears to be the strongest section in the WPIAL, a pair of teams who competed in Class AAA last year stand at the top. New Castle returns four starters -- including senior guard-forward Shawn Anderson (19.1 ppg) and junior forward Malik Hooker -- from a team that went 27-1, won the WPIAL championship and averaged a WPIAL-best 79.1 points a game.
Hampton: The return of the Luther twins -- Ryan and Collin -- make Hampton one of the championship favorites. Both guard-forwards, Ryan (15.2 ppg) and Collin (10 ppg) were named all-section when the Talbots finished 25-5 last season. Sophomore David Huber is a two-year starter at guard.
North Allegheny: The section runner-up last season, North Allegheny should be strong again with the return of senior guards Adam Haus, R.J. Colabrese and Sean Hennigan and junior David Haus. Elijah Zeise will be an inside presence after football season. The Tigers scored 66.3 points per game, the second-best mark in Class AAAA.
Seneca Valley: Keep an eye on 6-5 senior guard Easton Bazzoli, who could be in line for a breakout season. Senior forward R.J. McCauley is also expected to play an important role.
Shaler: Penn State recruit Geno Thorpe (21.4 ppg), a 6-3 senior guard, is the top returning scorer in the WPIAL. He's the lone starter back from last season, however.
Butler: Coach Matt Clement has guided the Golden Tornado to back-to-back WPIAL semifinal appearances, but making a third consecutive trip will be difficult due to the graduation of Nate Snodgrass (20.6 ppg).
North Hills: With the graduation of 6-8 Steve Hearty (15 ppg), the Indians will be on the smallish side, but still hope to contend for a playoff spot. Senior forward Joel Pepmeyer and junior guard Danny White are the top returnees.
Pine-Richland: The Rams won only two section games last season, but could improve behind a senior-laden lineup led by 6-6 forward Tim Williams.
Bethel Park: The Black Hawks have tall expectations, partly because they have the tallest post presence in the WPIAL with 6-11 senior center Wyatt Hagerty. He is one of several part-time starters back from last season's 15-8 team. Among them is senior guard/forward Cody Gilchrist.
Peters Township: Gabe Pritz (19.7 ppg), a 6-4 senior guard/forward, had a great junior season, leading the Indians in scoring and rebounding. Among other key players back are senior guards Trent McPherson and Dakota Norton.
Mt. Lebanon: Four-year starting point guard Luke Hagy and a few other key performers are gone, so the Blue Devils will lean on senior guard Tyler Roth and a typically strong defense (Class AAAA-best 43.6 ppg last season).
Upper St. Clair: Coach Danny Holzer has one of the top guards in the section with 6-0 senior Jordan Grabowski.
Trinity: Stan Noszka takes over for longtime coach Joe Dunn, as the Hillers make the move up from Class AAA. Senior guard Christian Koroly averaged 15.6 points per game as a junior.
Moon: Winners of just one section game a season ago, the Tigers will try to turn things around with the help of senior guard Nick Korzi.
Canon-McMillan: Senior guard Brett Haney will be the driving force for the Big Macs, who strive for their first winning season since 2007-08.
Baldwin: The Highlanders, who finished 9-13 last season, graduated leading scorer and all-section pick Charlie Wallander (13.7).
Rk. School (2011-12 record)
1. New Castle (27-1)
2. Hampton (25-5)
3. Gateway (21-7)
4. North Allegheny (16-7)
5. Bethel Park (15-8)
Shawn Anderson, New Castle, 6-3, Sr., G-F
Matt D'Amico, Fox Chapel, 6-2, Jr., G
Easton Bazzoli, Seneca Valley, 6-5, Sr., G
Jordan Grabowski, Upper St. Clair, 6-0, Sr., G
Wyatt Hagerty, Bethel Park, 6-11, Sr., C
Kasen Harrell, Hempfield, 6-2, Soph., G
Malik Hooker, New Castle, 6-2, Jr., F
Christian Koroly, Trinity, 5-11, Sr., G
Nick Korzi, Moon, 6-0, Sr., G
Collin Luther, Hampton, 6-5, Jr. G-F
Ryan Luther, Hampton, 6-6, Jr., G-F
Gabe Pritz, Peters Township, 6-4, Sr., G-F
Tyler Roth, Mt. Lebanon, 6-2, Sr., G
Corey Stanford, Penn-Trafford, 6-4, Sr., F
Matt Stewart, Norwin, 6-4, Sr., G
Geno Thorpe, Shaler, 6-3, Sr., G
First Published December 7, 2012 12:00 am