The boys’ basketball season in Centre County will be marked by new faces on the court and on the bench for some schools, while others are looking to improve after forgettable seasons.
Bald Eagle Area and Penns Valley, the defending co-Mountain League champions, both must replace a handful of starters and key contributors. State College is under the direction of a new coach after winning just two games during the regular season a year ago.
Bellefonte hopes to compete for a league title after a four-win season. Philipsburg-Osceola is focused on being competitive after a winless season.
St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy has experience back and expects to be in the mix in District 6.
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Bald Eagle Area has lost a group of veterans from back-to-back Mountain League championship teams.
Gone are twin brothers Bryce and Bryan Greene, Ryan Dyke and Jeff Bennett. The Greenes were three-year starters and playmakers in the backcourt, and Dyke and Bennett were steady role players as the Eagles made its second straight trip to the PIAA tournament and finished 20-6 in 2013-14. BEA has also made three straight District 6 playoff appearances.
The Eagles still have talent with extensive varsity experience in Brandon Gettig and Jason Jones.
Gettig was a fixture in the backcourt with the Greenes. Jones was also among the team’s top scorers and the Eagles’ leading rebounder.
“Offense won’t be a problem,” said BEA coach Bill Butterworth, who is in his 14th season. “We will have to play good defense to have a successful season again this year.”
That proved to be true in the Eagles’ season opener Friday night.
BEA fell 78-66 to Central Mountain. Jones paced the team with 20 points, Gettig added 19 and junior guard Trey Butterworth had 18.
The Eagles’ next game is against Penns Valley on Tuesday.
The rivals split their regular-season meetings before BEA topped the Rams 56-42 in a District 6 Class AA consolation game last year.
The Rams are in a similar position to the Eagles as they lost four starters.
Dalton Ulmanic, Luke Weaver, Cameron Tobias and Will Jackson led Penns Valley to a share of the league title and appearances in the district and state playoffs.
Zach Engle is the lone returning starter from a Rams team that went 19-7.
Penns Valley coach Terry Glunt said the team’s goal remains to make its mark in league and district play.
“We have been very fortunate at Penns Valley to have unselfish players who are determined to play tough defense and execute precise offense,” said Glunt, who is in his 13th season. “We have added a lot of new faces to varsity, but I believe they can continue the winning tradition at our school.”
Sean Beamesderfer, Logan Johnson, Logan Pearce and Ben Alexander are among the team’s returning letterwinners.
While BEA and Penns Valley have veteran coaches, State College is starting a “new era” under first-year coach Joe Walker.
The Little Lions finished 4-21 under former coach Drew Frank.
“It is a new era for the program and I have encouraged the players to define what State College basketball will be for the years to come,” Walker said. “We are learning to play a more up-tempo style of basketball that starts with our defensive pressure. We hope to create chaos for our opponents while being disciplined in our own decision-making.”
State College got contributions from a variety of players in its season-opening Skip Coleman Memorial Tip-off Tournament.
Alex McCann led the Little Lions with 25 points combined in two games. Michael Caswell, Drew Friberg, Cooper Gulley and Tyler Hall each played a part in a balanced attack as State College started 1-1.
Like State College, Bellefonte is looking to improve after a four-win season.
The Red Raiders, who went 4-18, are building their identity around defense going into the year.
“We feel we can compete for a league championship if we improve our defense and work together as a team,” Bellefonte coach Darin Hazel said. “The kids realize that we need to take it one practice and game at a time to realize our goals. We played really well the last part of the year and some of our underclassmen were key components in that improved play.”
Trenton Fortney, Danny Caprio and Tyler Kreger each gained starting experience a year ago, and Hazel will look to them for leadership.
Coming off an 0-22 season, Philipsburg-Osceola will be led by first-year coach Matt Curtis.
“The team is focusing on getting better every time they step on the floor and becoming a family both on and off the floor,” Curtis said. “The team is under new leadership and looking to bring a new exciting form of basketball that will be competitive and exciting night in and night out, something the town can be proud of.”
Lewis Jones paced the Mounties with 11 points in their season-opening 80-44 loss to West Branch.
St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy will try to build on a 9-9 season.
The Wolves have experience with guards Garrett Bastardi and Mikey Kresovich and post players Charles Ross, Jack Driscoll and Rocky Chirieleison. Stephen Beattie and Mike Jabco are among the team’s top scoring threats.
“We have a lot of returning players who played a lot of minutes last season,” St. Joseph’s coach Richard Ciambotti said. “We’re very athletic at all five position and have some younger guys that will push for minutes this year.”