First Posted: 12/2/2014
CLARKS SUMMIT – Teams from the Abington area again figure to be prominent in the determination of Lackawanna League boys basketball titles this winter, but perhaps in a different combination.
Despite a healthy tradition and a steady series of contenders and successful playoff teams, Scranton Prep has not won a division title since 1997. The Cavaliers are favored to do so over defending champion Abington Heights.
While former Lackawanna Trail coach Andrew Kettel tries to lift the Cavaliers to the top in his second season at Scranton Prep, the Lions are favored to win Division 3 in Christian Sunseri’s first full season as head coach.
A closer look at each team:
The Cavaliers return a high-scoring, all-star backcourt that will combine with a big, senior-laden frontcourt in the title pursuit.
The only losses in Kettel’s first season were two league games against Division 1 champion Abington Heights and a District 2 Class AAA quarterfinal against Lackawanna Division 2 champ Honesdale.
Point guard Tim Rose and shooting guard Bobby Casey combined to average more than 30 points per game while leading Scranton Prep to an 11-2 league record and 21-3 overall mark in their second seasons as starters.
“It’s nice to be able to have two years of veteran guard play going into their season year,” Kettel said. “That really benefits us.
“We think we can pick right up where we were last year.”
Matt Bednarz and Matt Bershefsky, a pair of 6-5 senior forwards, both contributed off the bench last season and are ready to start this season.
Joe Rossi, a 6-6 junior, is the center.
Tim Walsh, a 6-3 junior forward who joins Rose and Casey as the captains, is the sixth man.
“We’ll be leaning on Tim Walsh to come off the bench and be an energy guy,” Kettel said.
The rest of the bench support should come from juniors Dan D’Arienzo, a guard/forward, and Patrick Cosgrove, a point guard, and sophomore guards Paddy Casey, Brett Para and Logan Bailey. Casey is Bobby’s younger brother. Bailey can also play forward.
“Abington and Scranton have owned our division for the last 20 years,” Kettel said. “We’re hoping that we can get back on top in Division 1.”
Scranton Prep opens Friday night at home against Wilkes-Barre Meyers.
The Comets went unbeaten in the Lackawanna League and won five District 2 and state Class AAA playoff games by a total of 176 points before a 26-2 season came to an end with a 59-55 loss to Archbishop Carroll of Philadelphia.
Eight seniors graduated from that team, including J.C. Show and Evan Maxwell, who are each already receiving regular playing time as Division I college players at Bucknell and Liberty.
Tim Toro, a 6-8 junior center, is the only returning starter after leading the Comets in blocked shots as well as offensive and total rebounds.
Seniors Chase Wickenheiser and Clay Basalyga are the only others who have any significant varsity experience. Wickenheiser was the first post player off the bench last season. Basalyga is a guard.
Health issues have further complicated veteran coach Ken Bianchi’s challenge of setting a lineup going into Friday’s season opener at Holy Cross, a state Class AA quarterfinalist from last season.
“It will take us a while to figure out what spots everybody settles into,” said Bianchi, who is trying to design an offensive approach that does not rely on a true point guard. “We have some guys who could play more than one position.”
Senior Tyler Ksiazek, junior Colin Klingman and senior Matt McDonald, who is working on the wing and inside, are candidates for starting spots.
Seth Maxwell, a 6-9 sophomore center and Evan’s younger brother, could also figure into the mix.
Senior Lee Owens and junior Jordan Hollander could eventually help in the backcourt when they are able to return from serious injuries.
Jackson Danzig, the team’s only freshman, is a shooting threat.
Tommy Rothenberger, a 5-6 sophomore guard, is also fighting for playing time along with senior forward Josh Krieger and junior guard Eric Mahoney.
Sunseri, a 2008 Lackawanna Trail graduate, got his first chance to serve as head coach on an interim basis during the first half of league play last season, guiding the Lions to a 4-2 record.
The Lions went 11-12 overall in their only season under Jason Nese.
Jason Fauquier, a volunteer assistant during Sunseri’s run as head coach last season, is now the varsity assistant and junior varsity coach. Sunseri, who worked on the practice squad and helped analyze film for the women’s program while at Drexel University, handled the JV/varsity assistant role last year when Nese was in place.
Two-time defending champion Elk Lake and second-place Montrose, which has its third coach in as many seasons, were each hit hard by graduation. That leaves Lackawanna Trail considered the favorite over Blue Ridge while Forest City is expected to show significant improvement.
“It’s nice to get the recognition in the preseason,” Sunseri said, “but our league is wide open for any team.”
The Lions, who finished third in each half last season, have four returning starters as they pursue a second division title in four seasons.
The top two scorers are back in senior guards Ross Fauquier and Tyler Rzucidlo.
Ross Fauquier earned first-team, all-star honors from division coaches after averaging better than 13 points per game. Rzucidlo produced almost 12 points per game while playing point guard.
Senior Aidan Holmes and junior Steve Scioscia are returning starters at forward.
Jerry Chilewski, a senior who was on the varsity roster at Scranton Prep and saw limited playing time, is the other starter up front.
Addison Hoffman, a senior forward, is the sixth man.
“We have a senior-heavy team,” Sunseri said. “We do have a good group of sophomores and two freshmen for 16 players total.
“We know for sure that we have those six varsity players. From those other JV guys, we’re see who develops and hope to get someone else into the rotation.”
The Lions play tournaments the first two weekends. They open with tournament host Wallenpaupack Friday night in an event that also includes East Stroudsburg North and Monticello, N.Y. Lackawanna Trail hosts a tournament Dec. 12-13, opening with Lakeland while Mid Valley and Lake-Lehman complete the field.