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What's in store for Lebanon County boys basketball teams this season?

Pat Huggins
Lebanon Daily News
Elco's Braden Bohannon drives to the hoop during game action from last season.

The only thing for sure about sports, and life, in 2020 is that nothing is for sure. 

Yet another case in point came earlier this month when Gov. Wolf's continued COVID-19 mitigation efforts resulted in the shutting down of, among other things, high school sports until early January.

So we're still not entirely sure there will be a hoops season this winter. But if there is, it should again be an interesting one in Lebanon County. Here's a closer look at what (might) lie ahead for Lebanon County boys basketball teams.

MORE: A look at Lebanon County hoops from A to Z

MORE: Northern Lebanon looking for new head football coach

We'll take a look at the prospects for county girls' teams later this week. Until then, dig in and check out the plans for the county boys' hoops season.

Annville-Cleona

Head coach: Jason Coletti (3rd year at A-C, 13th overall as a head coach

Key players lost:  Andrew Long (17.1 ppg), Adam Long (10.2 ppg), Caden Horning (6.3 ppg), Josh Speraw (6.2 ppg), Jeremy Bours (4.6 ppg), 

Top players returning: senior Yadiel Cruz (3.7 ppg), senior Nick Malloy (2.1 ppg)

Key newcomers: Isaac Good (Jr.), Simon Domencic (Jr.), Gavin Keller (Jr.); Carter Dodson (Jr.) and Chase MaGuire (Jr.) join A-C from attending Lebanon Catholic last year. 

Outlook: A-C endured some heavy graduation losses, including about 27 points per game from the Long brothers, but Coletti remains excited about the Dutchmen's potential, thanks in part to a promising group of younger players that will get their first shot at extended varsity playing time this season.

"We have just two seniors so we lack experience this year," Coletti said.  "However, I like our quickness and athleticism.  We have a great group of younger kids who are looking at stepping into bigger roles for us. We are excited to watch them grow and gain confidence throughout the year. Our goals will be to compete for one of  Section 5's (league) playoff spots, as well as a spot in the district Playoffs. Section 5 will be really competitive this year so we need to quickly adapt to the varsity game. I like the chemistry of our team,so once we get some game experience, I think we have a team to be competing for a playoff spot."

"Our kids have been great with the mask mandate. No player enjoys wearing them, however, they have not complained and are excited just to be able to play. The kids just want to play and have been exceptional about adapting to the new policies."

Cedar Crest  

Head coach: Tom Smith, 11th season

Key players lost: Ileri Ayo-Faleye, Jason Eberhart, Grant Allwein, Cole Miller, Amani Jones, Trey Shutter, Carson Perlacki

Top returning players: Christopher Danz, Max Scipioni, Matt Smith

Key newcomers: Conrad Wasson, Kaden Cantrell, Jake Wolfe, Nolan Groff, Jay Aviles, I’zaa Reyes-Vega, Mark Gates, Joe Castma

Outlook: After a thrilling run to the Lancaster-Lebanon League title and 6A district semifinals last  season led by big men Eberhart and Rhode Island recruit Ayo-Faleye, the Falcons are starting over with an almost entirely new cast, save for the senior trio of Danz, Scipioni and Smith, who will step into more prominent roles this season after contributing in reserve roles last season.

But the goals haven't changed in South Lebanon, even if most of the faces have.

"We will look much different this year since our 6’7 and 6’8 front line players are playing in college this season," Smith said. "We will be a much smaller and quicker team. Although we lost 96% of minutes from last year we are bringing back seniors who have been in the program and are hungry to get their opportunity. The biggest hurdle we are going to have to get over early in the season is developing the roles of all the new starters and contributors. We usually have the off-season filled with summer leagues and tournaments to figure these things out.

"With that being said, the goals at Cedar Crest never waver and the kids in our program know and embrace the challenges that come along with our goals. Our senior leaders have done a great job of navigating through these difficult and unusual times. We are taking everything one day at a time and are making the best of everyday we get in the gym. We understand at any point it could be shut down, so we are treating every day like it’s our last  which has really cranked up the intensity and competition in practice."

Cedar Crest's Chris Danz cuts down a portion of the net as his teammates await their turn amid the celebration of the Falcons' Section 1 title-clinching win over McCaskey last season.

Elco

Coach: Brad Conners (10th season)

Last season: 10-3 league, 20-7 overall (L-L Section Four runner-up, L-L tournament qualifier, District 3-4A semifinalist, PIAA 4A qualifier)

Top players lost: Bryce Coletti (12.9 ppg), Asher Kemble (12.5 ppg), Evan Huey (6.9 ppg), Ben Horst (6 ppg), Jordan Fernandez (2.1 ppg), Angel Martinez (1.7 ppg)

Top players returning: senior Braden Bohannon (19.5 ppg, 72 3-pointers)

Key newcomers: Senior Dakota Smith, Juniors Luke Williams, Rheece Shuey, Cole Thomas, and Corey Attivo, Freshman Dallas George

Outlook: The Raiders return the county's best player in senior guard Bohannon, who can light it up from just about anywhere, but most of the rest of the squad is heavily lacking in experience after graduation claimed the rest of the starting five, including floor leader Coletti and inside/outside threat Kemble.

But the Raiders do still have athletes and some size, which Conners believes will aid the cause going forward.

"We have a lot of size this year and our length, height, and strength should be an asset," he said.  "We need to use our size to our advantage.  It needs to show up on the defensive end particularly in the area of keeping the ball in front of us, challenging shooters, and boxing out for the rebound.  The mission is to improve everyday, get better with every practice, have fun, and to enjoy each day.  The off-season was only different in that we didn’t play in any summer or fall leagues.  Other than that, our players worked everyday.  They lifted and conditioned daily and individual workouts went on without a hiccup."  

Lebanon

Coach: Tim Speraw, 11th year

Key players lost:  Raylin Pena, Jean Bontemps, Joe Lacend, Jean Carlos Gonzalez

Top returning players:  Marquis Ferreira, Luke Collins, Isaiah Rodriguez, Braden Allwein, Alex Rufe,

Key newcomers: Jefrandy Pena, Kevin Smith, Demetrius Matthew, Kam Uffner

Outlook: Fronted by the potent trio of Collins, Ferreira and Rodriguez, the Cedars should have a lot to say about who wins Section 2, especially if the Big Three are well-supported by the role players and reserves. If that happens Lebanon could be trouble with a capital 'T'. In their one and only game so far - a Dec. 11 70-58 win vs. Northern Lebanon - Allwein and Smith each dropped in 13 points, which bodes well when the Cedars return to action

"Our goals remain the same in that we want to compete for a section title, make a run in L-L’s and districts and qualify for the state playoffs," Speraw said. "We look to use our experience to our advantage.  We have a good combination to play inside out with Isaiah, Luke and Marquis.  We will need some players to step into the roles that were vacated by graduation but so far the players have been working extremely hard to earn their spot on the floor."

Lebanon's Luke Collins goes up for a shot in the Cedars' win over Red Land last season. The Cedars beat Northern Lebanon, 70-58, in a non-league encounter just hours before Gov. Wolf's planned shutdown of high school sports until Jan. 4.

Northern Lebanon

Head coach:  Chris George, 6th year

Key players lost:  Ethan Borcky Alex Folmer Nate Leedy-Reidel

Top returning players: Peyton Wolfe, Owen Treadway, Nate Shirk, Josh Clemmer, Ian Herman, Simon Grimes, Rasheed Beldor

Key newcomers: Jacob Martino (Leb Catholic), Moises Gonzalez, Tyler Wolfe, James Voight

Outlook: Hopes are high in Fredericksburg with sharpshooting junior guard Wolfe returning to lead a deep and experienced group that has grown and matured into a playoff contender despite some growing pains the last few season. Assuming the season is a go, this could be their reward for some of those rough nights in recent years. Wolfe is already in mid-season form after dropping in 33 points in a Dec. 11 loss to Lebanon.  

"We expect to compete for a league and district playoff spot, assuming we're able to finish our season, with whatever playoffs will look like," George said.  "Our section has been arguably the 2nd or 3rd best and/or most competitive the past couple of seasons, however, Catholic is Catholic, and you never know who will walk onto the floor, Elco is led by the best player in the L-L, and Octorara is most likely the favorite with their 2 best kids back. We like our chances, however, returning 7 guys that started games last season and 4 more that either saw significant time or will this year.

"At this point, however, with everything going on, our main goal is to take one day at a time and enjoy every day we get to be in a gym playing hoops with our friends and competing that night to our best abilities, looking to improve in every aspect of the game. That said, we are excited about this group, they've had success coming up through our program, they're a great group of kids, unselfish, and love to play for one another. They're not worried about who gets the credit or stats, they're always making the extra pass, or setting the screen that's gonna give our team the best shot to win."

Palmyra

Head coach: Pete Conrad, 11th at PHS, 15th overall

Key players lost: G Kasey Shughart, F Christian Kreiser, G Josh Mark, G Manny Santana

Top returning players: G Brennan Almond, G Anthony Alviani, G Daniel Baldo, G Gavin Bean, F Eli Becker, G Roman Byler, F Chris Edwards, F Trey Hilbert, G Quinton Townsend

Key newcomers: n/a

Outlook: The Cougars limped home to a 5-17 record a season ago, but there is hope for the immediate future, with promising players like Edwards, Byler, Becker, Alviani, and Baldo, among others, looking to get the program heading in the right direction again. It won't be easy in the always-tough Mid-Penn Keystone Division, but the Cougars have the chances to make some strides if things break right this season.

"We have a good foundation of experienced players," said veteran head coach Conrad, "and we're working hard to build a culture of competition and being good teammates."