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Preview: Changes Abound in 2016-17 District 9 Boys’ Hoops Season

SHIPPENVILLE, Pa. – It’s a new era in Pennsylvania high school basketball with the expansion from four classifications to six classifications this season.

(Cover photo of Elk County Catholic’s Nate DaCanal. The Crusaders look to defend their District 9 1A title from a year ago. Photo by Paul Burdick. Check out more of Burdick’s work here)

That means some changes are in store for District 9 with nine boys’ team guaranteed PIAA playoff berths and a 10th with a possibility for a PIAA berth.

Class 1A has four berths to the PIAA tournament with Class 2A gaining three berths. Class 3A and 4A each have one berth and Class 5A, which only includes DuBois, has a chance to earn a berth with a play-in game vs. the District 8 (Pittsburgh City League) top 5A team.

Here is a breakdown of the classifications:

Class 1A (15 teams)
A-C Valley, Austin, Cameron County, DuBois Central Catholic, Elk County Catholic, Forest Area, Johnsonburg, North Clarion, Northern Potter, Oswayo Valley, Otto-Eldred, Port Allegany, Sheffield, Union and Venango Catholic.

Class 2A (10 teams)
Brockway, Clarion, Clarion-Limestone, Coudersport, Cranberry, Curwensville, Keystone, Redbank Valley, Ridgway and Smethport.

Class 3A (4 teams)
Brookville, Kane, Karns City, Moniteau

Class 4A (4 teams)
Bradford, Clearfield, Punxsutawney, St. Marys

Class 5A (1 team)

New Coaches

In addition to the new classifications, there are nine new District 9 head coaches this season.

At Brockway, Rick Clark takes over for Dave Bennett. In Curwensville Matt Wassil returns to the helm in place of Shane Pentz. Former DCC star Dom Varacallo takes over the helm of his alma mater in place of Greg Lonesky, while Jerry Day steps in at Moniteau taking over for Jerrod Markle. Jeff Stuckey is the new coach at Port Allegany with Jason Luther moving over to be the girls’ head coach, while Shad Boschert steps in at St. Marys in place of Jason Schriber. In another return to the coaching ranks, Jay Acker is back in charge at Smethport taking over for Jim Thomas, while Eric Mortimer replaces Jeff Hepler at Union and Mike McNellie takes over for Scott Walters at Venango Catholic.

View Preseason All-District Team

Team-by-Team Look

What follows is a team-by-team look in capsule format. Coaches were asked to name their top returning players, their top newcomers and the key(s) to their season. Teams are listed in alphabetical order.

Head Coach: Andy Rapp
2015-16 record: 5-16
Top returning players: Joe Manculich, Kody Wolfe
Key newcomers: Russ Carr (Fr.), Eddie Stevanus (Fr.)
Coach’s key to the season: Winning the games we should win and taking care of the possession and knocking down open shots

Head Coach: Rich Glover
2015-16 record: 1-21
Top returning players: Brian Shupe, Mason Valenti, Blake Burgett
Key newcomers: Dempsey Glove (So.), Matt Daniels (Fr.)
Coach’s key to the season: Play as a team, be disciplined on defense and efficient in executing our offense. It’s a young team with two seniors, five sophomores and six freshmen.

Head Coach: Brian Hobbs
2015-16 record: 10-13
Top returning players: Deondre Terwilliger, Nate Higbie, Danny Manion
Key newcomers: Donny Pattison (So.), Nate Blauser (So.), Blake Bryant (So.), Tyler Gigliotti (Fr.)
Coach’s key to the season: Most importantly team chemistry. We have a mix of veterans and newcomers that will need to gel quickly. We have leaned heavily on our defense the last couple of years. Scoring will be a major factor in our success. We are going to need to get to the hoop more this year and finish at the rim.

Head Coach: Rick Clark
2015-16 record: 12-14
Top returning players: Jake Wineberg, Carter Adams, Quade Lundberg, Jarrett Esposito
Key newcomers: Zane Puhala (So.)
Coach’s key to the season: We have 12 guys returning who saw varsity minutes last season, so utilizing our experience and depth to try to wear teams down will be a key. In game taking care of the ball offensively and winning the rebounding battle each night will be important.

Head Coach: Kevin Wolfe
2015-16 record: 8-15
Top returning players: Jimmy Moore, Seth Ray, Ben Reitz, Colton Singleton, Bryan Dworek
Key newcomers: Nick Keth (Jr.), Trenton Gilhousen (So.), Aaron Park (Fr.)
Coach’s key to the season: Defense and taking care of the ball

Head Coach: Mark Guido
2015-16 record: 14-10
Top returning players: Derek Rieder, Adam Shaffer
Key newcomers: Moe Yarborough (6-2, Jr,), Jake Walters (6-6, So.)
Coach’s key to the season: Establishing an inside presence as we have decent size this year and utilizing our depth

Head Coach: Jess Quinn
2015-16 record: 17-7
Top returning players: Cam Craig, Ceventh Lynch-Skunda, Ty Burford, Ryan Anthony, Reed Anthony, Spencer Miller
Key newcomers: Austin Hummell (Jr.), Zak Bauer (Jr.)
Coach’s key to the season: Using our quickness with defense being the focus.

Head Coach: Joe Ferguson
2015-16 record: 21-3
Top returning players: Dan Callen, Julian Laugand, Ian Callen (is out at the start of the season with an injury)
Key newcomers: Deion Deas (Fr.)
Coach’s key to the season: Team chemistry. Not being complacent with the success we’ve had the last few years. Getting our injured players back as soon as possible, especially Ian Callen

Head Coach: Nate Glunt
2015-16 record: 23-3 (District 9 3A Champions)
Top returning players: Evan Brown, Dave McKenzie, Will Myers, Tommy Hazel.
Key newcomers: We have a bunch of newcomers that could make an impact. We have three other lettermen returning who didn’t start last year but will contribute: Jon Gates (Jr.) , Jake Sorbera (Jr.), Ethan McGinnis (Sr.). We have one player returning from an injury who was not able to play last year: Reese Wilson (Jr.). We have another player who is out for the team who didn’t play last year: Ryan Chew (Jr.). We have three sophomores who have a chance to help us at the varsity level: Keagan Hess, Taye Lynch, Ryan Lazauskas.
Coach’s key to the season: Three keys for us this season (1) play excellent defense and rebound (2) develop depth (3) continue to improve as the season progresses

Head Coach: Brian Furman
2015-16 record: 23-4, 2nd in D9 Class A; 2nd round of PIAA playoffs
Top returning players: Zach Layag, David Rigas, Aaron Wolfinger, Jared Green, Derek Keglovits, Owen Chambers
Key newcomers: None listed
Coach’s key to the season: We don’t have a lot of size. Rebounding and defense are areas of concern. Offensively, we will be fine if we limit our turnovers.

Head Coach: Pat Irwin
2015-16 record: 14-9
Top returning players: None – The Berries graduated eight seniors from last season.
Key newcomers: Pretty much the entire team
Coach’s key to the season: Being efficient both offensively and defensively and showing improvement as the year progresses

Head Coach: Matt Wassil
2015-16 record: 4-18
Top returning players: Avery Francisco, Devan Barrett, Josh Terry, Zach Marshall, Christian Bakaysa
Key newcomers: Noah Von Gunden (So.), Dakota Bloom (So.), Nate McKenrick, Cameron Moore
Coach’s key to the season: I think the biggest thing for us this year is to take it one day at a time and keep working to get better. We know we have some ground to make up, and the kids have been working really hard each day. We can’t get too high or too low, and we just have to focus on each individual task that is presented to us.

Head Coach: Scott Creighton
2015-16 record: 10-13
Top returning players: Nick LaBrasca, Kenny Garvey, Kyle Hopson, Brendon Foley, Josh Solnosky
Key newcomers: Bryce Bright, Matt Miller, Dylan McCluskey, Justin Manduley, Alex Beers
Coach’s key to the season: Overall, we are young and fairly inexperienced. However, I believe our attitude and work ethic will carry us through until the rest of our development as a team catches up.

Head Coach: Dom Varacallo
2015-16 record: 16-9
Top returning players: Justin Miknis, Thomas Grecco, Noah Pettenati
Key newcomers: Austin Cogley (Sr.), Michael Misiewicz (Sr.), John Swalligan (Jr.), Brandon Walker (So.), Anthony Kness (So.), Jonathan Kurtz (Fr.)
Coach’s key to the season: The development of young players to perform at the varsity level. With only three players with any varsity experience, we need to grow quickly and be ready to compete. I like how far we’ve come from the summer, and they are ready to go.

Head Coach: Aaron Straub
2015-16 record: 28-1 (District 9 1A Champions)
Top returning players: Nate DaCanal, Frank Singer, Brad Dippold, Dan Stauffer, Gabe Kraus, Jared Braun
Key newcomers: Eric Mader (Jr.), Logan Hoffman (Jr.), Joe Aiello (Jr.), Ryan Newton (Jr.)
Coach’s key to the season: We hope to build on the accomplishments of last year. It’s my job and the job of our coaches to ensure what we were able to accomplish last year doesn’t lead to complacency but instead motivates our team to greater personal and team growth this year. We are a senior-oriented team. Leadership, understanding and perspective from our seniors should be one of our strengths. We will look to generate offense off our defense and off of our transition game. We don’t possess a true post player, although we do have a couple of guys who can compete very well inside on both the offensive end and the defensive end of the floor. We will also need to make sure we don’t rely too heavily on the 3-ball. It’s easy sometimes to just “settle” for a 3 when you can create something better by playing great team basketball.

Head Coach: Dustin Donato
2015-16 record: 3-19
Top returning players: Seth Berlin, Jarrett Kahle, Daniel Parrett
Key newcomers: Not one player in specific but a group of sophomores and freshmen who could make an impact
Coach’s key to the season: Playing a very uptempo game and playing solid defense.

Head Coach: Bill Shuey
2015-16 record: 9-15
Top returning players: Ryan Kilhoffer, Drew Akers, Kacey Raubenstrauch, Jacob Sheldon , Tyler Singer and Colby Hefright.
Key newcomers: Trevor Lobaugh (Jr.), Ben Freeburg (Jr.) and Dilen Surra (Jr.).
Coach’s key to the season: We need to play as a team. We have some good players, no standouts, and we’ll be good if we play as a unit on the floor.

Head Coach: Matt Gasbarre
2015-16 record: 14-11 (District 9 2A Champions)
Top returning players: Andrew Bucheit, Davis Gardner, Frank Truden
Key newcomers: Keaton Rounsville (Sr.), Ange Costanzo (Jr.), Ray Maze (Jr.), Reed Williams (Jr.), Chad Greville (Fr.)
Coach’s key to the season: How efficiently we can gel as a team with multiple players transitioning from football to basketball. Also making sure we stay disciplined in all phases to control the pace of play and style we want to exhibit as a collective unit.

Head Coach: Chris Bellis
2015-16 record: 10-12
Top returning players: Chandler Turner, Noah Pollock, Ian McElroy, Jimmy Thompson
Key newcomers: Jacob Friel (Jr.), Nolan Riley (Jr.), Noah Kepple (Jr.), Logan Pistorius (Jr.), Austin Fahlor (So.)
Coach’s key to the season: Team defense and development of underclassmen

Head Coach: Greg Heath
2015-16 record: 12-12
Top returning players: Austin Ion, Tanner Wilson, Nate WIngard, Corey Rapp, Ian Henry, Dalton Jones
Key newcomers: Brooks LaVan (So.), Connor Exley (So.), Luke Hurrelbrink (So.)
Coach’s key to the season: Play hard every night. Play unselfishly.

Head Coach: Jerry Day
2015-16 record: 6-16
Top returning players: Lake Pry, Jacob Jewart
Key newcomers: None listed
Coach’s key to the season: How the inexperienced players we have starting mature into varsity players.

Head Coach: Andy Bish
2015-16 record: 9-13
Top returning players: Nathan Banner, Keeven Weaver
Key newcomers: Chase Schmader (Sr.), Zander Hargenrader (Jr.), Sam Minich (So.), Logan Minich (So.), Jesse Schmader (Jr.)
Coach’s key to the season: Getting off to a fast start, playing together as a team and playing solid defense

Head Coach: Gary Ransom
2015-16 record: 4-18
Top returning players: Tucker Kosa, Blake Jeffers, Austin Outman
Key newcomers: None listed
Coach’s key to the season: We will need to control turnovers and try to control the tempo

Head Coach: Clark Cummings
2015-16 record: 16-7
Top returning players: Theo Henry
Key newcomers: Garrett Babcock (Sr.), Gavin Babcock (So.), Jacob Karr (Jr.), Garren Black (Jr.), Nathan Prouty (Jr.), Taige Bryant (Jr.)
Coach’s key to the season: We graduated eight seniors, including Brandon Brabham from a team that had the fifth-most wins in school history. So coming together as a team will be important.

Head Coach: Dan Dalton
2015-16 record: 14-9
Top returning players: Dylan Close, Sawyer Drummond, Seth Drummond (missed last season with an injury)
Key newcomers: Juan Bosco Ramiro (Jr., Exchange student from Spain), Keagan Bisker (Moved from Bradford)
Coach’s key to the season: Committing on the defensive end and being able to play uptempo while still taking care of the ball

Head Coach: Jeff Stuckey
2015-16 record: 9-13
Top returning players: Brandon McCaslin, Tyler Lashway, MacKenzie Elliott
Key newcomers: Jordan Bell (Sr.), David Talkington (Jr.), Howard Stuckey (Fr.), Jordan Card (Fr.)
Coach’s key to the season: How well the kids blend together. Eight of the nine players were on the soccer field together this year. It should be exciting.

Head Coach: Dirk Neal
2015-16 record: 14-9
Top returning players: Devin Kelly, Ethan Riley, Brandon Matthews
Key newcomers: Jacob Weaver (Sr.), Jacob Horner (Sr.), Patrick Fedigan (Sr.), Brady Snyder (Sr.), Tanner Zimmerman (Sr.), Kevin Constant (Jr.), Tyler Richardson (Jr.), Tyler Getch (Jr.), Matt Wehrle (Jr.), Ethan Blose (So.), Alex Gianvito (So.).
Coach’s key to the season: Developing our younger players so they can contribute quality minutes.

Head Coach: Emmanuel Marshall III
2015-16 record: 8-14
Top returning players: Riley Campbell, Grayson Harman
Key newcomers: Ethan Hetrick (6-3, Fr.), Adrian Daniels (6-4, Fr.)
Coach’s key to the season: The key to success is determinant on our ability to play together as a team. We don’t have a dominant scorer this year or a dominant shot blocker. We have a group of players that must all contribute when out on the hardwood. Our team consists of role players. We have nine players in our varsity rotation who all have a designated role to fill when out on the hardwood. Each player possesses a specific skill-set that compliments the unit as a whole

Head Coach: Tony Allegretto
2015-16 record: 23-5
Top returning players: Justin Kasmierski, Neil MacDonald, Andy Breier, Aaron Shilk, Johnny Mitchell, Ben Ames, Kyle Jordan
Key newcomers: Josh Thorwart (Jr.), Aaron Hinton (Jr.), Chris Wickett (Jr.), Daunte Allegretto (So.)
Coach’s key to the season: New players finding their roles and fitting into the system …. Experienced players expanding their roles and having a balanced scoring attack … Developing leadership … Defense

Head Coach: Shad Boschert
2015-16 record: 15-9
Top returning players: Jeff Wehler, Matt Marconi
Key newcomers: Parker Smith (Sr.), Nathan Schneider (Jr.), Jackson Lindemuth (Jr.)
Coach’s key to the season: Playing together and functioning as a unit on both ends of the floor.

Head Coach: Mike Knapp
2015-16 record: 4-18
Top returning players: Drew Higby, Austin Simmer, Roger Dunham, Matt Dunham, Cale Albaugh, Cam Retterer, Tanner Leichtenberger
Key newcomers: Gabe Donato, Luke Davidson, Hunter Lobdell
Coach’s key to the season: We are learning how to play the game in a very tough league.

Head Coach: Jay Acker
2015-16 record: 4-18
Top returning players: Caleb Lutz, Justin Tanner
Key newcomers: Ian Woodruff (So.), Eric Szarowicz (So.), Noah Costa (So.), Brayden Southard (Jr.), Brandon Peters (So.), Cameron O’Neil (Jr.)
Coach’s key to the season: Key is to get more experience. We are a young team with a core group of sophomores. We should have a good inside presence and good team chemistry.

Head Coach: Eric Mortimer
2015-16 record: 17-10
Top returning players: Gavin Hawk, Lucas Bowser, Dana Logue
Key newcomers: Trey Miles (Sr.), Hunter Johnson (Jr.), Reice Saylor (So.)
Coach’s key to the season: Improving every game, defense, rebounding, getting use to playing together

Head Coach: Mike McNellie
2015-16 record: 6-16
Top returning players: Connor Zagar, Hunter Lancaster, Josh Puleo, Tim Wagner
Key newcomers: Ben Gillispie, Parker Slagle
Coach’s key to the season: Staying healthy and out of foul trouble.

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