After showing flashes last season, Chartiers Valley boys look to return to contention

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Sunday, December 4, 2022 | 11:01 AM


Two seasons ago, the Chartiers Valley boys basketball team was a WPIAL finalist. The Colts went 22-4 with that fourth loss a defeat at the hands of New Castle in the district title game.

That group was led by Brayden Reynolds, now at Farleigh Dickinson, and had a senior class that was heavily involved in the team’s success.

Last season, Anthony Mackey missed the whole season with an ACL injury suffered during football season. The Colts also had Pat Mulligan, Brandon Ferguson and Avery Alston as seniors on the roster. The team went 8-15 and 5-5 in Section 2-5A before bowing out in the first round of the postseason with a loss to Penn Hills.

Chartiers Valley showed some flashes though, and with the return of sophomore guard Jayden Davis and an incoming group of freshmen and talent from last year’s junior varsity team, fifth-year coach Brandon Sensor is excited for the upcoming season.

“We’re already farther ahead on offense and defense than we were at the end of last season, just in the kids’ IQ and understanding of what we’re trying to do,” said Sensor. “Offensively, we’re moving the ball well, playing smart and playing up tempo. On defense, we’re playing hard and defending it well. The guys are doing a good job of being aggressive and staying in the right spots.”

Sensor said it’s a good group of hungry kids that get along and want to play for each other, which he thinks helps tremendously.

The most notable returner to the rotation is Davis, who averaged 27 points per game last season as a freshman.

“He was so impressive, but I think he’s gotten a lot better,” said Sensor. “He’s the best athlete on the court, and he’s just so skilled. I really like the way he’s playing right now. … He’s doing what he can do defensively, and he’s limited bad shots, finding open people and playing a little bit smarter on offense. I’m excited to see how much he improves.”

Davis was forced to do a lot last year, but Sensor feels the team is a bit more talented around him this season.

Drew Sleva and Brendan Cruz will factor in leadership roles in a big way, while senior Joey Zajicek, who will miss the season with an injury suffered in football, will help in that department. Zajicek and Cruz both saw some time on the 2020-21 team that made its run to the title game.

Juniors Gionni Jones, Jaxon Specht and TJ Kubiscek as well as freshmen Julian Semplice and Danny Slizick figure to have significant roles in the rotation, as will Rudy Morris, a junior who was the seventh man last season.

There’s a chance even more freshmen and younger players could see time as well.

“There’s a mixture of youth and experience coming back,” said Sensor. “I’m very excited and optimistic about where we are right now.”

The team’s coachability is a big bonus for the man roaming the bench.

“Playing unselfish … that’s what we need to do to make strides this year, get back into that winning record and make a run at the playoffs,” said Sensor. “But you can say that about most teams. Once you get in, anything can happen.”

At a glance

Coach: Brandon Sensor

Last year’s record: 8-15 (5-5 in Section 2-5A)

Returning starters: Jayden Davis (So., G), Drew Sleva (Sr., G), Brendan Cruz (Sr., G)

Top newcomers: Gionni Jones (Jr., G), Jaxon Specht (Jr., G), TJ Kubiscek (Jr., G), Julian Semplice (Fr., G), Danny Slizick (Fr., G)

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