Deep senior class returns to lead Hempfield boys through challenging schedule
Saturday, November 27, 2021 | 1:04 PM
Hempfield is not backing down from anyone this season, that much is clear from a quick once-over of the Spartans’ boys basketball schedule.
Aside from daunting Section 3-6A home-and-homes against Fox Chapel and Central Catholic, the Spartans will take on North Allegheny, North Hills, Butler, Pine-Richland, Bethel Park, Mt. Lebanon, Peters Township and Belle Vernon.
“It’s the toughest schedule we’ve ever had here,” coach Bill Swan said. “It’s loaded.”
The taxing slate must mean the Spartans have some talent.
With eight seniors and three regulars back, Hempfield has experience to go with some size and smarts.
“We have a bunch of guys who are ranked highly in their class,” Swan said. “They’re just great kids with great families.”
Following up a 12-6 season that included a second-place section finish and a run to the WPIAL quarterfinals comes with some pressure, but the Spartans appear up to the challenge.
“We have a lot of guys ready to take on leadership roles,” senior guard Joe Fiedor said. “Anyone can play any position.”
Fiedor and fellow seniors Sean Gordon and Dom Hipps are the anchors to the rotation. Gordon averaged 10.6 points and Fiedor 9.7. Fiedor led the Spartans with 52 assists and had 30 steals.
Gordon also grabbed 4.5 rebounds and made a team-high 31 3-pointers.
The Spartans will have to replace their top two scorers in Michael Hosni (14.2 ppg) and Christian Zilli (11.9), who played pivotal roles in last year’s surge.
“We make a couple more shots and we’re in the semis against Fox Chapel,” Swan said. “That’s 6A basketball. We learned from that. Last year was different. Everyone was just thankful to play.”
At 6-foot-5, Gordon is a versatile swingman who can shoot 3s, stretch the floor and defend.
“I have always been one of the younger guys so I am looking forward to taking on a leadership role,” Gordon said. “I’m not worried about (stats); I just want to win.”
Senior guard Brandon Learn also is expected to fill a key role, along with 6-4 senior forward Chaz Ewer.
Learn and Ewer are returning lettermen.
Senior Daniel Sierk (6-5, 250) provides size and strength in the post, while Swan also will look for key minutes from junior guards Harrison Sowers and Landon Kauffman.
Sierk is a Bucknell football commit.
“We’ll run the same offense with some organized motion,” Swan said. “We’ll probably run a little bit of zone because we’re not as quick.”
Swan begins his 20th year of coaching. He is 196-151 across two stints at Hempfield that total 15 years.
He is 247-200 overall with other coaching stops at Portage and Connellsville. He also spent 13 years as an assistant, at Wilmington, Central Cambria, Connellsville and Greensburg Central Catholic.
Swan is known for producing gritty teams that tend to hang around opponents, even when they don’t match up well with them.
“Dom and B-Learn are our toughest leaders and we’re looking for a lot from them,” the coach said.
Fiedor said the key to Hempfield possibly taking the next step is more consistency with leads.
“We can’t have two- or three-minute (stretches) where we self-destruct,” Fiedor said. “We can’t get conservative, we have to keep attacking. We can’t sit back.”
Fiedor is a Seton Hill baseball commit who is coming off Tommy John surgery.
Team chemistry is an intangible thing, but Hipps said it is visible daily in practice.
“We have been playing together since third grade,” Hipps said. “We’re all good friends.”
Hempfield will host its 17th annual tip-off tournament Dec. 10-11. The Spartans will play North Allegheny and Franklin Regional.
Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
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