Taking next step on minds of Chartiers Valley, Bishop Canevin, Carlynton boys basketball
Thursday, November 28, 2019 | 2:01 PM
The Chartiers Valley boys basketball team, under first-year coach Brandon Sensor, came within a game of playing for the WPIAL Class 5A title last season.
Bishop Canevin, which also had a first-year coach, Gino Palmosina, qualified for the Class A playoffs but was eliminated in the first round.
Carlynton, under veteran coach Mike Kozy, struggled in 2018-19, winning just one section game.
The success of the area boys basketball teams ran the spectrum, but regardless of which end they were on, all had one thing in common: None won a WPIAL title. So the 2019-20 season dawns with each team striving for that goal.
A look at each team:
The Crusaders won 14 games last season, including going 10-2 in Section 2-A, which was a significant jump from the previous season when they won five games. Still, Palmosina and his returning players were left with an empty feeling.
Rather than revel in what was, they mused about what could have been.
“I thought it was a good step forward but not where we want to be at,” Palmosina said. “We want to contend for championships. We have to find a way to win big games.”
Besides the first-round playoff loss to Leechburg, Bishop Canevin couldn’t figure out a way to beat section champ Monessen. The Crusaders led the Greyhounds late in one of their meetings but faded down the stretch.
Palmosina hopes the players’ familiarity with one another can rectify those shortcomings.
“We didn’t know how to play together,” he said. “Getting to play with each other as much as you can is extremely important. Learning how to win those games all comes with experience and playing together.”
Three starters return: sophomore point guard KeVaughn Price, junior guard Nevan Crossey and junior guard/forward Dom Elliott. Also back is senior Nate Kirsch, who was the sixth man but also started several games.
Palmosina said he expects Price to make a big improvement, and Elliott will play more guard than forward, using his 6-foot-4 frame to create matchup problems on the perimeter.
“Hopefully,” Palmosina said, “we can get everybody on the same page this year.”
After a 1-11 showing in Section 2-3A, the Cougars, Kozy said, are having no trouble getting motivated this season. That is particularly true of the four returning starters: guards DeQuay Canton, Chauncey Mickens and Mark Phillips and forward Morgan Ault.
All are seniors and have been playing together since fourth grade. Kozy said they are driven to end their time at Carlynton on a winning note.
“You talk about a group that knows each other,” Kozy said. “They are hungry.”
Aside from having a wealth of experience, Kozy said, the seniors complement each other’s skills. Canton, who averaged 13.5 points, is the motor. Mickens, who led the Cougars with 16 points per game, is the cerebral player. Phillips is the shooter, and Ault is the big man who knows how to play off the guards.
Senior Christian Ray brings additional experience, and he will help shepherd the next wave of players who will form the nucleus of the program. Freshman Austin Milliner and sophomores Michael Kozy, Pierce Griener and Khalil Kerr are expected to see significant playing time.
In looking back at last season, Kozy said turnovers were a big reason his team struggled. Hanging onto the ball and taking it away from the opponent, he said, will be the Cougars’ focus.
“One of my favorite lines to the boys is, ‘The team with the most points wins,’ ” Kozy said. “They get a nice little chuckle when I say that. But my point in saying that is everything we do on the court has to contribute to us scoring and (opponents) not scoring.
“We cannot turn the ball over, and we have to be able to fill it up ourselves.”
The Tim McConnell Era was among the best in boys basketball across the WPIAL. The Brandon Sensor Era got off to a pretty good start.
The Colts went 16-5, 11-3 in Section 2-5A, and advanced to the WPIAL semifinals, where they lost to eventual champion Mars. Moon, the other finalist, was the Section 2-5A champion and a team the Colts defeated during the regular season.
So Sensor and his players are eager to make another run.
“There’s a good chance we can have a similar season,” Sensor said, “especially with me being here for a year. Last year, we were trying to figure things out through the year. If the stars align, we could have a special year.”
The Colts bring back plenty of experienced players. Seniors Brayden Reynolds, Jared Goldstrom, Marcello Legister and Sean Banas form the backbone of the team. Goldstrom averaged 15 points and shot 42% from 3-point range last season.
A fifth senior, Louie Kearney, might be described as the Colts’ secret weapon. Though he doesn’t necessarily put a lot of points on the board, Kearney, Sensor said, does all the little things that help win games: play defense, take charges, make good decisions.
“He’s a small guy, but he’s probably the toughest guy on the team,” Sensor said. “When he’s in the game, he’s all over the floor.”
Junior Socrates Boulis also is expected to make a big contribution. Sensor said Boulis is fundamentally sound and has improved his accuracy from 3-point range, which can help open up the offense for others.
Trips to the WPIAL title game became the norm under McConnell, and Sensor is hopeful of getting the Colts back to that level.
“We have five seniors, and they know it’s their last chance,” he said. “And we have three juniors, and all of those guys are going to play a lot. They had a solid year (last season) but came up short, and we still talk about that.”