With uncommon chemistry, veteran Leechburg boys lineup ready to tackle Class 2A
Thursday, November 24, 2022 | 11:01 AM
The names are familiar, and so are the goals.
The Leechburg boys basketball team returns five of its top seven players from last season, and the Blue Devils are poised to try for an eighth consecutive WPIAL playoff berth.
Coach Damian Davies brings back an experienced lineup, led by forward Braylan Lovelace and point guard Marcus Cleveland.
Even with a veteran squad, Davies is concerned about hacking off a week of the preseason.
“With the short beginning, we have a short two weeks,” Davies said. “The best thing about it is the veterans that we have. We can rely on what we’ve learned in the past.”
The starting lineup of Lovelace, Cleveland, Ashton Redmond, Owen McDermott and Tyler Foley has been together for many years and will be set to go Dec. 2 when the Blue Devils open at home with their tip-off tournament.
“We’re definitely looking forward to a good season,” Cleveland said. “Our guys have been together for a while. It’s amazing. Not a lot of teams get to experience guys who have been playing together since first grade. We look sharp.”
A surprising aspect of the new PIAA enrollment cycle was Leechburg jumping from the Class A ranks to 2A.
“I don’t even understand it, but we’re Double-A,” Davies said. “I don’t know what happened there. I’m disappointed. But Double-A, you get bigger people and more athletic bodies. We used to play Serra in Single-A, and they were always good. But we’ll play our local rivals, Springdale and Riverview. We always think of them as our public schools down the road that face the same challenges we do.”
Said Cleveland: “We play the same game no matter who we go up against. We don’t change for anybody.”
The top four teams will make the WPIAL playoffs.
Off the bench will be sophomore Jaden Floyd, whom Davies feels might be the team’s best defensive player; Klayton Grantz, Brady Rollinger, the point guard on last year’s junior varsity team; and newcomer Tyler Burke.
The Blue Devils will be missing 6-foot-6 center Eli Rich.
“He’s irreplaceable. Besides his shenanigans, he was a great team player,” Davies said. “He did anything you asked. We saw how we’ll miss him in the summer league. We weren’t getting on the boards. Everybody has to rebound now.”
Lovelace will have to move to the frontcourt to help Redmond. McDermott already has lettered in four sports at Leechburg with monograms in football, soccer and baseball, his main sport.
The coaching staff has stayed constant over the years as Davies will be helped by Dave Lovelace, who has spent a considerable number of seasons with the program before his son played, Ben Ritchie and Andrew and Ryan McDermott.
“Basketball’s a long journey, the long bus rides and the film. It’s always worthwhile when you’re around people like that,” Davies said. “That’s part of my longevity, being around people I love.”
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