WPIAL Class 4A boys basketball breakdown
By: Bill Hartlep
Monday, December 3, 2018 | 7:21 PM
Preseason Player of the Year
Johnny Crise, Highlands
6-7, Jr., forward
12.0 ppg last season
Players to watch
Danny Conlan, Quaker Valley
6-5, Sr., F, 12.0 ppg
Aaron Hilzendeger, Ambridge
6-6, Sr., F, 19.2 ppg
Jacob Johnson, Mt. Pleasant
6-2, Jr., G, 15.5 ppg
Cam Nusser, Belle Vernon
5-9, Jr., G, 14.0 ppg
Ryan Stowers, Quaker Valley
6-5, Sr., F, 15.1 ppg
Preseason Top 5
1. Quaker Valley (26-2 last season)
WPIAL runners-up last season, the Quakers return just two starters, but both forwards are among the section’s best. Stowers was named first-team all-section, and Conlan was a second-team pick. They will miss graduate Coletrane Washington (Drexel).
2. New Castle (23-5)
The reigning WPIAL champions return just two letterwinners and have only three seniors — guard Donte Burnett, guard/forward Drew Cox and forward Payne Prowell. But the Red Hurricanes have won the past two WPIAL Class 4A titles.
3. Highlands (20-6)
Highlands shared the Section 3-5A title a year ago and reached the WPIAL semifinals and PIAA quarterfinals. Crise and fellow junior Luke Cochran will lead a potent offensive attack, along with junior guard Korry Myers and senior forward Daniel Thimons.
4. Belle Vernon (18-7)
With longtime Monessen coach Joe Salvino (638-256) in charge after replacing Kyle DeGregorio, Belle Vernon will look to maintain momentum after finishing third in the WPIAL and reaching the PIAA playoffs. Nusser leads a strong junior class that includes Larry Callaway, Mitch Pohlot and Hunter Ruokonen.
5. Uniontown (14-10)
Uniontown reached the WPIAL quarterfinals a year ago but graduated eight players, including all-section guard Kam Fitzgerald (18.0 ppg).
• WPIAL Class 4A boys basketball features 19 teams in three sections this season compared to 23 last year.
• Highlands, Ringgold and Knoch dropped down from 5A.
• Section 2 stayed intact, with the exception of Beaver Falls, which dropped to Class 3A.
• Indiana, which finished fourth in the WPIAL, and South Fayette, which was fifth, moved up to 5A. Valley, the WPIAL’s sixth-place finisher, moved to 3A.
• Tom Esposito returns to the bench as Derry’s coach. He previously led the Trojans for nine seasons (76-96) and also coached five seasons at Homer-Center (62-55). John Kerr (6-5) is the lone senior returning for Derry.
• Knoch returns four starters after finishing 7-14 a year ago. The group includes guard Julian Sanks (16.6 ppg).
Section 1: Derry, Freeport, Highlands, Knoch, Mt. Pleasant, Yough
Section 2: Ambridge, Beaver, Blackhawk, Central Valley, Hopewell, New Castle, Quaker Valley
Section 3: Belle Vernon, Elizabeth Forward, Ringgold, South Park, Uniontown, Waynesburg
— Bill Hartlep
Bill Hartlep is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bill at email@example.com or via Twitter @TribHSInsider.