WPIAL Class 4A boys basketball breakdown

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Monday, December 3, 2018 | 7:21 PM


Class 4A

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).

Notable

• 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).

Alignment

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 bhartlep@tribweb.com or via Twitter @TribHSInsider.

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