MERCER CO. ATHLETIC CONFERENCE
Commodore Perry (A) Schedule/season preview
George Jr. Republic (AAAA) Schedule/season preview
Greenville (AA) Schedule/season preview
Grove City (AAA) Schedule/season preview
Hickory (AAA) Schedule/season preview
Kennedy Christian (A) Schedule/season preview
Mercer (AA) Schedule/season preview
Reynolds (AA) Schedule/season preview
Sharon (AAA) Schedule/season preview
Sharpsville (AA) Schedule/season preview
Slippery Rock (AAA) Schedule/season preview
West Middlesex (A) Schedule/season preview
Wilmington (AA) Schedule/season preview
WPIAL SECTION 2
Farrell Schedule/season preview
FRENCH CREEK VALLEY CONFERENCE
Jamestown Schedule/season preview
Lakeview Schedule/season preview
TRUMBULL ATHLETIC CONFERENCE-8
Brookfield Schedule/Season preview
Hubbard Schedule/Season preview
Published Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2002
Boys hoop teams again look strong
By Ed Farrell
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
If the 2002-03 scholastic boys' basketball season follows the script of its predecessors, the Mercer County cage community will weather the long winter in fine fashion.
Several squads potentially could prepare for the PIAA playoffs and their own version of "March Madness," as an infusion of some new coaches and players will offer exciting entertainment.
In the Mercer County Athletic Conference, the new year will commence with three competitive classifications.
Grove City veteran mentor Don Fee's Eagles are expected to soar in AAA, but must prevail over Jim Hoy's Sharon squad that features, potentially, one of the area's most athletic artisans in Ibrahim Konate. Slippery Rock, led by coach Chris Burtch, could play the spoiler, while Hickory has improved under third-year head coach Tony Mastrian.
In Class AA Wilmington, coached by Farrell native Nick Cannone, will defend its crown against a group led by Mercer, for whom many feel its time has arrived. Also factored in are a pair of the area's new coaches in Sharpsville's Rob Spon and Reynolds' Brian Brown. Mercer native Kelly Jones, along with Fee, wears the mantel of dean of the county's coaches as he begins his 12th campaign at Greenville.
Kennedy Catholic collected four consecutive commonwealth Class A crowns and the Golden Eagles extended their postseason winning skein to 39 before bowing to Scotland School in last March's title tilt at HersheyPark Arena. But second-year head coach Tim Loomis leads a young, yet athletic aggregation. Coach Chad Mild of West Middlesex will prepare a program that is coming off the school's most successful gridiron season, so several Big Reds will be expected to transition from the football field to the hardwood despite an abbreviated preseason. Coach Jay Carlson and Commodore Perry will attempt to overcome graduation losses to duplicate last season's success, in which a new single-season record for wins was established.
Last year Farrell felt the wrath of the WPIAL Board of Control, which deemed Iren Rainey ineligible regarding to his transfer from Oak Hill Academy. Subsequently, the Steelers suffered a 13-game swing in their win total, costing them the postseason. However this year's squad should fare well on its WPIAL sectional stage, and third-year coach Michael DeCello has plans to compete for the PIAA pedestal after having composed a formidable schedule.
Last year, Lakeview, led by coach Gary Burke, forged to the French Creek Valley Conference's forefront, and a senior-laden nucleus returns this winter, so the Sailors should stay the course as far as a playoff berth.
Coach Chris Fahndrich's Brookfield Warriors waged a battle with Badger in last season's sectional semifinals before bowing, and could contend again in the Trumbull Athletic Conference this season. However they may be without standout Julian Hayes, who suffered a late-season football-related knee injury and is expected to be lost at least until the first of the new year. Tom King takes over at Hubbard, but is the fourth cage coach in as many seasons in the Eagles' nest.
George Junior Republic is the lone county Quad-A contingent, and veteran head coach Bob McConnell has his sights set on the state-wide stage, having assembled a schedule second to none in area annals. But the Tigers, who upset Lebron James-led Akron-St. Vincent/St. Mary in last season's regular-season finale, must not fall victim to an opening-round District 10 tourney loss as they did a year ago.
Mercer County's cage heritage is rich, and there's no reason to believe the new season will do anything but enhance the tradition and pride that area aficionados have come to expect.
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