Spring Ford is team to beat in PAC this year

De­fend­ing cham­pion Spring-Ford is the team to beat in the PAC this win­ter

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - — Austin Hert­zog

Sopho­more guard Lucy Olsen (1) and Spring-Ford are the de­fend­ing Pi­o­neer Ath­letic Con­fer­ence cham­pi­ons and are the early fa­vorites to re­peat. Learn more about the Rams and the rest of the area’s teams with our team-by-team pre­view on

BOYERTOWN Head coach: Ja­son Bieber, 10th sea­son Last year’s record/ac­com­plish­ments: 7-6 PAC, 11-15 over­all, PAC semi­fi­nals, Dis­trict 1-6A play­offs

Play­ers to watch: Sierra Lan­des, Sr., G; Am­ber Mar­burger, Jr., G; Ju­lia Smith, Jr., G; Avery Swe­is­fort, Jr., F; Ash­ley Kapp, So., G.

Out­look: Two years re­moved from win­ning a PIAA ti­tle, the Bears don’t face an im­pos­si­ble en­core this win­ter. In­stead, a ju­nior-heavy group will lean on its out­side shoot­ing as Boyertown chases a win­ning record and a re­turn to the PAC and Dis­trict 1 post­sea­son. “We are a very good 3-point shoot­ing team. Our speed will cause teams some matchup prob­lems,” coach Ja­son Bieber said. They’ll have to re­place All-Area first team guard Kylie Webb (Sal­is­bury), who be­came the go-to player last year after the de­par­ture of all-time lead­ing scorer Abby Kapp (Buck­nell). Oth­ers will have to step into that role with guard Ju­lia Smith a can­di­date after be­ing an All-Area hon­or­able men­tion last year. “The team must im­prove on de­fense and re­bound­ing,” Bieber said. “When all play­ers fill their role we have a lot of suc­cess.” It will take that for the Bears to main­tain the el­e­vated stan­dards of the pro­gram in 2018-19.

DANIEL BOONE Head coach: Kris­ten Marcinko, 2nd sea­son Last year’s record: 0-10 Berks I, 5-17 over­all

Play­ers to watch: Sky­lar Emory, Sr., G/F; Court­ney Gab­bett, Sr., G; Olivia Coz­zone, Sr., G; Au­tumn Becker, Sr., G; Rachel Kelly, Sr., F; Jenna Heasley, So., G; Lyn­d­say Surkosky, So., G; Ni­cole Brown, So., G.

Out­look: The Blaz­ers will be hop­ing to get off the merry-go-round after back-to-back five-win sea­sons that in­cluded win­less runs in Berks I. Court­ney Gab­bett (5.8 ppg) and Skyler Emory (4.5) are the team’s lead­ing re­turn­ers while last year’s two top scor­ers, Madi­son Spitko and Kaylie Walker, grad­u­ated. Marcinko cited the team’s speed and de­fense as rea­sons the Blaz­ers can take a step for­ward this win­ter.

HILL SCHOOL Head coach: Jen­nifer Weiss­bach, 4th sea­son

Last year’s record: 3rd place MidAt­lantic Prep League, 8-10 over­all

Play­ers to watch: Olivia Matto, post­grad, G; Alexa Gi­ac­che, Sr., F; Qiana Vigo, Sr., G; Amelia Snif­fin, Sr., F; Tess Gray, So., G.

Out­look: Hill has an ex­cit­ing blend of re­turn­ing play­ers and some in­trigu­ing new­com­ers this win­ter. Se­nior co-cap­tains Alexa Gi­ac­che (four-year starter, All-Area hon­or­able men­tion) and Qiana Vigo lead a strong Class of 2019 that added post­grad Olivia Matto, a 1,000-point scorer at Man­heim Town­ship, and Amelia Snif­fin, the first re­cip­i­ent of the Wal­lach Fam­ily Mil­i­tary Schol­ar­ship, who has over­come two se­ri­ous back surg­eries and mul­ti­ple foot frac­tures to play this sea­son. The Blues started on the right track by win­ning their sea­son-open­ing tour­na­ment in come­back fash­ion over Mas­ters (N.Y.). They’ll em­bark on their “strong­est sched­ule in re­cent mem­ory,” ac­cord­ing to coach Jen­nifer Weiss­bach, with trips to the Art Turner Memo­rial Show­case in Fair­fax, Va., and the Bullis (Md.) tour­na­ment in the lead up to the Mid-At­lantic Prep League slate. “With the most chal­leng­ing sched­ule in re­cent his­tory ahead of us, our team’s goals are to work harder than we’ve ever worked be­fore,” said Weiss­bach, who is preach­ing con­sis­tency to her team. “The Mid-At­lantic Prep League is com­posed of prep pow­er­houses so we will look to com­pete at the high­est level amongst those teams and make a run at the MAPL cham­pi­onship.”

METHACTON Head coach: Craig Kamin­ski, 17th sea­son Last year’s record: 8-5 PAC, 13-12 over­all, PAC and Dis­trict 1-6A play­off qual­i­fier

Play­ers to watch: Syd­ney Tor­netta, Jr., G; Abby Pen­juke, Sr., F; Caro­line Pel­li­cano, Jr., F; Syd­ney Har­grove, Jr., F; Ni­cole Timko, Fr., G; Al­lie Ha­zlett, So., F.

Out­look: Last year, Methacton had a num­ber of starters it needed to re­place but had ca­pa­ble se­niors like Olivia Pen­ny­packer (All-Area 2nd team, Wi­dener) wait­ing in the wings. The War­riors need to do the same this sea­son, but with less ex­pe­ri­enced un­der­stud­ies. For­tu­nately, ju­nior guard Syd­ney Tor­netta (9.2 ppg) and se­nior for­ward Abby Pen­juke (7.1 ppg) seem ca­pa­ble of in­creased roles as oth­ers find theirs. “Lack of ex­pe­ri­ence will be our main con­cern this year,” coach Craig Kamin­ski said. “How the two re­turn­ing starters gel with three new starters at the var­sity level and our tal­ented group of new play­ers will de­ter­mine the suc­cess and length of our sea­son.” By Kamin­ski’s assess­ment, tal­ent won’t be hold­ing the War­riors back though. “We feel that any five play­ers we put on the floor at any time can drive to score in­side or shoot from the out­side.” Methacton should be right it the thick of the chase in the PAC Lib­erty Di­vi­sion with post­sea­son places in reach.

NORRISTOWN Head coach: Richard Fisher, 3rd sea­son

Last year’s record: 4-18 over­all Play­ers to watch: Brooke Heim, Sr., F/C; Ash­ley Schools, Sr., G; Emily Schools, Sr., G; Do­minique Mans­field, Sr., F/C; Ta­mara Wright, Sr., G; Des­tiny Steele, Jr., G/F; Ta­ja­hana Wright, Jr., G; Amari Wise, Jr., G: Ju­niya Thomas, Jr., F/C; Tiann Byrd, Jr., F; Saitayanna Evans, Fr., F/C.

Out­look: Coach Richard Fisher is preach­ing com­pet­i­tive­ness and lim­it­ing turnovers in the pre­sea­son for the Ea­gles. “We must play very good de­fense non-stop and cut down on turnovers,” he said. “If we turn the ball over we will strug­gle to score against some of the bet­ter teams.” Though Norristown must re­place last year’s lead­ing scorer Bey­once Collins, a hand­ful of play­ers re­turn with var­sity ex­pe­ri­ence. “Of course we want to im­prove our win-loss to­tal, for that to hap­pen we must be com­pet­i­tive from start to fin­ish and we need to make good bas­ket­ball de­ci­sions. If we can do those two things, we may sur­prise some peo­ple.”

OWEN J. ROBERTS Head coach: Jeremy Mel­lon, 11th sea­son Last year’s record/ac­com­plish­ments: 6-7 PAC, 11-11 over­all, Dis­trict 1-6A first round

Play­ers to watch: Diana Rantz, Sr., G; Olivia Le­claire, Jr., F; Han­nah Clay, Jr., G; Brooke Greenawald, Jr., C; Avery White, Fr., G; Maddi Koury, Jr., G; Kiana Daye, So., G; Al­lie Iy­oob, So., C; Ali­cia Avello Largo, Jr., G; Emily Schall, Jr., G; Ha­ley Liv­ingston, Jr., F; Ab­bie Bus­sard, Fr., C.

Out­look: The Wild­cats will look to build on the pos­i­tives of last sea­son while re­turn­ing four of five starters, in­clud­ing All-Area first team ju­nior for­ward Olivia Le­Claire and se­nior guard Diana Rantz (All-Area HM). That group will hope to change its fate in the PAC Lib­erty after a 3-7 mark in 2017-18. There’s rea­son to be­lieve that will be the case with guard play lead­ing the way. “We re­turn all of our guards from last year and will also get great help from fresh­man Avery White and Ali­cia Avello Largo at guard,” coach Jeremy Mel­lon said. “We have a great group of girls who are team­cen­tered and want to win.”

PERKIOMEN SCHOOL Head coach: Ni­cole Mi­se­vi­cius, 1st sea­son

Last year’s record: 4-10 over­all Play­ers to watch: Chardae Stone, So., G; Abbey Glavin, Jr., G/F; Tera

Heintz, So., G; Maddi Spring­man, Fr., G; Naomi Knight, So., F.

Out­look: Ni­cole Mi­se­vi­cius moves from as­sis­tant to head coach as the Pan­thers look to a crop of promis­ing un­der­class­men to con­trib­ute this win­ter. Abbey Glavin is the vet­eran of the bunch while new­com­ers Chardae Stone, Maddi Spring­man and Naomi Knight will help Perk School progress. “We are young over­all,’ Mi­se­vi­cius said, “but we have a hand­ful of new play­ers that bring more bas­ket­ball ex­pe­ri­ence than we’ve had the past two years. We look for­ward to build­ing on what we have worked on the past two years while in­cor­po­rat­ing our new ad­di­tions who look to be great as­sets to the team.”

PERKIOMEN VAL­LEY Head coach: Kelly Sor­ber, 1st sea­son Last year’s record: 12-1 PAC, 21-9 over­all, PAC run­ner-up, Dis­trict 1-6A and PIAA 6A qual­i­fier

Play­ers to watch: Kelly Owens, Sr., G; Katie Hurd, Sr., F/G; Gabby Mari­nacci, Jr., G; Kylie Monaco, Jr., F/G; Sara Ni­jssen, Sr., C; Naiya Daisey, So., G; Lily Sher­man, Jr., F; Anna Hal­lis­sey, So., G; Ally­sion Love­less, Jr., F; Jai­dyn Daye, So., F; Lind­say Hart­man, Jr., G; Grace Ram­sey, Jr., F.

Out­look: The Vik­ings look a whole lot dif­fer­ent this win­ter after the last few years were de­fined by the in­side pres­ence of Me­gan Jonassen (Ford­ham) and Tay­lor Hamm (Univer­sity of the Sciences), who have since grad­u­ated. Both All-Area first team­ers, Jonassen was the Mer­cury Player of the Year after av­er­ag­ing al­most 18 points a game. If that wasn’t enough, coach John Stra­woet re­tired, pass­ing the pro­gram off to as­sis­tant Kelly Sor­ber, a 2009 St. Pius X grad who played at East Strouds­burg. It makes Perk Val­ley a bit of an un­known, but presents an op­por­tu­nity for se­nior cap­tains Kelly Owens and Katie Hurd to take on big­ger roles and new play­ers to emerge. Sor­ber ex­pects the Vik­ings “to play strong de­fense and a fast­paced game” this win­ter.

PHOENIXVILLE Head coach: Mike Behnke, 1st sea­son

Last year’s record: 5-8 PAC, 12-11 over­all, Dis­trict 1-5A qual­i­fier

Play­ers to watch: Ameerah Green, Sr., G; Han­nah Sands, Sr., C; Keara Hen­nessey, Sr., F; Mar­lee Brown, Jr., G; Aubrie Breis­blatt, So., G; Nail­iah Green, So., F/C; Sammy Brown, Fr., G; Chloe Johns, So., F/C.

Out­look: Mike Behnke and his unique bas­ket­ball jour­ney will lead the Phan­toms in 2018-19. Behnke comes to Phoenixville after pre­vi­ously coach­ing in Asia, most no­tably as the na­tional team coach of Bhutan, and re­cently as coach of the ABA’s Pottstown Flames. Se­niors Ameerah Green and Han­nah Sands will be looked upon to lead the way for a ros­ter that is largely un­der­class­men. “This will be my first go around with the PAC,” Behnke said, “so I am com­pet­ing against the un­known while in­sti­tut­ing a new of­fen­sive and de­fen­sive sys­tem, but

I have been handed a well-coached team of play­ers.”

POPE JOHN PAUL II Head coach: TJ Lon­er­gan, 1st sea­son Last year’s record/ac­com­plish­ments: 9-4 PAC, 13-11 over­all; PAC Fron­tier Di­vi­sion cham­pi­ons; Dis­trict 1 5A qual­i­fier

Play­ers to watch: Elise Sylvester, Sr., G; Lau­ren Ci­uba, Sr., G; Kal­lan Bustynow­icz, So., F.

Out­look: TJ Lon­er­gan takes the helm at PJP after most re­cently as­sist­ing his fa­ther, Tom Lon­er­gan, at Gwynedd Mercy. The el­der Lon­er­gan is some­thing of a south­east Pa. coach­ing leg­end, ap­proach­ing 700 ca­reer wins after stops at Bishop McDe­vitt, Cen­tral Bucks East and Gwynedd Mercy. With pedi­gree in tow, TJ Lon­er­gan looks to bring sta­bil­ity to the PJP pro­gram. “With a new coach­ing staff, a new sys­tem and a new phi­los­o­phy this year for our pro­gram, we are hop­ing we can have a suc­cess­ful year right out of the gate that will help lay the ground­work for the pro­gram’s fu­ture,” Lon­er­gan said. He’ll have his work cut out for him with Elise Sylvester (All-Area 2nd team) be­ing one of just two re­turn­ers who played sig­nif­i­cant min­utes in 201718. Still, Lon­er­gan seems to have the right men­tal­ity about stay­ing on an up­ward tra­jec­tory. “We hope to be able to be able to im­prove each day at prac­tice in the hope that by Fe­bru­ary we are a team that no one wants to face,” he said.

POTTSGROVE Head coach: Mike Brendlinger, 17th sea­son

Last year’s record: 5-8 PAC, 11-12 over­all, Dis­trict 1-5A qual­i­fier

Play­ers to watch: Jor­dyn Mayes, Sr., G; Sa­van­nah Lear, Sr., G; Sum­mer Walker, Jr., G; Ri­ley Si­mon, So., G; Sierra Potts, So., G/F; Syd­ney Mow­ery, So., F; Rachel Lud­wig, So., F; Jus­tine Fretz, So., G; Jaimi Makins, So., G; Emma Yac­carino, So., G; Kyleah Holmes, So., F.

Out­look: Mike Brendlinger is liv­ing what most coaches dream of: all five starters and key subs are back. There’s ma­jor con­ti­nu­ity after last sea­son when the Fal­cons min­i­mized what had the mak­ings of a down sea­son. A pair of then-fresh­men, Ri­ley Si­mon (10.2 ppg, All-Area 2nd team) and Sierra Potts (All-Area HM), stepped up to lead a promis­ing class that is just get­ting started. “The strength of the team is its depth,” Brendlinger said. “We have many play­ers who have worked hard over the sum­mer to im­prove and are ca­pa­ble of start­ing or fill­ing in off the bench.” With the pos­i­tive out­look around Pottsgrove, the Fal­cons are tar­get­ing qual­i­fi­ca­tion to the PAC play­offs and ad­vance­ment in dis­trict play.

POTTSTOWN Head coach: Madi­son Mor­ton, 1st sea­son Last year’s record: 3-10 PAC, 7-15 over­all

Play­ers to watch: Reilly Owens, Sr., C; Da’zah Re­gusters, Sr., G;

Kiyah Cot­ton, Sr., F; Emme Wolfel, Jr., G; Trinell Wat­son, Fr.

Out­look: No player car­ried more of an of­fen­sive load for her team than Ebony Red­dick did last sea­son for Pottstown. The Tro­jans must re­place the 17.7 points per game of the All-Area first team se­lec­tion and 1,000-point scorer. Thank­fully, as new head coach Madi­son Mor­ton puts it, “Our re­turn­ing play­ers are ea­ger to take the next step for­ward.” The for­mer ath­letic di­rec­tor at St. Pius X and Boyertown praised his group’s hus­tle and at­ti­tude as the Tro­jans look to solve the chal­lenge of re­plac­ing greater than half its of­fen­sive out­put.

SPRING-FORD Head coach: Mickey McDaniel, 6th sea­son

Last year’s record: 12-1 PAC, 24-5 over­all, PAC cham­pion, Dis­trict 1-6A semi­fi­nals, PIAA 6A first round

Play­ers to watch: Abby Goodrich, Sr., F; Cassie Marte, Sr., G/F; Lucy Olsen, So., G; Ari­ana Magaz­zolo, Sr., G; Olivia Olsen, Sr., F; Alyssa Yuan, Jr., F; Emily Tif­fan, So., F; Sky Sul­li­van, Jr., G.

Out­look: Few could have ex­pected Spring-Ford to be at the level it was last sea­son while win­ning the PAC cham­pi­onship, fin­ish­ing fourth in Dis­trict 1-6A and mak­ing the PIAA play­offs de­spite five new starters and an un­der­class­men-heavy ro­ta­tion. It felt like the start of a new golden era for the Rams after mak­ing the PIAA fi­nal in 2013 and 2014. The cor­ner­stone pieces this sea­son will be All-Area first team sopho­more guard Lucy Olsen (10.1 ppg) and sec­ond team se­nior for­ward Abby Goodrich (10.5) plus key con­trib­u­tors Cassie Marte, Alyssa Yuan and Emily Tif­fan. The Rams have a daunt­ing non-league sched­ule against Pa. power pro­grams Cum­ber­land Val­ley and North Al­legheny plus a trip to the Nike Tour­na­ment of Cham­pi­ons in Phoenix, Ariz., dur­ing win­ter break. Those re­sults will help give a sense of whether Spring-Ford will be play­ing into March again. “Our goal is to get bet­ter each day we are in the gym so that we can rise to the chal­lenge of the con­fer­ence and non-con­fer­ence sched­ules. Work ethic, de­fense, of­fen­sive ex­e­cu­tion, en­thu­si­asm and lead­er­ship will be the pri­mary in­gre­di­ents we need to com­pete,” coach Mickey McDaniel said. Though McDaniel might not be one for lofty pro­jec­tions, make no mis­take, the Rams are viewed as the firm fa­vorite to re­peat in the PAC.

UP­PER ME­RION Head coach: Leah Shu­moski, 4th year

Last year’s record: 9-4 PAC, 14-14 over­all, PIAA 5A qual­i­fier

Play­ers to watch: Izzy Le­gen­dre, So., F; Meg Geb­hart, Sr., G; Aaliyah Par­son, Jr., G; Mad­die Har­vey, Sr., G.

Out­look: This sea­son is big­ger than bas­ket­ball for Up­per Me­rion. After qual­i­fy­ing for the PIAA tour­na­ment for the first time in 38 years, mem­bers of the Vik­ings’ squad were in­volved in a se­ri­ous car ac­ci­dent in July, ju­niors Tymeriah Stan­ton and Jenna Fos­ter sur­viv­ing life-threat­en­ing in­juries. Though still re­cov­er­ing, the two ju­niors have been with the Vik­ings in pre­sea­son and have taken roles as in­spi­ra­tional as­sis­tant coaches. “They are bring­ing joy and per­spec­tive back into our gym,” coach Leah Shu­moski said. “They are now on the side­lines coach­ing with me and work­ing hard to make it back for their se­nior sea­sons. This sea­son we play for them.”

UP­PER PERKIOMEN Head coach: Kathryne Vet­ter, 1st sea­son Last year’s record: 0-13 PAC, 4-18 over­all

Player to watch: Kait­lyn Mundy, Sr., G; Kayla Ramos, Sr., G/F; Ay­den Pi­geon, Jr., G.

Out­look: Kathryne Vet­ter, a Quak­er­town grad who played at Delaware Val­ley Univer­sity, has been in­stalled as head coach at Up­per Perk after be­ing an as­sis­tant for three years un­der Greg Swavely. The team’s lead­ing scorer the past two years (8.4 in 2017-18), Kait­lyn Mundy will look to make it three in a row this win­ter.

MJ MCCONNEY - DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA FILE

Pope John Paul II’s Elise Sylvester, left, Owen J. Roberts’ Olivia Le­claire, right, Methacton’s Syd­ney Tor­netta, be­low left, and Spring-Ford’s Abby Goodrich, be­low right, are four of the top re­turn­ing play­ers for the 2018-19 girls bas­ket­ball sea­son.

AUSTIN HERT­ZOG - DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA FILE

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