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Jeannette banking on team effort to repeat last year's success

Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review - Jeannette head basketball coach Adrian Batts conducts practice with some of his players (from left), Seth Miller, Damone Morton, Garrett Elliott and Orlando Morgan on November 27, 2012 in Jeannette.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Eric Schmadel  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Jeannette head basketball coach Adrian Batts conducts practice with some of his players (from left), Seth Miller, Damone Morton, Garrett Elliott and Orlando Morgan on November 27, 2012 in Jeannette.
- Washington basketball player Josh Wise. Submitted
Washington basketball player Josh Wise. Submitted

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who 2 watch

preseason player of the year

JOSH WISE

Washington

6-3, Sr., Guard

20.1 ppg.

players to watch

DUKE BROWN

Jeannette

6-3, Sr., G, 15.1 ppg.

ERNIE BURKES

Neshannock

5-9, Jr., G, 20.6 ppg.

DREW COOK

Beaver Falls

6-0, Sr., G, 10.4 ppg.

ELIJAH COTTRILL

Beaver Falls

6-2, Jr., G, 13.1 ppg.

ANTHONY ROCCO

West Shamokin

6-0, Sr., G, 18.5 ppg.

preseason top 10

1. BEAVER FALLS (28-3)

Elijah Cottrill and Drew Cook look to lead defending state runner-up Tigers back to the WPIAL finals.

2. JEANNETTE (17-9)

Deep, talented roster gives Jayhawks hope.

3. STO-ROX (23-4)

Returns two starters and should compete for section.

4. SETON-LA SALLE (15-9)

Junior G Dale Clancy in among five returning starters.

5. WASHINGTON (13-10)

Player of the year candidate John Wise (20.1 ppg.) heads a talented group moving down from Class AAA.

6. GREENSBURG C.C. (21-7)

Centurions hard-pressed to match last year's trip to PIAA quarterfinals.

7. QUAKER VALLEY (24-5)

Seniors Burke Moser and Nelson Westwood are back for PIAA semifinalist.

8. ALIQUIPPA (11-13)

Quips' season could start slowly if G Malik Shegog, the QB for the streaking football team, and others aren't ready.

9. BRENTWOOD (13-11)

Spartans try to build on playoff year, which ended with loss to WPIAL champion Beaver Falls.

10. CALIFORNIA (11-12)

Experienced duo of Brian Fisher (16.3 ppg.) and Tanner Huffman is back.

SECTION FAVORITES

section 1

BURRELL

The Bucs make a return to Class AA after two years in Class AAA. Matt Hess (11.2 ppg., 7.0 rpg.), a 6-3 forward, is among nine seniors on the team. Defending champion Summit Academy will be without 6-8 junior Elijah Minnie, whose transfer to Lincoln Park was not approved by the PIAA and WPIAL. West Shamokin returns senior guard Anthony Rocco (18.5 ppg.).

section 2

Beaver falls

Gone is Sheldon Jeter (Vanderbilt), the WPIAL's top player last season, but there's still plenty of firepower for the Tigers. Guards Elijah Cottrill (13.1 ppg.) and Drew Cook (10.4 ppg.) head the returnees. Aliquippa — once at full strength following an extended football season — and Neshannock are the likely contenders.

section 3

Jeannette

Experience is the key for Jeannette. Despite losing leading scorer Demetrious Cox, the Jayhawks return with a balanced lineup. Five new teams enter the section as part of the WPIAL's latest realignment.

section 4

Seton-La Salle

Seton-La Salle and Class AA newcomer Washington should battle for the title, with Brentwood a longshot. Seton-La Salle is led by junior guard Dale Clancy, 6-5 junior forward Levi Masua and 6-4 junior forward Malik White. Washington counters with 20-point scorer Josh Wise, a 6-3 senior guard.

section 5

california

The conference crown could be a tight race among California, Brownsville and Frazier. California returns its top two players from last season, including 6-2 senior guard Brian Fisher (16.3 ppg.).

section 6

STo-Rox

Sto-Rox's chief competition should come from Quaker Valley, which must overcome the loss of its top four scorers. Sto-Rox will rely on senior guard Tonyea Curry.

Top high school sports

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Monday, Dec. 3, 2012, 11:39 p.m.
 

Jeannette may not be the preseason favorite among WPIAL Class AA boys basketball teams in 2012-13, but the Jayhawks emphatically insist that a deep roster could carry them to their second title in six years.

It is a roster devoid of career 1,000-point scorer Demetrious Cox, the team leader who accepted a football scholarship to Michigan State.

“He carried a lot of weight. It was his team last year,” Jeannette coach Adrian Batts said.

And while it was a similar sentiment that other Jeannette players and coaches were expressing, there was a fresh anticipation that something special might be brewing this year.

“I feel like there's not so much emphasis on one player now. It's everybody's team,” said guard Duke Brown, one of three returning Jayhawks to average double figures — his 15.1 ppg were second to guard Orlando Morgan's 16.1.

Both 6-foot-3 seniors were joined last year in double figures by then-freshman point guard Julian Batts (10.7 ppg.), the coach's son.

“We're taking the attitude that we're all equal,” Brown said. “We think we're going to be better than last year's team, but we're going to have to rebound the basketball to get our offense in gear.”

The race in Class AA is likely to include Jeannette, which is coming off a 17-9 season that ended with a second-round loss to Greensburg Central Catholic in the PIAA playoffs. The Jayhawks lost in the WPIAL playoffs to eventual champion and state runner-up Beaver Falls in the quarterfinals.

The Tigers, who lost to Imhotep Charter in the PIAA title game, are minus forward Sheldon Jeter — a freshman at Vanderbilt — but return an experienced team led by senior guards Elijah Cottrill (13.1 ppg.) and Drew Cook (10.4 ppg.).

“They are two of the top players in Class AA,” Coach Batts said.

Yet the same could be said for any combination of players at Jeannette. Seth Miller, a 6-5 senior center, and Jordan Edmunds, a 5-10 senior guard — two other returning players — could round out the opening-day lineup.

Batts said he'll also rely on his junior forwards: 6-3 Damone Morton, 6-4 Miles Sunder, 6-3 Mike Wise and 6-5 Jonah Yunker, a transfer from Greensburg Central Catholic.

They are part of a versatile, 14-man roster that the Jayhawks hope will mesh.

“We've still got a lot of kids who didn't play much, but that shouldn't matter,” said the 5-11 Julian Batts. “Everyone understands our system, and everyone is excited about the season.”

Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at dmackall@tribweb.com or 412-380-5617.

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