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Clairton boys' basketball starts over after top 6 players depart

Ronald Vezzani Jr. | For the Daily News - Clairon's Jojuan Bray (left) and Jamie Hines work on offensive and defensive skills during practice on Thursday, November 21, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Ronald Vezzani Jr.  |  For the Daily News</em></div>Clairon's Jojuan Bray  (left) and Jamie Hines work on offensive and defensive skills during practice on Thursday, November 21, 2013.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | for the Tribune Review - Clairton's Rasheed Pacley works on shooting drills during practice Thursday, November 21, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Ronald Vezzani Jr.  |  for the Tribune Review</em></div>Clairton's Rasheed Pacley works on shooting drills during practice Thursday, November 21, 2013.

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Friday, Nov. 22, 2013, 1:26 a.m.
 

The Clairton boys basketball team is starting over.

A year after finishing as WPIAL Class A runner-up to Vincentian Academy and advancing to the second round of the PIAA playoffs, the Bears will sport an entirely new look following the departure of their entire starting lineup.

“They were all seniors. Our sixth man was a senior, too,” Clairton coach Matt Geletko said.

Gone from the 18-7 team that was beaten by District 9 champion Smethport in PIAA playoffs are Pitt football players guards Tyler Boyd and Terrish Webb and forward Titus Howard, as well as point guard Bryon Clifford — the Trib Total Media Daily News Player of the Year — guard Armani Ford, and sixth-man forward Santeaun Sims.

“We're heading into the season with a lack of experience,” said Geletko, who is entering his second year as coach at Clairton. “We had a certain swagger about us with all the football success we had had.”

Boyd, Webb and Howard, among others, were part of a Clairton football program that continued on to win a Pennsylvania-record 66 consecutive games before being beaten by Monessen this season.

Nearly all of the players on the current Clairton basketball roster played football this year, when Clairton posted a 10-2 record, losing to Sto-Rox in the WPIAL semifinals.

Geletko, who was named the Daily News coach of the year in his rookie season with the Clairton basketball program, has kept the bar set high for his 2013 club.

“My goal always has been to win the section, and if you can't do that, at least compete for a playoff spot,” he said. “If we get there, get through two rounds and qualify for the state playoffs and go from there.

“Realistically, with an inexperienced team like this, we'll focus mainly on at least competing for a playoff spot.”

At least three returning players are expected to be in the Bears starting lineup for the opener at home on Dec. 20 against Class AAA East Allegheny.

Geletko mentioned 6-foot-2 senior guards JoJuan Bray and Rasheed Pacley and 6-5 sophomore forward Aaron Mathews as likely starters. Despite his youthful status, Mathews shared the quarterbacking position this year for the Clairton football team.

“As far as Aaron goes, he could pretty much play four spots on the floor,” Geletko said. “He's kind of a matchup problem. He jumps well, he's long, but he's only a sophomore. He likes basketball, though. You can tell that, and it helps a lot.”

Senior Jaquan Ford could take over at point guard, replacing Clifford, Geletko said.

“There's competition right now,” he said. “I'm sure we're going to have a number of guys hungry to see the floor. That's a healthy situation. We're going to need all of them when we start the season. We've got a tough nonconference schedule, and that's going to get us ready for the section.”

Clairton is scheduled to be part of the field for the Gateway Holiday Tournament from Dec. 26-28 and will open the event against Class AA Jeannette.

Among its other nonconference opponents are Class AAAA schools Norwin and Allderdice; Class AAA Thomas Jefferson, whom the Bears will face in a Sunday afternoon game on Jan. 19 at California (Pa.) University; Class AA Greensburg Central Catholic, which also lost in the second round of the PIAA playoffs and Class AA Burrell, which fell to Beaver Falls in the WPIAL title game but also qualified for the PIAA playoffs.

Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dmackall@tribweb.com.

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