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Veteran team has Connellsville thinking big

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Evan R. Sanders | Daily Courier
Connellsville's Jimmy Leichliter (white shirt) and Mike Parlak are projected starters for the Connellsville boys basketball team this season.

Dan Bosnic is in his sixth season as coach of the Connellsville boys basketball team. Bosnic will be assisted by Leo Lowney and Jim Pearl.

The Falcons open the season against Laurel Highlands in the Fayette County Tip-off Tournament on Friday at Penn State Fayette.

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The past two seasons have served as building blocks for the Connellsville boys basketball team.

Now, with an experienced group of players in place, the Falcons hope their hard work pays off in the form of a trip to the WPIAL playoffs for the first time since the 2010-11 season.

“It's a group that has gained experience over the last two years,” Connellsville coach Dan Bosnic said.

The Falcons will compete in Section 1-AAAA with Albert Gallatin, Hempfield, Kiski Area, Latrobe, Norwin and Penn-Trafford. Last season, Hempfield, Kiski, Norwin, Penn-Trafford and Latrobe all had winning records. Only Connellsville (7-15) and Albert Gallatin posted sub-.500 records.

Still, there is reason to believe the Falcons can make a significant step forward this season.

“They've gone through the Quad-A wars, especially in our section,” Bosnic said. “We're hoping that their experience and improvement will equal out to a positive result.

They know what to expect in our section, and that experience is something they can lean on.”

The Falcons lost Grant Wortman to graduation. In many games, Wortman was one of the first players off the bench last season. However, the Falcons return all five starters.

Seniors Trent Bauer (center), Jim Leichliter (shooting guard), Mike Parlak (point guard) and Jade Maher (small forward) all return after seeing significant playing time as starters. Junior Caleb Pittsment (power forward) is projected to fill a starting role as well.

“Having five starters back is something that's rare,” Bauer said. “We only lost one senior (Wortman) from last season, and our senior class is a strong class. We're really close.”

Bauer believes that with many pieces in place, the Falcons are capable of big things.

“I think we can win the section and go deep in the playoffs,” Bauer said. “I can't wait.”

The Falcons also expect to have plenty of talent coming off the bench.

“I think that we will be eight or nine deep,” Bosnic said.

Look for senior forward Austin Heinbaugh and junior guards Brock Bonadio and Griffin Thompson to play a lot of key minutes off the bench.

Bosnic noted that one of the team's biggest strengths will be its height. Bauer, Leichliter, Bonadio, Heinbaugh, Maher and Pittsment are taller than 6 feet.

Connellsville's defense was solid last season. However, Bosnic noted that ball-handling and scoring have been areas of concern in recent seasons.

Connellsville was the second-lowest scoring team in the section last year.

“Our goal is to try to get better each day,” Bosnic said. “The results will play out by themselves. Hopefully with our hard work, the results will take care of themselves.”

Jason Black is the local sports editor of the Daily Courier. He can be reached at jblack@tribweb.com.

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