Senior guards setting the tone for Brentwood boys' basketball team
Looking over the Brentwood boys' varsity basketball roster, it's hard not to notice that all five seniors this year are listed as guards.
Naturally, seniority is associated with experience, but head coach Dave Mislan says that's not necessarily the case this year.
“We have five senior guards,” Mislan said. “Out of those five, the only one that was a starter with experience tore his ACL in football.”
Justin Vickless would be the team's top returning starter if it wasn't for a knee injury that shortened his 2013 football season and will cost him his last year on the hardwood.
Another freak injury sidelined Andrew Stofesky for most of last year when he fell to the court going for a rebound and shattered his wrist in his team's second game.
“He came back for the last couple games of the year just to get running,” Mislan said. “He basically missed his whole junior year.”
In his absence, Matt Yasko stepped in, providing stability at point guard and tenacity on defense.
“Definitely our best defender. The kid will run through a wall for the team,” Mislan said. “He'll do anything he's asked to do. He's a fantastic leader.”
Brentwood finished last season 14-11, losing in the WPIAL Class AA quarterfinals to eventual WPIAL and PIAA champion Beaver Falls. While this team may be inexperienced compared to a year ago, the Spartans look to capture that same lightning in a bottle.
“Our expectations are the same every year. We expect to win,” Yasko said. “I don't go into a game expecting to lose.”
It's that mindset and the closeness of the seniors that resonates most with a younger team. Yasko, Stofesky, Jack Murano and Sean Cloonan set the tone at practice, and Mislan says that's where everything starts.
“They are the leaders of our team,” he said. “They are the nucleus of our team.”
The senior quartet complement one another nicely.
Yasko is the set-up man to Stofesky's precision shooting, while Murano and Cloonan provide a combination of defense and scoring ability coming off the bench.
“We know each other really well,” Stefosky said. “Everyone works as a team. We're smart. That's our game.”
Mislan, a guard on the 1989 Brentwood squad that went to the WPIAL and PIAA finals, knows there's room for improvement if the Spartans want to contend in Section 4-AA and earn another playoff berth this season.
True to his word as the fiery one, Yasko wasn't afraid to spell out expectations more clearly.
“Toward the end of the year I expect the same (as last year). I want to get back to the states, and the third round of the WPIAL playoffs,” Yasko said. “Last year was awesome, and I want to do it all over again and go farther.”
The Spartans opened the season with a 1-1 record in the Brentwood High Athletic Boosters' tipoff tournament.
Brentwood dropped its first game on opening night to Carrick, 44-43, before rebounding to edge South Park, 47-46, in the consolation round.
Against the Eagles, Yasko drew a foul driving to the basket as time expired and cooly hit both free throws with no time on the clock.
Stofesky paced the Spartans offensively versus South Park with 15 points.
Troy Elphinstone, Brentwood's 6-foot-6 junior center, was named to the all-tournament team. Elphinstone netted 12 points against Carrick, and followed up with an 11-point effort against South Park.
He also was credited with seven rebounds, two blocks, one assist and one steal in the two-day event.
Marc Wells, a junior forward, chipped in with eight points for the Spartans against Carrick, while Bill Madeja, also a junior forward, contributed nine points versus South Park.
Brentwood is scheduled to open section play Friday at home against Fort Cherry.
Justin Criado is a freelance writer.