Karns City, Redbank Valley trending upward
After looking up at the rest of the division last year, the Karns City and Redbank Valley boys basketball teams are ready to make an upward move.
The Gremlins and Bulldogs shared the bottom spot last year in the South Division of the Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference, but both bring back the bulk of their starting lineup and have their sights set on pushing toward the top this season.
Both teams had identical 7-15 overall records and 3-7 division records last season, and for Redbank Valley, that mark was an improvement. The Bulldogs' program has been largely dormant with just two winning seasons in the last 20 years, but head coach Greg Bean envisions this year's group pushing over the .500 mark.
“Last year was a significant improvement from the year before, when we won one game,” Bean said. “We lost one starter from last year and had our best offseason by far. Everyone has evolved their game, and we're excited for a program that hasn't had much success.”
Leading the Bulldogs is junior guard Jake Dougherty, who averaged 18.5 points and 5.5 rebounds last season. Dougherty also made 69 3-pointers last year, and the three-year starter should be Redbank's top scorer again.
The team's statistical leaders return, as well. Junior point guard Devin Shumaker averaged 4.2 assists, and 6-foot-5 junior forward Zach Westover averaged 8.0 rebounds and blocked 30 shots last year.
Guard Quintin Brocious also returns to the starting lineup for his senior season, while senior guard/forward Donnie Brown also appeared in every game last season. That experience gives the Bulldogs the look of a contender, but they will need to show it on the court.
“It's a difficult thing to learn, but we're hoping that these guys can transfer the success they had last year and on the football field into learning how to win big games on the basketball court,” Bean said.
The Gremlins also bring back their top scorer, senior guard Tyler Kepple, who like Dougherty, is also his school's starting QB. The similarities don't stop there, as Kepple averaged 16 ppg and connected on 70 3-pointers last season.
Also back in the starting lineup are junior point guard David Olszak and 6-foot-3 senior forward Logan Moroney, and they will fuel Karns City's push to get back to the top of the division.
“We have a good nucleus back with some guys who have started varsity games,” Karns City coach Chris Bellis said. “Experience is definitely one of our strengths.”
The Gremlins are looking for their other two starters and have a number of players who will be in the rotation as starters or reserves.
Senior David Markel, senior Nathan Weckerly and junior Ethan Conto are in the mix for the remaining guard spot, while junior Brendan Waltman, junior Christian Turner and senior Dan Filges are battling at forward.
“Our goals are high this year. I think we feel we should've been better the last two years, and this is our year to compete,” Bellis said. “I think our key is that we need to rebound, especially on the defensive end. If we do that well, we should be able to compete for a conference championship.”
This season will be an unpredictable one in the KSAC-South as defending champ Allegheny-Clarion Valley lost leading scorer Ryan Bartley. Few other teams return as much as the Bulldogs or Gremlins, and after every other team finished between 6-4 and 3-7 last year, the division lacks a clear favorite.