Freeport boys ready to make step up in class
Freeport boys basketball coach Mike Beale said he isn't intimidated by a climb from Class AA to AAA, and his players shouldn't press the panic button, either.
Beale has seen AAA hoops up close and he's convinced the Yellowjackets are capable of making a smooth transition to playing larger schools on a regular basis.
“We talked about the move at the first official team meeting,” the 43-year-old Beale said. “Assistant coach Rich Macura and I both played for Freeport, and we were AAA back then.
“We've had success in AAA. It's nothing we haven't experienced before. We'll let the chips fall where they may. We always have high expectations.”
The Freeport boys most recently competed in AAA in the 1999-2000 campaign and finished 7-15 overall and 2-10 in section play. However, the year before, the Yellowjackets went 8-4 in the section and qualified for the WPIAL playoffs.
This season, following the PIAA realignment, Freeport will compete in Section 1-AAA along with Highlands, Indiana, Kittanning, Knoch, Mars and Valley. In nonsection action last season, the Yellowjackets split two games with neighboring rival Knoch and edged Kittanning by two points.
Still, Freeport is the smallest of the WPIAL's 35 AAA schools, with a male enrollment of 245.
Freeport returns three starters from a team that went 10-10 overall, 6-6 in Section 1-AA and lost in the preliminary round of the WPIAL playoffs.
The returning regulars are senior guards Brendan Lynch and Robbie Miller and senior forward Tony DeVivo.
Lynch averaged 12.8 points per game last season as Freeport's second-leading scorer. Point guard Ryan Dunn (14.2 ppg) graduated, so the Yellowjackets will likely look to Lynch for more scoring and leadership.
Lynch and senior Fred Pastoria are expected to take over at point guard. Lynch is no stranger to being a leader, after starting at quarterback for three seasons. The 5-foot-11 Lynch, who's received interest in basketball from Division III Grove City, also will see significant time at shooting guard to better take advantage of his scoring abilities.
“Who's playing point guard will depend on personal matchups,” Beale said. “Both (Lynch and Pastoria) bring different styles to the game. We'll try to take advantage of certain matchup situations.”
An intriguing newcomer to Freeport's varsity squad is 6-6 senior center Ethan McCormick, who stepped away from the sport after his freshman year. Beale is glad to have McCormick back in the fold. Teams in AAA tend to feature taller forwards than in AA, and McCormick provides an impressive wingspan.
“We're looking for him to help us defend and rebound,” Beale said. “That's his primary focus.”
Other players in the mix for significant minutes include senior guard Zane Geist, junior forwards Seth Bowser and Eric Davis, and freshman forward Josh Beale — the coach's son.
“I think the kids feel confident about moving to AAA,” coach Beale said. “They're looking forward to playing in bigger venues in front of bigger crowds. It's a great atmosphere and better exposure for our players.”
Paul Kogut is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-224-2696.