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Valley boys basketball team is learning to Cope

| Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, 11:50 p.m.
Valley High School's Chaz Cheatham looks for an opening during the scrimmage against Springdale High School at Valley High School on Friday November 30, 2012. Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch

After being appointed Valley boys basketball head coach several weeks before the start of practice last season, Phil Cope had to cram a lot of teaching in a short time.

The Vikings went 5-9 in Section 1-AAA (5-14 overall), halting their three-year streak of making the WPIAL playoffs.

But Cope has a year of coaching under his belt, and is ready to go.

“It was what it was — a non-offseason with me,” Cope said. “This year, it's different. You had a chance for kids to get work in during the summer and, like anything else, that hard work is going to pay off.”

Cope will go into the new season without his top player from last year. Tom Weremeychik, one of the area's leading scorers at 13.7 points per game, including 21 3-pointers, has graduated.

“Thomas had the ability and the dynamic to be the type of shooter that, when he was on the court, you were never really out of a game,” Cope said. “When we have an offensive possession with a shooter on the court, you always have a chance to get back into a ball game.” Among the returning players are seniors Chaz Cheatham, Devin Whitman, Tyler Gardlock and Khaanan Briggs.

As for starters, Cope indicated the first five on the floor could vary from night to night.

“In the grand scheme of things, we're looking to play more than five people,” Cope said. “We want those people to average more than five points per game. We're looking to increase our record more than the five wins of last year.”

Valley will open the season Friday at Springdale's Dynamo Tip-off Tournament against Yough, coached by former Valley assistant Wayne Greiser, at 5 p.m.

The Vikings will be in a revamped Section 1-AAA this season. Perennial contender Hampton has moved to Class AAAA while 2011-12 playoff qualifiers Freeport and Indiana Area have moved back into the section. Mars, Knoch and Highlands also add to a deep section.

“You see this section loaded with playoff teams with playoff success, like Kittanning, who made the playoffs last year for the first time in a long time,” Cope said.

George Guido is a freelance writer.

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