Christian Ings (above) and Neumann-Goretti are in the hunt for their eighth state title in the last nine seasons. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Michael Bullock (@thebullp_n)
(Ed. Note: This story is part of CoBL’s “Prepping for Preps” series, which will take a look at many of the top high school programs in the region as part of our 2017-18 season preview coverage. The complete list of schools previewed so far can be found here.)
Since the first two attempts went remarkably well, let’s go for three.
With yet another high school basketball season about to get underway, City of Basketball Love is going to unload a series of 3-point attempts and hopefully cash in as we unveil another set of preseason rankings over the course of this week.
Each of Pennsylvania’s half-dozen classifications will be represented for the second consecutive season, making this a formidable undertaking.
And while we continue today with Class 3A, check back for the remaining classifications as we crescendo toward Dec. 8 and opening night across the Keystone State.
Should be fun.
Once the first full week of games is played, we’ll be back with weekly updates of our rankings, beginning on Dec. 18 and appearing on Mondays the rest of the way.
As for a quick peek at what to expect in Class 3A, our preseason No. 1 is hardly a stranger to be ranked No. 1 and capturing state championships. That’s right, folks, we’re sticking with a Neumann-Goretti program that’s won four straight state titles and seven state championships in the past eight years.
Not too shabby, huh?
Well, Carl Arrigale's Saints made quick work of Lincoln Park Charter in March’s 3A title game, battering the Leopards by an impressive 89-58 count. So, if you can’t beat them, just take a seat and watch the Philadelphia power as it continues to win.
By the way, Lincoln Park will open the season at No. 3.
Brief glimpses of our preseason top 10 appear below, with PIAA district and last season’s final record displayed in parentheses. Only those schools competing for PIAA state championships are eligible for ranking purposes.
CITY OF BASKETBALL LOVE’S PRESEASON STATE-WIDE BOYS’ BASKETBALL RANKINGS — CLASS 3A
1. Neumann-Goretti (12, 24-7)
Notables: Might have wished goodbye to some wonderful players at graduation — Quade Green, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree and Mike Milsip — but Carl Arrigale always has talent just waiting to leave an indelible mark on an illustrious hoops program. While 6-9 senior Marcus Littles and 6-0 senior Noah Warren return to the Saints’ starting lineup — Littles is a George Washington recruit — springy 6-1 junior Christian Ings and 6-3 senior Dymir Montague are poised to take on even greater roles. More production will come from junior forward Ja’Cor Smith, sophomore guards Ahmad Fair and Hakim Byrd, and 6-6 freshman TaQuon Woodley. Might get up and down more this time around, and that’s frightening.
Season-opening game: Dec. 9 vs. Shipley School at Archbishop Carroll.
Abe Deng (above) and Valley Forge had the best season in program history last year, ending up in the state quarterfinals. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
2. Valley Forge Military Academy (1, 26-5)
Notables: With an historic season safely tucked away — first two state tournament victories, Bicentennial Athletic League championship — Francis Bowe’s incredibly tall and talented Trojans may be ready to create even more memories. Senior center Abraham Deng, a 6-10 Division I prospect, headlines the Valley Forge lineup. Also expected back for the suburban Philly program are 6-2 senior guard Arion Lewis, 6-9 senior center Marcus Ntwari, 6-7 senior forward Will Colleran, 6-3 senior forward Max Kauffman and 6-4 junior guard Rye Ahronson. Long, experienced club capable of inflicting plenty of damage
Season-opening game: Dec. 8 vs. Chichester at Abington Tip-Off.
3. Lincoln Park (7, 25-6)
Notables: Lost a dandy finisher when all-state selection Nelly Cummings hustled off to Bowling Green and took every one of his 2,400-plus career points with him to northwest Ohio, but the 6-0 playmaker hardly operated alone in reaching last year’s state final. Seems Mike Bariski’s Leopards return a pair of talents in 6-1 junior Keeno Holmes and 6-5 junior Thomas Melonja. Andre Wilder, a 6-4 sophomore transfer from Sewickley Academy, also could see plenty of playing time for the perennially powerful WPIAL program.
Season-opening game: Dec. 8 vs. Penn Hills at Midland Hall of Fame Classic.
4. Greenville (10, 24-3)
Notables: Since seven of the top nine players from a talented outfit that last season collared a second straight District 10 title and reached the second round of the state playoffs, lofty expectations undoubtedly are in place for Mark Batt’s Trojans. While 6-2 senior guard Joe Batt averaged nearly 20 points per game, he’ll be rejoined in the Greenville rotation by 6-2 senior forward Michael Blaney, 6-5 senior forward Tyler Kincaid, 5-8 senior guard Trap Wentling, 5-10 senior forward Conner Gilfoyle, 5-8 senior guard Josh Hittle and 5-7 junior guard Ryan Wallace. Beefier slate may make it harder to start 20-0 like last season.
Season-opening game: Dec. 11 vs. Commodore Perry.
5. Trinity (3, 23-4)
Notables: While the Shamrocks of Larry Kostelac Jr. continued their southcentral Pennsylvania dominance last season by capturing a fourth straight District 3 championship, Trinity’s stay in the state playoffs was short-circuited in the second round by Del-Val Charter. Still plenty of quality players on Harrisburg’s West Shore, as 6-10 senior and Lafayette recruit Sean Good, 6-5 senior Jack Bucher, 6-6 junior Kalen Veres, 6-0 senior Mike Scarpelli, 5-11 junior Matt Long and 6-1 senior Tresjon Ruiz all return. Won’t be easy replacing all-staters Austin Gilbertson and Timmy Edwards — or Marcus Hall — but Kostelac usually has something interested tucked up his battle-tested sleeves.
Season-opening game: Dec. 9 at York Catholic.
6. Central Cambria (6, 22-7)
Notables: Certainly had Ebensburg abuzz late last season, as Adam Stephan’s Red Devils claimed a District 6 championship and marched to the state quarters before running into Pittsburgh’s Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic. Rode 6-6 all-state hammer Matt Holsinger much of last season — Holsinger averaged 16.7 points, 13.1 rebounds and 4.4 blocks per outing — and he’s back again to impose his will in the paint. Senior guard Luke Bennett also returns after averaging just over seven points per contest.
Season-opening game: Dec. 8 vs. Penns Manor at own Ron Davidson Tournament.
7. Hughesville (4, 17-10)
Notables: Nick Tagliaferri’s Spartans wandered into last season’s District 4 playoffs as a No. 6 seed and bounced out with yet another championship and an invite to the state tournament. And that’s hardly a surprise for anyone that’s closely followed the Lycoming County program over the past decade or so. Certainly won’t be overlooked this season, not with 6-11 senior center Taylor Mason parked in the middle. Plenty of experience on hand, as 6-1 senior Matt Myers, 5-10 senior Devon Bushor, 6-2 senior Patrick Rogers, 6-2 senior Luke Ergott and 6-0 junior Logan Woolcock all return.
Season-opening game: Dec. 9 vs. Montoursville.
8. Richland (6, 21-6)
Notables: When preseason practice began several weeks back at the suburban Johnstown school, Greg Burke greeted plenty of familiar faces for Day 1. And he should have since the players who departed averaged 1.2 points per game between them, meaning the Rams should have plenty of veteran pop in their experienced lineup. Start with 6-2 senior Tyler Zimmerman (16.5 points/4.8 rebounds) and 6-3 junior Collin Instone (13.4/7.9), both of whom averaged in double figures. The rest of Richland’s lineup could look feature 6-0 senior Tyler Paul (8.2 ppg), 6-4 senior Trevy Hardison (9.7/7.3) and 6-0 Caleb Burke (9.0), who dished out more than six assists per game for a club that reached the state playoffs.
Season-opening game: Dec. 9 at Chestnut Ridge.
9. Fairview (10, 21-5)
Notables: Always a tough out, Fairview’s Tigers may turn a heartbreaking loss (48-47) to Shady Side Academy in Round 1 of last season’s state tournament into needed fuel as the 2017-18 season slowly begins to unfold. While opponents will pay plenty of attention to 6-10 senior big man Sam Parini — Parini committed to West Point last month — Fairview also returns 5-8 junior Matt Niland, 6-0 senior Andrew Morosky, 6-0 sophomore Matt Franos and 5-9 junior Jamison Cook. Will contend for another D-10 crown … and more.
Season-opening game: Dec. vs. Eisenhower at Fairview Tip-Off.
10. Holy Redeemer (2, 18-9)
Notables: Difficult to believe the Royals sat 6-7 at one point last season, then promptly won 12 of their next 13 outings, capturing a District 2 championship and one state victory before the Wilkes-Barre program ran into eventual champ Neumann-Goretti in the second round. Still plenty of pop available, as senior Joey Judge, junior Collin Cook, junior Nick Prociak, senior J.D. Turosky and senior Bryce Yencha return.
Season-opening games: Dec. 9 at Hunter (N.Y.) College.
OTHERS TO WATCH: Aliquippa (7, 12-12); Carbondale (2, 11-13); Delone Catholic (3, 12-12); Juniata (3, 21-6); Ligonier Valley (6, 17-7); Loyalsock (4, 21-7); Mount Carmel (4, 16-7); Seton-La Salley (7, 10-14); Steel-High (3, 9-13); Wellsboro (4, 21-6); York Catholic (3, 22-4).
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