Sean McBryan (@SeanMcBryan)
(Ed. Note: This story is the first in 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 2021-22 season preview coverage. As we publish more, the complete list of schools previewed will be found here.)
CB East sophomore Jacob Cummiskey (above) was one of the District 1 6A playoff's breakout stars. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
Central Bucks East made some serious noise last season, with one of the most exciting postseason runs around. Even though the Patriots graduated a significant senior class, the return of one of the best underclassmen in District 1 and a solid supporting cast is enough to keep hopes high.
Typically a middle-of-the-pack program in the Suburban One League’s old Continental division behind the likes of Pennridge and Central Bucks West, finishing in third or fifth place each of the previous five seasons, the Patriots broke through in 2020-21.
In the first year of the new, four-division SOL, the Patriots captured the Colonial Division, going 8-2 in division play (14-4 overall), winning a division title for the first time since 2013-14. CB East qualified for the District 1 playoffs as the No. 7 seed before eventually losing to Abington in the semifinals.
But it wasn’t just the run they made, it was how.
Rising sophomore Jacob Cummiskey burst onto the scene in those district playoffs with consecutive last-second, game-winning baskets in the 51-50 win over Boyertown in the first round and 56-55 win over division-rival North Penn in the quarterfinals.
In a normal season without COVID-19 complications the Patriots would’ve been headed to states, one of 10 representatives from District 1. Last season, only teams that won their district made it to the PIAA tournament, which meant that only Lower Merion was in from the suburban public schools.
That’s a hard pill to swallow, considering the Patriots were one of the top four teams in District 1.
“Last year we had to win the district to get in,” Central Bucks East head coach Erik Henrysen said. “We would’ve been the No. 3 or 4 seed in a normal year.”
Though there’s a lot to replace, there’s a clear piece to build around in last year’s postseason hero.
The Patriots will look to Cummiskey, a 6-3, 185-pound combo guard, to take the reins this season after those performances. The talented lefty, who played with the Nike-backed NJ Scholars this offseason, has the size to see over defenders and make the right read. Offensively he is already polished for an underclassman with a good handle and ability to attack the rim. As his outside shot improves, Cummiskey will be an even bigger problem for Suburban One, District 1 and PIAA opponents to solve.
“We play a brand of basketball where we share the ball,” Henrysen said. “He’s definitely going to be key for us in running everything and we expect a lot out of him. Last year he got starter minutes even though he came off the bench as a sixth man. He’s comfortable with a larger role and responsibility.”
The team graduated six seniors, including 6-9 big man Jack Hamilton, now playing baseball at Lehigh, and sharpshooting, 944-point scorer Joe Jackman (West Chester). Henrysen, going into his 12th season as coach, and Cummiskey still feel their squad can have the same success in 2021-22.
“It’s always the goal (to make a run in states),” Henrysen said. “You want to initially compete in your conference, make a run in districts and then qualify for states. We checked all of those boxes last year and we look to do that again.”
Liam Cummiskey (above), a 6-4 senior, is expected to play a much larger role for the Patriots. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
That would mean the first box to check is competing in the Suburban One Colonial, which should be tough again with Central Bucks South, Pennridge and North Penn all hoping to improve on 6-4 league records in 2020-21. Each of those three teams also made the District 1 6A tournament: Pennridge (13-6) was the No. 12 seed, Central Bucks South (9-7) was the No. 17 seed and North Penn (12-7) was the No. 18 seed.
“We’re going right back to the same spot,” Jacob Cummiskey said. “We lost our leading scorer and our 6-9 kid, but I’m ready to take the leading role on this team. I think we can get right back to where we were.”
Jacob’s older brother, senior Liam Cummiskey (6-3, 170), figures to be the second scoring option on offense. He has a nice stroke from 3 and has put in some good showings at multiple camps throughout the summer, including hitting four 3s in a game against Salesanium at the CoBL Exposure Camp.
“Last year he got kind of pushed out (of the lineup), somewhat because of me,” Jacob said about his older brother. “But this year is his year…he’s going to be our second option on offense.”
Senior forward Aidan Weaver (6-5, 215), an all-league honorable mention last year, and senior guard Brett Young (6-1, 170) will also be tasked with making an impact in significant complementary roles.
“Brett Young is a baseball kid and this is his first time out,” Henrysen said. “We are expecting a lot out of him. Aidan Weaver committed to Duke for baseball and he’s going to be huge for us as well.”
The Cummiskey brothers’ first sport is basketball. Jacob said he remembers playing basketball with Liam since he was in the first grade. The younger Cummiskey played baseball up until seventh grade when he decided that he wanted to fully focus on basketball.
“It’s cool,” Jacob said about playing with his brother. “We have a great chemistry. We argue sometimes but we’re always working out together. We’re always playing basketball together. We really feel like we can bring this basketball team back to where we were last year.”
The only two players who likely don’t need any time to build chemistry are Jacob and Liam.
The biggest challenge for the Patriots to figure out before their first competitive action at the Pennridge Tip-off Tournament on December 10 will be gaining continuity and rhythm. Henrysen said the team hadn’t much time to play together in the offseason, as there are multiple multi-sport athletes on the team.
Behind the top four of the Cummiskey brothers, Young and Weaver, there’s a good group of upperclassmen in the mix for the fifth starting spot and reserve roles.
Nick Rivera, a senior point guard (6-1) committed to Cairn, is certainly one of the frontrunners for that last starting spot, but he has competition from senior guards Tyriq Toney-Bailey (6-1) and Ryan Lenahan (6-1) and junior Joe Giordano (5-11). Also in the mix for minutes are junior wing Kyle Berndt (6-5) and 6-6 center Joshua Lyzinsky, Weaver’s backup.
Central Bucks East will be focusing on getting a solid rotation down while getting players back into the swing of things. The Patriots won’t have much time to figure it out on the court as they get a big test early when Pennridge travels to Doylestown on December 14.
“This year all we have to do is win one game at a time to make it to states,” Jacob Cummiskey said. “We have a good coach who can prepare us for states, any Division I player or top Division II player. I think we could win states, too.”