The West Chester spring team camps continued on Wednesday night with 20 area high school boys squads coming up to WCU for another night of action across five courts.
Here’s a notebook from Wednesday night, focusing on two District 1 programs, with notes on several others:
Penncrest aiming to get back into a winning mindset
This year wasn’t the typical one for Mike Doyle’s Lions.
Mikey Mita (above) and Penncrest are relying on their youth to carry the torch. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
After 15 straight years of qualifying for the District 1 playoffs, Penncrest finished the 2022-23 season at 5-17, no postseason in sight. It’s been since February 7 that Doyle’s program has been anxiously waiting to get back on the court, stuck doing individual drills and open gym workouts, until finally getting back at it during the West Chester spring camps.
Now the goal is simple: remember how to win again.
“Wins are important right now,” Doyle said. “Before, we’d blow through this summer league at 8-1, 9-0, play in the championship, the semifinals. But no — we’ve got to establish a mentality where you go out and you win these games, we’ve got to start it now, I believe in that culture [...]
At times there were four sophomores on the floor for us today, but they have to learn to win again. And I said you’ve got to expect to win, and you’ve got to be angry when you lose.”
The Lions showed some progress over the course of the evening, battling from down 20 points at halftime against West Chester Henderson to get within a point late in a 52-48 loss against a team that qualified for the PIAA 6A tournament last year. They then beat up on Delco Christian, Doyle able to cycle through plenty of his young bench as Penncrest cruised down the second-half stretch.
It’s that youth that has Doyle excited about the future; he said his freshman team went an unbeaten 16-0 last season and was also a strong eighth grade group two years back. Four freshmen saw varsity minutes last season, led by starting wing Mikey Mita, who at 6-7 is going to be the centerpiece of the program over the next three years.
Mita showed good flashes on Wednesday night, hitting a number of mid-range jumpers and with good touch around the rim, playing hard on both ends of the floor.
“He’s going to have a lot on his shoulders, but he has a really nice way about him,” Doyle said. “There’s going to be high expectations on him, he’s going to be the guy as a sophomore on this team, and I think he’s prepared for it mentally; he has a great head on his shoulders, he understands the dynamics of the game, and he’ll also hit the open man as well as hit the open shot.”
Along with Mita, sophomore guard Connor Cahill will be a big part of the team’s plans moving forward, as will senior guard Michael Maddox, senior forward Ray Wolson and junior guard Will Stanton, whose brother Ben played at Penncrest and is now at Elizabethtown. After that is all that youth, which Doyle has the next six months to sort out.
“We have so many players that the [West Chester] JV league, we put two teams in,” he said. “We have an ‘A’ and a ‘B’ team because there’s so many of these freshmen that are going to be sophomores now that are trying to break through. It’s going to be whoever can make shots at the high school level is going to get those minutes.” — Josh Verlin
Downingtown West’s Staz on the mend
As defending Ches-Mont League champion Downingtown West enters what head coach Stuart Ross is calling its “post-championship era,” it is benefiting from the return of 6-foot-7 forward Zeke Staz to full health.
Staz, a rising junior, is rebounding from a hamstring injury that allowed him to play just one game last season. But he played starter’s minutes as West swept the evening’s scrimmages against Kennett and Sanford School (Del.).
“Zeke is back [at] 100% full health, so we’re not on any minutes restrictions,” Ross said. “He’s been doing a really good job out here, working his way back, getting his feet underneath him, making some shots, rebounding the ball.
“He’s going to be a big part of what we do. I’m just excited to see how comfortable he is right now after being off for almost a year.”
Staz projects to get his first chance at a full season of high school varsity basketball beginning this fall. After his freshman year as a reserve, his sophomore campaign was largely wiped out by the hamstring injury suffered while playing last offseason.
Numerous setbacks, including one occurring after his appearance in the Whippets’ win over Downingtown East, kept Staz off the floor in 2022-23, when Downingtown West went 22-8, won the Ches-Mont championship and made it to the District 1 6A semifinals and PIAA 6A second round.
Now, Ross calls Staz “the best-kept secret in the area.” After playing in the eight-to-10-minutes-per-game range last month, Staz is in line for the starter’s playing time that his well-rounded game earns.
“Last week, I think he had six 3s in a game,” Ross said. “This week, he kinda controlled the paint area with the rebounds and his presence. He made some tough baskets to the rim–drives to the basket. Made a couple jump shots. What we got from him is what we’re gonna need for us to be successful.”
Ross welcomes Staz completely back into the fold as the eighth-year head coach oversees an important transition for Downingtown West’s program.
With Dylan Blair headed for Army West Point, Downingtown West will ask fellow top scorer Donovan Fromhartz, a talented 6-5 sophomore wing, to take on an evolved role in the coming season. He’s the only returning starter from a team that also graduated Joey Suarez, Kelly Bell and Alex Neuhaus from its lineup.
“We’re learning a lot about ourselves because we’re moving on from a team that did a lot of good things, a lot of firsts,” Ross said. “We’re just working on playing hard, playing together, making the right plays, and being consistent in how we play.” — Daniel Steenkamer
Nyle Ralph-Beyer (above) continued a strong spring. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)
— In leading West Chester Henderson to a 52-48 win over Penncrest, Nyle Ralph-Beyer continued his strong streak of play that saw him pick up his first Division I offer this summer. The 6-4 wing guard, a rising senior, hit his usual assortment of long-range shots, including a pull-up 3 from straight away and a few other catch-and-shoot treys, but also had some strong finishes in traffic, showing good natural touch around the bucket. Also playing well (outside of Connor Fleet, who did his thing with a number of mid-range jumpers) was their classmate, Jesse Smith, who had a couple 3s and a few good takes, plus 6-4 rising junior Ryan Ranali, who hit a few shots and had a stick-back layup.
— Coatesville had a number of players shine in a big win over West Chester Rustin: rising senior guards Zuri Harris (19 points) and Dior Kennedy (13 points) both had efficient nights and a handful of steals, and rising junior Amon Fowlkes was 4-of-6 from deep for 12 points. There was also another good step forward taken by rising sophomore Larry Brown, the 6-7 post contributing a 3-pointer as part of his nine-point, four-rebound outing. John Allen has some significant pieces to replace from this year’s state quarterfinalist, but the Raiders look like they’ll once again be a real threat to go deep into March.
— It’s been a long time since Harriton has had a scholarship-level ballplayer — at least two decades — but Marquis Kubish could be the one to end that trend. The 6-2 guard was impressive in a win over Owen J Roberts, both with his scoring as well as his play-making. Kubish had a breakout junior year for Harriton thanks mainly to his ability to out the ball in the hoop, but he was showing some real point guard abilities on Wednesday night, making no-look passes on the move, and some great high-low passes for layups while he was attacking the rim. Kubish didn’t say any area D-IIs were on him yet, but it seems like only a matter of time.
— Perkiomen Valley was tested in its matchup with Devon Prep, needing late pressure to force overtime on the way to a 57-53 win. Perk Valley got a clutch, go-ahead three-pointer from Kyle Shawaluk that put it up 53-51 inside a minute to play in OT. Head coach Mike Poysden enjoyed his team’s composure in coming back from deficits: “It’s cool to be down six or seven or eight and see them stay with it. Stay within what we’re trying to do and stay in the concepts, trust that there’s not a seven- or eight-point play. It’s one stop at a time. It’s one good possession at a time. I thought that was cool to watch for their maturity as they fight through some adversity early on in the season.”
Tag(s): Home High School Boys HS Central League (B) Harriton Penncrest Ches-Mont National (B) Coatesville Downingtown West West Chester Henderson Pac-10 (B) PAC-10 Liberty (B) Perkiomen Valley Mikey Mita