The Pennridge boys' basketball team finished in a four-way tie for the Suburban One League Continental Conference title last season.
This year, led by a corps of experienced and athletic guards, the squad plans to separate itself from the pack and earn an outright crown. It also hopes to make noise in the District 1 Class AAAA playoffs.
The Rams returned five of their top seven players, including a trio of starters: Zack Muredda, Joe Molettiere, and Dan Long. Joe Unangst, who joined the group after rushing for 2,000 yards on the gridiron, was last year's sixth man.
Behind 25 points from Long, host Pennridge turned back Central Bucks West, 69-59, in a Continental Conference matchup Tuesday night. Molettiere and Muredda chipped in 16 and 13 points, respectively.
The Rams (4-1 overall, 2-0 league) have won four straight since falling to District 11's Saucon Valley, 76-65, in the opener of their tip-off tournament.
A major concern for 17th-year boss Dean Behrens is a lack of height. At 6-foot-1, Molettiere, a senior guard who is averaging 16 points, is the tallest starter.
"It's going be an issue, especially if teams try to slam the ball inside on us," he said. "We're going to try to dictate the tempo by moving the ball up and down the court. And we have to defend well."
Muredda, a 6-foot senior captain and four-year starter, netted 25 points in a 59-51 nonleague win at William Tennent last week. A first-team all-league selection last season, he is averaging 15.4 points.
"He's been our point guard since his freshman year," Behrens said. "He sees the floor extremely well and makes the players around him better."
Muredda has drawn interest from a number of Division III schools, including Juniata, Moravian, Scranton, and Ursinus.
Like Muredda (infielder), Long (infielder), Molettiere (righthanded pitcher), and Unangst (outfielder) also play baseball. Molettiere will compete in that sport at Monmouth. Long is hearing from the likes of La Salle and St. Joseph's.
Long is averaging a team-high 16.8 points. Also in the mix is fellow 5-11 junior guard Stephen Lowry, 6-1 sophomore forward Kyle Yoder, 6-1 senior forward James White, and 6-foot sophomore guard Ryan Cuthbert.
Winter Classic. The Winter Classic, an offshoot of the annual Mary Kline Classic, is set for Sunday at Archbishop Wood. Proceeds benefit cancer research.
Here is the schedule:
Salesianum (Del.) vs. Ewing (N.J.), noon.
Pope John XXIII (N.J.) vs. Life Center Academy (N.J.), 1:45 p.m.
Pennington (N.J.) vs. Archbishop Wood, 3:30 p.m.
Trenton Catholic (N.J.) vs. Imhotep Charter, 5:15 p.m.
Neumann-Goretti vs. Pennsbury, 7 p.m.
Notes. Westtown's Mohammed Bamba, a 6-10 sophomore forward, added scholarship offers this week from Maryland and Villanova. He also has offers from James Madison, Penn State, Rice, Temple, and Seton Hall. ... Haverford School (5-3) is led in scoring by Levan "Shawn" Alston (21.5 ppg.), Cameron Reddish (16.4), and Lamar Stevens (15.5). ... In Downingtown West's 6-0 start, junior guard Ryan Betley has averaged 16.2 points and drilled 15 three-pointers. Josh Warren, a 6-7 junior forward, has averaged 15.3 points. ...In Imhotep Charter's 66-60 home loss Tuesday against Martin Luther King, Panthers senior guard Khalief Tinley posted 14 points, 10 boards, and 2 steals. He was 3 for 4 from beyond the arc in the first half. ... Archbishop Carroll begins play in the prestigious City of Palms Classic in Fort Myers, Fla., at 9:30 p.m. Thursday vs. Oak Ridge (Fla.). Oak Ridge, of Orlando, has one of the country's top players in Antonio Blakeney. The 6-4 senior guard is considering Kentucky, LSU, and Missouri. ... For 5-0 Conwell-Egan, junior guard Stevie Jordan is averaging 17.6 points and 4.8 assists. Teammate Vinny Dalessandro is averaging 14 points and 9.6 rebounds.