Pioneer Athletic Conference
With four of his top six rotation players returning from last season's league champions, Perkiomen Valley coach Mike Poysden will be looking for his guys to duplicate that effort, one would think.
That would be only partially true.
While Poysden would be thrilled with a repeat championship, he'd rather the Vikings not get there in quite the same way. Last season, Perkiomen Valley got off to a 2-6 start, and then went 15-1 to rally for second place in the Liberty Division and beat Methacton in the league title game.
Poysden would like to see the team that emerged during that stretch - relentless on defense, poised and methodical offensively - play that way right from the gate.
"My message to the team is, we can't try to replicate that," Poysden said. "We dug ourselves a hole."
The Vikings certainly have the horses. They return a first-team all-conference point guard in senior Purnell Wilson. His backcourt mate, senior Rasaan Stewart, known more for his exploits at quarterback, is likely the best all-around athlete in the conference.
Six-foot-1 senior forward Mehki Clemons averaged 8.5 points last year.
Methacton lost nearly 33 points per game from two graduating starters - Brendan Casper (St. Joseph's) and Matt Forrest (Cabrini) - on a team that went back to the league championship game for a second straight season and earned its first state-tournament berth.
"That really inspired them to work hard in the offseason," coach Jeff Derstine said. "They want to prove it wasn't a one-and-done type thing."
Steady, 5-7 senior guard Joe Ruhl, who is a threat from the outside, and 6-3 senior forward Zach Jenkins give the Warriors some continuity.
Owen J. Roberts returns the league's leading scorer and a first-team all-conference selection in senior guard Matt Crider, who averaged 21.3 points. Kevin Kirby returns as coach, replacing Chris Talley, who is back at his alma mater, Spring-Ford.
Pope John Paul II has won the Frontier Division three straight seasons and qualified for the state tournament all three years it has existed. Senior point guard James Bleming will play a key role.
Phoenixville reached the final four last season and brings back two players who averaged nearly 10 points: 6-2 senior swingman Eric Wallace and 6-1 junior forward DeAndre Gadsden.
Pottstown's Denzel Harvey made second-team all-conference as a junior. He averaged 12.8 points.
- Tim McManus