Conestoga reached new heights last season, going 24-6, placing third in the PIAA District 1 Class AAAA tournament, and qualifying for the state playoffs.

The Pioneers return four of five starters from that squad, so there's a good chance for continued success.

The only starter lost was wing guard Zack Yonda, who averaged 16 points and is now at Swarthmore.

Back for ninth-year coach Mike Troy are floor general Daryl Caldwell, fellow guards James Vandeventer and Andrew Diehl, 6-foot-5 forward Dan Vila, and 6-4 forward Martin Dorsey.

"Our team is very unselfish, and all the guys pass the ball well," Troy said. "And a number of guys can play multiple positions."

Conestoga's first goal, as usual, is to win the Central League title. In last year's league tournament, after taking out Penncrest behind Yonda's 28 points, the squad bowed to perennial power Lower Merion.

Ten days later, in a district quarterfinal, the No. 1-seeded Pioneers turned the tables on the No. 9 Aces with a 68-60 triumph.

"I'm sure they're just as anxious to play us this year as we are to play them," Troy said.

A high-leaping, 6-5 guard, Diehl is drawing interest from Division II and III programs. The possibilities for Vila, a top student, include Haverford, Johns Hopkins, and Vassar.

Dorsey is still getting into basketball shape after shining as a wide receiver in football.

"He's our No. 1 defender," Troy said. "He's the kind of kid who does whatever the team needs him to do to win."

Providing depth are 6-1 junior guards M.J. Lezanic and Andrew Larkin and 6-5 senior center Jack Lambert.

From Dec. 27-30, Conestoga will be in Phoenix to participate in the Cactus Jam Hoop Classic. The first of three opponents is Archbishop Spalding (Md.).

Rigorous schedule. With a lineup featuring senior stars Derrick Jones and Ernest Aflakpui, Archbishop Carroll will take on some of the country's premier teams in four out-of-state events.

This weekend, the Patriots are in Kentucky for the 19th annual Marshall County Hoop Fest. First up, at 7 p.m. Friday, is Callaway, Mississippi's three-time defending Class AAAAA champ.

From Dec. 18-23, Carroll will compete in the prestigious City of Palms Classic in Fort Myers, Fla. The 17-team tourney includes juggernauts Montverde Academy (Fla.) and Mater Dei (Calif.).

"That's how it is when you have national-caliber players like Derrick and Ernest," Patriots coach Paul Romanczuk said. "People want to see them play. I figured, 'Let's take advantage of it and see how we do.' "

On Jan. 2, Carroll will face La Lumiere (Ind.) in the Cancer Research Classic in Wheeling, W. Va. Two weeks later, it will battle Chicago's Simeon in the Spalding Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass.

Going for No. 7. Neumann-Goretti is set to make a run at a record seventh consecutive Catholic League championship.

It won't come easily for the Saints, as they lost four mainstays to graduation: guards Ja'Quan Newton (now at Miami) and Troy Harper (Campbell), and 6-6 forwards Tony Toplyn (Campbell) and Jamal Custis (Syracuse for football).

Neumann-Goretti coach Carl Arrigale knows many are expecting his team's streak to end.

"This isn't my first funeral," he said with a laugh. "I've had about three or four. We were supposed to lose last year, too. I'm OK with that. Actually, it's better when that's the case."

A speedy and experienced Saints backcourt is headed by Lamarr Kimble, Quade Green, and Vaughn Covington. "We're going to be aggressive on both ends of the floor," Arrigale said.

All-freshman squad. Cameron Reddish, Haverford School, 6-4 guard; Marcus Littles, Academy of the New Church, 6-7 center; Fred Odhimda, Church Farm, 6-9 center; Tyree Pickron, Archbishop Wood, 6-3 guard; and Dymir Montague, Neumann-Goretti, 6-2 guard.