As a late November practice came to an end, Bill Coleman gathered his Pennsbury boys' basketball players in a circle at center court and gave them a short speech.
The coach told them he has high expectations for them this season. He doesn't want their biggest games to be against local rivals. He wants his team to match up with the best programs in the area, teams such as La Salle, Roman Catholic, and Martin Luther King.
Even though Pennsbury lost seven seniors from last year, the team figures to be very good. That's due in large part to the senior trio of forward Derrick Woods and guards Mekhi Bryant and Cameron Jones.
Those three will be expected to lead the Falcons in games against those top teams.
"We're not really worried, because we know we can play at that level and play with them if we come out and play as a team," Woods said. "For me, Cam, and Mekhi, we can all depend on each other to get the job done.
"We're trying to get the young fellas in here, because they've never played varsity before. Trying to get them to step up to the plate."
Despite the return of the senior trio, there are quite a few new faces on the team. Isaiah Carpenter, Mark Flagg, and Nick Cereby all will play in the post, and that will allow Woods to play more outside of the paint. Woods expects the team to excel at rebounding.
The Falcons have been playing together since September in various exhibitions and tournaments. They played Camden and Point Pleasant Beach in October. They scrimmaged against Archbishop Carroll, a team with two Division I recruits, in late November.
"We're jelling together and getting to know each other a little better on the floor," Jones said.
Woods recently committed to play at St. Bonaventure. He wanted to commit before the season to limit distractions.
Now, he said, he can "stop worrying about college coaches calling me all the time. Now I'm able to just focus on the season."
On the other hand, Bryant and Jones have not committed to play in college yet, though they both have multiple offers. That gives them extra motivation to play well against top competition.
"Going in, I've got a little chip on my shoulder, because I'm playing harder, I'm playing teams where they have five, six Division I players," Bryant said. "I want to prove I can play with them, play at the next level. It can only benefit us more to play harder."
Last season, Pennsbury made it to the District 1 Class AAAA championship game before losing to Chester. The Falcons then fell to Martin Luther King in the second round of the PIAA state tournament.
Even with the loss of seven seniors, the team expects to make it back to the district championship game. But this time, the Falcons want to win.