While Council Rock North and Cheltenham have received the spotlight as the dominant teams in their respective conferences of the Suburban One League, Central Bucks East has quietly gone about being the annual team to beat in the Continental Conference. Some people might say the Patriots have been overlooked.

Coach Tom Lonergan's team has won the conference five years in a row. The Patriots went unbeaten in 14 conference games last season and were 21-7 overall.

Three starters from that team - seniors Lindsey Kelly (6-0) and Shannon Devlin and sophomore Karoline White - return.

"We lost our top scorers, but we should be competitive," said Lonergan, who has earned more than 400 victories in his 28-year career. "It may be a little more difficult this season, but there's tradition involved."

He said he expects his team to face improved Souderton and Central Bucks West squads.

"They have just about everybody back, as does North Penn. It will be challenging," Lonergan said.

The Maidens feature Steph Knauer, who was named conference player of the year, averaging 14 points and 11 rebounds.

The National Conference race could prove to be the most interesting, with Council Rock South (19-8) trying to wrest the title from C.R. North (26-3). All-state selection Alex Wheatley, a 6-3 senior forward, and point guard Alexis Hofstaedter will lead the Golden Hawks' title bid. Wheatley, who averaged 20 points and 15 rebounds last season, is headed to Princeton. Hofstaedter has committed to William and Mary.

North will be without coach Lou Palkovics, who is on leave. Liz Potash, who served as an assistant for seven seasons until 2009, takes over.

The Indians also will be without premiere guard Devin Gold, who graduated. The District 1 Class AAAA champs will have three veterans - Emily Grundman, Halene Gemmell, and Alysa Dumont - returning.

Abington and Neshaminy could have a say in the race, too. The Ghosts return Aiyannah Peal, a four-year starter; Sarah Listenbee; 6-2 sophomore transfer Michael Harris; and freshman Deja Rawls.

"I expect Deja to have instant impact," coach Dan Marsh said.

Cheltenham (24-5) will seek its 23d American Conference crown in 25 years under coach Bob Schaefer. The Panthers are paced by Ciara Andrews, a St. Joseph's recruit.

Upper Dublin (23-6) appears to be Cheltenham's biggest challenger. Seniors Taylor Bryant and Jen Myers are among the Cardinals' leaders.

- Don Beideman