With the graduation of Myles Bunyon and Devin Hill, two of the Bicentennial Athletic League's top players last season, Arion Lewis realized his role for Valley Forge Military Academy would change this season.
"First off, I knew I would have to score more," the senior point guard said. "Also, as one of our captains, I would have be a vocal leader on and off the court. I'm trying to do both."
Displaying poise and an improved perimeter shot, Lewis delivered a career-high 32 points as the host Trojans easily turned back Holy Ghost Prep, 65-47, Tuesday night in the BAL Independence Division opener for both squads in Wayne.
The 6-foot-2, 160-pounder shot 13 for 19 from the field, including 4 for 4 from three-point land, and 2 for 3 from the line. He added four assists, three rebounds, and three steals.
"He put in a lot of hours in the gym in the offseason, added some muscle and got quicker," VFMA fifth-year coach Francis Bowe said.
Last season, Lewis averaged about 15 points per game while helping the Trojans go 25-4, claim the BAL title, earn the PIAA District 1-11 Class 3A subregional crown, and advance to the quarterfinals of the state tournament.
With Lewis converting 8 of 10 field-goal attempts and scoring 19 points, VFMA (2-1) was in front of Holy Ghost, 34-26, at the break. His back-to-back three-pointers bumped the lead to 40-30 with 5 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter.
The Trojans returned Lewis and four other key contributors from last season: 6-10 senior center Abraham Deng, 6-4 junior wing Rye Ahronson, 6-7 senior forward Will Colleran, and 6-9 senior forward Marius Ntwari.
"After what we accomplished last season, our No. 1 goal is to win a state championship," Lewis said. "We have the players and experience to accomplish that."
Deng has scholarship offers from La Salle, St. Joseph's, Temple, and Virginia Commonwealth. The South Sudan native has also drawn interest from Delaware and Hofstra.
"He's a great presence on defense for us," Lewis said. "He runs the floor well and has gotten better at finishing around the basket."
Deng contributed nine boards (four on offense), seven points, three assists, two steals, and a blocked shot in the win over the Firebirds.
Ahronson produced 13 of his 18 points, including three treys, in the second half and finished with four steals. Colleran chipped in seven caroms, six points, and three blocks, and Ntwari grabbed five boards.
After starting high school at Roman Catholic, Lewis is in his second year at VFMA. The commute from West Philly requires a 45-minute train ride from 30th Street Station and a 15-minute walk.
The 17-year-old's father, James "Flame" Lewis, played at Roman (class of 1992) and coached hoops for seven years at Philadelphia Electrical and Technology Charter and one at Del-Val Charter. Before Del-Val closed its doors in June, the elder Lewis and the Warriors ended VFMA's run in states with a 61-46 quarterfinal victory.
Arion Lewis, who last season drilled 41 treys, has drawn recruiting interest from Boston University, Elon, and Lafayette.
"My dream has always been to play Division I basketball," he said. "But if there was a good situation at a Division II school, I'd be fine with that, too."
In honor of Archbishop Wood head coach John Mosco's late wife, Wood will be hosting the inaugural Diane Mosco Foundation Shootout Against Cancer on Saturday.
Diane (nee Reiher) Mosco died in September from myelodysplastic syndrome, also known as MDS, which affects normal blood cell production in the bone marrow. The 51-year-old was the mother of John III, 15, and Nicholas, 14.
Here is the schedule for the five-game tournament in Warminster: Coatesville vs. Pennsbury, 12:30 p.m.; Plymouth Whitemarsh vs. Archbishop Carroll, 2:15; Bethlehem Catholic vs. Abington, 4; Cheltenham vs. Neumann-Goretti, 5:45; and Shipley vs. Wood, 7:30.
Proceeds from the event will go to the Breathing Room Foundation, which provides care and support to local families affected by cancer. It was established by former La Salle High hoops coach Bernie Fitzgerald and his wife, Diane, in 1997. Diane (nee Furlong) Fitzgerald lost her six-year battle with breast cancer the same year.