District 2 Boys Update (WVC and LL Division Previews)

Written by: on Wednesday, December 22nd, 2021



Welcome back to the Northeast Beat.


Today we’ll take a quick look at how District 2 Boys’ teams have been fairing through the first 11 days of the hoops season and see where teams might be stacking-up when division play begins in January.   


Here We Go Again?

As was the case throughout last season, District 2 coaches and athletes are once-again realizing that Covid-related stoppages are going to be a factor throughout this year’s hoops schedule.  Several schools (Carbondale, Lake-Lehman, and Susquehanna Community) have already decided to switch to virtual learning for the rest of the month with some programs pausing athletics into early January.


Wyoming Valley Conference (DIVISION 1) 

The Dallas Mountaineers (1-0) move back up to Division 1 this season and they feature a talented, veteran lineup.  At this point, all they need is…a lot more game action.  They’re playing their just second game of the season at Abington Heights Wednesday night (a road tilt last weekend at Boys Latin was cancelled due to Covid).  The Mounts were hitting on all cylinders in their win over Scranton Prep 77-58 as Austin Finarelli (35 points, 6 triples), Nick Nocito (22 points), and Michael Cumbo (16 points) led the way. 

Pittston Area (3-1) is going to be very competitive in the division.  The Patriots have eye-catching wins over Holy Cross (47-43) and North Pocono (36-33).  They’ve been getting balanced scoring from Anthony Cencetti, Dom Januzzi, Ethan Ghannam, JJ Walsh and Jack Long.  Add in the coaching prowess of Al Semenza and there’s no reason to doubt that the Pats will be in the race. 

If there is a common theme among the remaining division teams, it’s that most were hit hard by graduation and have some major holes to fill.  But, that’s not to say that the shelves are empty.  Some programs, such as Crestwood, have plenty of skill among their juniors and senior classes.  Transfer Drew Sechler has given the Comets (2-2) an immediate offensive boost and Zayne Dunsmuir (6-5 senior) has been steady.  Wins over Nanticoke Area and Shamokin (plus close losses to 6A Scranton and Williamsport) give the Mountain Top school plenty of optimism to also be in the mix. 

Hazleton Area (2-1) is going to be without 6-3 junior Brett Antolick for the season.  And while that will create an impact, there are several pieces in the program this year that, if they can contribute, can definitely make things interesting for the Cougars.  Their backcourt is their strength featuring senior Josin Guerra and sophomore Luke Gennaro.  They combined for 27 points in Tuesday’s win over Nanticoke Area.  Junior Matt Cusatis is a playmaker that plays taller than his 6-0 frame.  HA also has a win over Allentown Dieruff and dropped a road loss at Cumberland Valley

Another team that has the potential to mix things up in the division is Tunkhannock.  The Tigers (3-1) got a big victory over Elk Lake as junior Dylan Mateus netted 35 points (with 9 triples) and Ben Chilson (6-5 junior) added 16. 

A squad that has been very competitive despite their modest 2-3 mark has been Wyoming Valley West.  Close losses to Scranton Prep and Riverside were rewarded with a come-from-behind 45-44 win over perennial contender Abington Heights.  The Spartans have been paced by a pair of seniors, guard Tyreese Harris and 6-4 forward Jonathan Mann

Wilkes-Barre Area (2-4) is dealing with the proverbial double-whammy early on, a combination of very limited varsity experience plus a challenging exhibition December slate, including perennial powerhouses Scranton Prep, Trinity, and Executive Education Academy.  Look for head coach Pat Toole (who earlier this season announced that this will be his last year on the bench) to get the Wolfpack into position to impact the division race.  They have been getting support from seniors Samir Hill and Nyquon Santos-Hollman along with sophomore Bryan Clarke.  

Berwick (1-1) will have their hands full in the division, but the Dawgs do bring several experienced players into their campaign.  Seniors Miles Doll and Jackson Smith are joined by juniors Sean Murphy and 6-4 Tahsjee Taylor.     

Conference play begins Tuesday, January 4.


Wyoming Valley Conference (DIVISION 2) 

Holy Redeemer (3-0) began their season pegged as the team to beat in Division 2 and, so far, the Royals have lived up to all the preseason hype with impressive wins over St. John Neumann and Holy Cross.  They feature a superb backcourt as well as one of the more versatile inside threats in the entire district.  Senior Justice Shoats is a dynamic player who can dazzle with his drives to the bucket and is complemented by a pair of juniors in Zach Peta and Darryl Wright.  Senior 6-7 forward Matt Prociak can dominate inside, but is especially dangerous because he will not hesitate to launch a triple. 

While HR seems to have enough firepower to rise to the top, it’s going to be a toss-up among the remaining teams who had an overall combined record of only 6-23 through December 21.  As these teams continue to figure out their lineups, it’s going to make for a fun race, night in and night out. 

Nanticoke Area (1-5) has been led by seniors Owen Brown and Chris Johnson.  Junior Justin Spencer is a streaky shooter from 3-point range.  The Trojans have a pair of sophomores that have been making an impact, Jaidyn Johnson and Payton Kepp.

Wyoming Area (3-2) has been getting terrific efforts from sophomore guard Dane Schutter (20.8 ppg with 14 triples) and senior guard Evan Melberger.  The Warriors have potential but will need to get some other players to contribute offensively.             

Lake-Lehman (1-1), currently on pause, graduated much of their scoring punch but does have junior Corey Bean and senior Cole Morio.  The Black Knights have a win over Montrose and a loss to Mid Valley.

Hanover Area (1-3) will need some time to get their lineup figured out.  The Hawkeyes have seniors Jake Zola and Mike Merth along with junior Eljah Noe.  Sophomore Steven Florek and freshman David Popson are both making early contributions.     

Wyoming Seminary (0-5) graduated several major cogs in their lineup and will be working to find the right on-floor combination.  The Blue Knights return junior Isaiah Stull.  Freshman Marc Jackett is averaging 7.5 ppg. 

MMI Prep (0-6) returns after not playing in the 2020-2021 season.  The Preppers will be looking to stress fundamentals, get players some on-court experience and set their program back on its feet.  Success at this point will not necessarily be measured in wins or losses.     

Conference play begins Tuesday, January 4.



Lackawanna League (DIVISION 1) 

The Scranton Knights (3-0) have a trio of impressive victories over Crestwood (69-64), Wyoming Valley West (69-49), and Old Forge (76-62).  Their early season battle against powerhouse Holy Redeemer (scheduled for this week) will have to wait until early February due to a Covid-related postponement.  Scranton features playmaker Jason Shields, one of the top all-around players in the entire district.  He is joined by senior guards Arvel Chandler and AJ Dinterman.  Plenty of excitement in the Electric City again this season.

While the Knights are fine-tuning their lineup, several other division contenders are using the challenging non-league portion of their schedule to work out the inconsistencies. 

For Scranton Prep (2-3), head coach Andrew Kettel always has his team playing a competitive December slate and this year is no different.  Losses were to Dallas (77-58) and perennial 6A contenders Williamsport (42-40) and St. Joseph’s Prep (63-46).  Plenty of senior experience in the Cavalier’s lineup including guards Andrew Ferguson and Noah Sorenson along with forwards Robert Rossi and Matt Cobb.  Look for junior guard James Pettinato to also contribute.               

Abington Heights (2-2) has a pair of oh-so-close losses on their resume to Emmaus (49-46) and Wyoming Valley West (45-44, as they let a 12-point halftime lead slip away).  The Comets feature guards Matt Show (junior) and Ryan Nealon (sophomore) along with seniors Domenic Selvenis and Jamison Bessoir.  Inside, veteran head coach Ken Bianchi has seniors Bryce Florey and Carson Kelleher.    

West Scranton (4-1) may the early surprise so far and is off to a terrific start with wins over Dunmore (73-53) and Mid Valley (58-51).  The Invaders are led by senior guard Antonio Torres and 6-4 junior forward Tristen Lee.  The duo combined for 46 points in a win over Honesdale.  West has also been getting strong contributions from a pair of sophomores, Evan Laybourne-Boddie (22 points in Dunmore victory) and Chris Ogden (13 triples).   

Valley View (3-2), despite being without junior forward Adam Howanitz (ACL injury during football season) is off to a good start and getting solid backcourt play from senior Colin Skeen along with juniors Eli Yusavage (12.8 ppg) and LV Pegula.  Inside, the Cougars have junior forward AJ Kucharski.  

League play begins Monday, January 3.


Lackawanna League (DIVISION 2) 

North Pocono (4-1) has wins over Nanticoke Area, Mid Valley, Wyoming Area, and Riverside.  Their lone loss was to Pittston Area (36-33) as the Patriots rallied in the final period.  The Trojans have a balanced lineup with a good blend of experienced players that can effectively move the ball around.  And they focus on playing stellar defense which creates many offensive opportunities.  Their backcourt is anchored by senior Ryan Ruddy (16.8 ppg) and junior AJ Nemitz (12.2 ppg, including 23 points against Nanticoke Area).  NP does not have much height, but they play tall with seniors Kyle McCullough and Billy Pabst along with junior Chris WalshRuddy and McCullough combined to net 49 combined points in their win over Wyoming Area.  The Trojans are going to be in a fantastic battle with Wallenpaupack for division honors.

Wallenpaupack (4-1) has won four in a row following an opening night loss to Stroudsburg.  Like North Pocono, the Buckhorns have great balance across the floor.  They have a solid backcourt led by seniors Jack Smith (11.8 ppg) and TJ SchmalzleSmith netted 17 points in their win over Dunmore Tuesday night.  Sophomore guard Landon Calabrese (11.4 ppg, 14 triples) netted 26 points in their win over Monticello (NY).  Inside, 6-3 forward Wyatt Peifer is an experienced senior. 

Honesdale (0-4) is still looking for their first win.  The Hornets feature a pair of returning junior guards in Nathan Hugaboom and Karter Kromko along with 6-4 senior forward Austin Borsdam.  Sophomore guard Joey Taraschuk has also been contributing. 

Delaware Valley (1-3) has a win over Pocono Mountain East (56-47).  The Warriors feature three seniors in the backcourt (Ryan Doherty, Noah Newton, and Ronny Jason) plus junior Jake Brower.  

Western Wayne (0-2) is looking for their first win after dropping a 37-34 loss to Lakeland as senior Ryan Vinton netted 17 points for the Wildcats.

League play begins Monday, January 3.


Lackawanna League (DIVISION 3) 

Division 3 is always one of the more interesting division races, and this year will be no different.  Several outstanding rivalries make this one a ton of fun to watch.  With just the right blend of returning players to help offset the impact of several key graduations, this one might be up for grabs by the time everything plays out in February. 

Mid Valley (3-2) brings back enough talent to provide a solid nucleus to build upon.  The Spartans feature junior Danny Nemitz and sophomore Gabe Tanner (11.8 ppg) in the backcourt while Ricky Vinansky (6-4 sophomore forward) has been averaging 14.6 ppg.  MV has wins over Tunkhannock, Lake-Lehman and Montrose with losses to North Pocono and West Scranton.  

Holy Cross (3-2) is always among the teams contending for division honors.  Despite returning only one starter, junior guard Hayden Hosie, head coach Al Callejas has a knack of elevating his Crusaders into championship-caliber level as the season progresses.  So, far they have been getting balanced contributions from junior Gabe Gonzales and senior Will Kittrell in the backcourt along with 6-2 junior forward Logan Tierney inside.  Their two losses were to Wyoming Valley Conference contenders Pittston Area and Holy Redeemer.   

Although Mid Valley and Holy Cross might be getting a slight nod as top division contenders, don’t sleep on Dunmore (3-2).  There is a lot to like about the talent and experience that the Bucks bring onto the floor.  And they have some depth.  They have been playing a challenging non-league slate and have victories over Honesdale, Mount Carmel, and Valley View.  Losses were against 5A programs West Scranton and Wallenpaupack who currently have a combined record of 8-2.  Senior guard Adriel DeNaples has been outstanding averaging 16 ppg (with 15 triples).  He is joined by junior Nico Ruggiero along with 6-2 senior forward Kevin Walsh on the inside. 

Riverside (4-1), minus a dynamic pair of 1,000-point scorers due to graduation, isn’t about to settle for a mid-division finish.  The Vikes always bring an incredible energy and talent level onto the floor.  And an influx of youthful contributions in the backcourt has them off to a terrific start, losing only to Division 2 contender North Pocono after winning their first four games.  Starting junior guard Frankie Antoniacci is back, along with junior guard Anthony Karpinski and Michael Samsell (6-3 senior forward) who saw limited playing time last year.  A pair of freshmen guards, Matthew Godlewski and Gerry Rose, have been making an immediate impact average a combined 21 ppg with 16 triples.         

Old Forge (3-2) faces a bit of a rebuilding task following the incredible district championship and state playoff run last year.  The Blue Devils do have senior guard Mario Samony back along with senior forward Ayden Davitt who made significant contributions down the stretch last season.  Early on, they have been getting contributions from juniors Joe Macciocco and Matt Kuckla.

Lakeland (2-2) returns a pair of juniors in guard Billy Hazelton and forward Joey Dunstone.  The Chiefs have also been getting contributions from freshman guard Nathan Hunt (8 ppg).  

Carbondale Area (0-0) had their season paused due to concerns regarding community spread of Covid before they even took the floor.  The Chargers return a pair of juniors in guard Jay Allen (6.5 ppg last season) and forward Bryan Salitsky.  

League play begins Monday, January 3.


Lackawanna League (DIVISION 4) 

If you’re going to pick a top Division 4 frontrunner based on retuning talent, look no further than Elk Lake as the Warriors bring back all five starters from their 13-3 team that came within a few moments of securing the district championship last year.  So far, amidst a challenging non-league slate, they have a win over Nanticoke Area.  In their 71-63 loss to District 4 AA contender Wyalusing Valley, senior guard Matt Mowry (averaging 20 ppg) netted 36 points.  He is joined in the backcourt by seniors Trevor Graham and Jake Gustin.  Inside, they feature Caden Ramey (a 6-2 senior) and Wyatt Casselbury (a 6-4 junior).  The Warriors have a terrific non-league tilt at North Pocono Wednesday evening.

Blue Ridge (2-2) began their season with a pair of wins at the Susquehanna-Bradford County Challenge over Wyalusing Valley and Sayre.  Recent losses were to Northwest Area and Holy Cross. The Raiders have a trio of returning players including sophomores Connor Cranage (a guard hitting 15 ppg) and Dylan Bradley along with senior guard Coleman McCain.  Junior guard Jonathan Rosa has been adding 10 ppg along with contributions from sophomore guard Carson Gallagher.  There is plenty of talent on this squad to make a serious push for the top spot.

Mountain View (0-3) is still looking for their first win of the season, but don’t be deceived by their record as all three losses have come against talented squads (Holy Cross, Tunkhannock, and Wyoming Area).  The Eagles have an experienced, balanced lineup with plenty of optimism looking toward next year also.  In the backcourt, they have senior Ryan Henke and Tanner Stout.  They are joined by freshman newcomer Jackson Gesford.  Inside, they have a pair of juniors in 6-1 Carter Bain and 6-5 Ryan Drake

The remaining division spots will be an interesting battle between Susquehanna Community, Forest City, Lackawanna Trail, and Montrose

Susquehanna (2-3) is anchored by returning senior guard Spencer Beamer (12 ppg).  The Sabers are getting some offensive punch provided by a pair of sophomores in Colton Stone (6-3 forward) and J.T. Burke (a guard) who have been contributing a combined 19 ppg.   

Forest City (1-3) has a win over Honesdale.  The Foresters are getting 15 ppg from their 6-4 junior center Dylan Bezek.  Senior guard Evan Piatak has been adding 9 ppg.      

Lackawanna Trail (0-3) is led by senior guard Brycen Decker (14.5 ppg).

Montrose (0-3) is paced by a trio of guards, seniors Connor Watkins and Justin Holgash along with junior Sammy Stashko.

League play begins Monday, January 3.



See you in the bleachers !                                    

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