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The most wonderful time of the year

Under a minute to play Chris Lewis #33 goes hard to the basket.

Times, they are a changin’.

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Especially on the high school basketball courts throughout Northeast Philadelphia.

There are a lot of new faces on teams in the Philadelphia Public and Catholic leagues this winter. Although a few teams like Archbishop Ryan and Abraham Lincoln have a wealth of returning players, most squads are working with youth and inexperience.

The Northeast teams competing in the Public League also will be facing new foes this season now that all divisions have been reorganized based on team records, not school population. Frankford High has been moved to the A Division, while Lincoln, George Washington and Samuel Fels will compete in the B Division. Northeast is the only local school within the C Division.

It should make this season an entertaining ride.

Here’s a look at the Raiders, Crusaders, Pioneers, Railsplitters, Eagles, Panthers and Vikings.

Catholic League

Archbishop Ryan

Last season: 4–9 league, 11–13 overall

The Archbishop Ryan High School basketball team is stacked for success this year.

The Raiders boast enthusiasm, experience and the raw talent needed to become contenders within the highly competitive Catholic League.

“So far, we look pretty good,” said Ryan boss Bernie Rogers. “We have balanced scoring and a lot of depth off the bench.”

Senior forwards Christian Rivera and Nick Aughenbaugh will join senior guard Kyle Slawter in the spotlight this season. The trio of returning starters made a big impact on last year’s playoff run and are expected to play pivotal roles once again this season.

Fellow seniors include center Chris McMonagle, Tim Raucheisen and guards Shane Kelley and Terrance Scanlon.

The Raiders also have a strong junior class that includes Brian Okolo, Tyler Reed, Shawn Miller, Gage Galeone and Sam Dumond. Sophomore Brandon Horan will round out Archbishop Ryan’s lineup.

“We’re hoping to return to the playoffs and then we’ll take it from there,” said Rogers.

Father Judge

Last season: 9–4 league, 16–6 overall

After graduating seven seniors from last year’s squad, the Father Judge High School basketball team has some big shoes to fill on the hardwood.

Luckily for the Crusaders, although they lack experience, they’re flourishing with talent.

“We’re very athletic,” said head coach Sean Tait. “We won’t have any problems scoring, it’s just a matter of being consistent.”

Steve Griffin Jr., a guard and All-Catholic player, is expected to fill the vacant leadership role this season.

Senior guards Brian Hennessey and Connor Donohoe — the only seniors on this year’s roster — will round out the Crusaders short but skilled list of starters.

“We have a couple of transfer students and some other players who I think will step up,” said Tait. “We’ll be competitive.”

Public League A Division

Frankford

Last season: 11–2 league, 20–6 overall

It could be a rebuilding year for the Frankford High School basketball team, which is returning only two players who saw substantial time on the hardwood last year.

According to head coach Dave Huzzard, however, his youthful squad is up for the challenge.

“We’ll definitely be fine with size and strength,” said Huzzard, who guided his squad to a Public League Class AAAA championship and city title last season. “I’m still looking for someone to take on that leadership role, but every day is getting better.”

The Pioneers will have one familiar face on the courts this season — Imire Taylor, a senior three-year starter who will be a shooting guard.

Senior Chris Lewis and junior Donald Robinson — both forwards with limited varsity experience last year — are also expected to make a big impact on the season.

Frankford’s core lineup will be rounded out by newcomer Shaquil Rone, a 6-foot-4 forward.

“He is a raw player. This is his first time playing organized basketball,” explained Huzzard. “But he has worked his tail off and he really has a lot of talent.

“We have a lot of strength this year,” he added. “We’re looking to improve every day.”

B Division

Abraham Lincoln

Last season: 8–5 league, 9–8 overall

The Abraham Lincoln High School basketball team is equipped with experience and talent this season; the Railsplitters are returning nine players from last year’s roster.

“We’re looking okay,” said head coach Al Brown. “We have a lot of speed and quickness and we’re a very strong defensive team.”

Senior Michael Bowlers — who scored more than 10 points per game last winter — will work as a power forward this season. He’ll be joined in the spotlight by senior point guard Ismail Wilson.

Other guards include senior Jarmel Kenan, junior Anthony Curuso, Adal Andina and Mark Mayfield. Anton Fletcher and Adonia Rosario will contribute as forwards.

“We plan on improving game by game,” said Brown. “I expect to see a lot of effort.”

George Washington

Last season: 12–1 league, 18–6 overall

Although the George Washington High School basketball squad lost a few key players from last year’s dominating season, the Eagles are shaping up just fine on the hardwood.

Juniors Kendale Truitt and Nafece Edwards — both guards/forwards who averaged a combined 16.8 points per game last season — are expected to contribute greatly this winter.

Senior Rashid Jackson, a 6-foot point guard, and junior Wanya Ferguson will join newcomers William Davis, Justin Moody and Adonia Fountain on this year’s roster.

“We have a lot of athleticism — guys that can jump, run, shoot the ball,” said Washington boss Calvin Jones. “We’re quick. I expect us to be competitive.”

Samuel Fels

Last season: 6–7 league, 11–10 overall

Things are not looking too great on the Samuel Fels High School basketball court.

But it’s still early.

And there’s plenty of time for improvement.

“This might change drastically in the next few weeks, but right now I’m disgusted with their practicing, their work ethic, their attitude,” said Samuel Fels head coach Mark Heimerdinger.

Currently, it looks like seniors TJ Scott and Roman Black will handle both guard and forward duties.

Seniors Casey Bell and Devon Wilson will work as guards, with forwards Nijay Kelly and Kyree Westbrooks rounding out the core lineup.

“It’s just not a good situation,” said Heimerdinger. “I’m disappointed in myself because I thought that we would have the program in a better place.”

C Division

Northeast

Last season: 2–11 league, 5–15 overall

Northeast High School is still recovering from the death of beloved basketball coach Bob DiFlorio, who drowned in September.

“I have five guys who played for him,” explained Dennis Engleman, the Vikings’ assistant and junior varsity coach who was recently named head coach of the varsity team. “Everybody was broken up at first. The team is strong. They’re handling it well.”

The Vikings are now back on the hardwood and shaping up to be very competitive within the Public League C Division.

Seniors Walt Archer and William Rampasard will handle dual roles as guards and forwards.

Guard Jihad Simpson and forwards Yusef Savage and Titus Duncan, all seniors, will round out the Vikings’ core lineup of returning players.

Forwards Daryl Bagwell and Daquan White, guard Daquan Bohannan and center Keith Fletcher will see ample playing time this year as well. Also contributing are guards Oswalt Charles, Donell Fysse, Tony Nayan and Kyree Simpon.

“We’re anxious to get started. We have a good mix of players who are working hard,” said Engleman. “I wasn’t expecting this but I’m excited to get the season started and see what we can do.” ••

Editor Melissa Yerkov can be reached at myerkov@bsmphilly.com

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