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It was by far the highlight of the season for the 2011-12 Schuylkill Valley High School boys’ basketball team. Thanks to 40 points from Cornell Yarde, the Panthers defeated powerhouse Reading in the semifinals of the Berks County League playoffs.
It was the upset of the year and made the season a memorable one for Schuylkill Valley, despite losing to Berks Catholic in the championship game two nights later.
But it’s a new season with a new team and a new division. Yarde is lost to graduation, but the Panthers do have a lot of experience coming back. In fact, there’s a good chance that four of the five starters will be seniors. But there is no getting around the fact that Yarde was a big loss to the team and will be hard to replace.
Head Coach Taylor Grim isn’t thinking about what his team doesn’t have, he’s thinking about what it does have.
Leading the way will be Kyle Beissel, who was second on the team in scoring last year with 315 points (11.7 points per game). He was one of the league’s better three-point shooters with 23 three-point buckets on the season. He’s a versatile player with the ability to play on the perimeter or with his back to the basket. He’s a natural athlete who will come fresh off the football field where he quarterbacked the Panthers to a district victory and threw 22 touchdowns on the season.
“He’s a strong leader with a strong work ethic,” said Coach Grim.
Jared Chelius was the third-leading scorer on the team last year and will be back for his senior season this year. He can shoot from the perimeter and he can drive to the net as well. Defenders are going to have to respect both optons.
In 2011-12 Chelius scored 116 points last year (6.2 per game) but will be one of the players who will have to increase those number this year if the Panthers are going have another 9-3 league record this year.
Another senior, Christian Feliciano, is a strong ball handler who makes good decisions with the ball. He’s hoping for a breakout season for the Panthers.
The fourth starting senior will by Jonathan Maulick, the best defensive player on the team and a solid rebounder. “He has the ability to finish around the basket,” said Coach Grim. He will be counted on to do that and more this season.
Probably the biggest change for the 2012-13 season is the reshuffling of the divisions. The league will go from four divisions to three this year. What this means for Schuylkill Valley is that they will be in Division 3, a division they will share with the defending league champions from Berks Catholic.
Also in the division will be Brandywine Heights, Kutztown, Oley Valley, Tulpehocken and Wyomissing. There’s no doubt it’s a tougher division. Berks Catholic was undefeated in the league last year and Wyomissing was 8-3. Those are two teams the Panthers will have to contend with this year that they didn’t have two worry about last year.
Coach Grim believes the strength of this year’s team is in its depth. What inexperience they have on the team will get some early season experience.
“We have have strong competition during the preseason and we may be able to play as many as 10 or 11 players.” said Grim.
The team will have to overcome its lack of size, which could be a problem for them. But anything can happen in high school basketball.
This will be one of those teams where it’s going to be tough to predict just how good they will be. We will find out early how much the Panthers will miss Yarde. It may depend on how much the seniors have improved over last year.