By Greg Klein
---- — After replacing all five starters from the 2010-11 season, Cherry Valley-Springfield went on to win the Tri-Valley East title in boys basketball. So by comparison, replacing an entire frontcourt shouldn’t be such a problem, right?
That’s the challenge for Patriots coach Terry Brant, who said he likes his returning players but doesn’t think his team is the favorite in the division.
“I don’t think we are the team to beat,” Brant said. “With the improvement of Milford and Richfield, all three of us are the favorites. It will be fun.”
Leading the way for CV-S will be senior point guard Kyle Jaquay and junior shooting guard Wyatt Crowley. Both are good shooters and ball handlers, and Crowley was the only sophomore to play varsity last season.
Also key for the Patriots will be senior forward Isiah Montgomery, whose athleticism and rebounding gave CV-S a huge lift off the bench last season.
“Kyle and Isiah will be our captains and our go-to guys this year,” Brant said.
Senior Andrew Spencer will move into the small forward position, and junior Dustin Collins will take over at center.
“The key will be our center position, Dustin Collins, who has improved a lot in practice,” Brant said.
The front court will have a lot of potential, but also a big challenge. Losing forwards Brett Adams and Collin Lamouret and center Andrew Bosc hurts the Patriots on defense, under the basket and also in terms of leadership. Scott Stiles and Chad Thompson also are gone, meaning a lot of minutes to fill for younger players.
Brant said he is also high on newcomer Denzel Heyliger.
The challenge for CV-S will be scoring. Although last year’s team played strong defense, it had trouble at times putting the ball in the basket. When the Patriots lost, it was because of long stretches without points.
Although the Patriots will most likely compete with the Wildcats and Indians for the East title, there is little question that the team to beat in the Tri-Valley is defending champion Morris. The Mustangs return five starters, including Mike DeLuca and Levi Decker, and will be the favorite to repeat as champions.
Still, Brant is high on his squad, which will open play tonight against Franklin in the Milford Tournament.
“If we come together, we have the experience and leadership to make a run,” he said. “The team has shown a lot of heart and unity already in the preseason. We are excited to get under way.”