HYDE — The veteran 2015-16 Clearfield Area High School boys basketball team, boasting four returning starters and three other lettermen, has lofty goals after going 20-4 and winning the District 9 Class AAA championship last season.
Second-year coach Nate Glunt and his staff won’t temper or stifle their aspirations, but they are insisting the Bison keep on their feet on the hardwood, unless they’re rebounding or soaring for jumpers and layups.
“We want to have a winning season, compete for the (Mountain) league championship, compete for the district championship and try to make a run in the state playoffs, but our first goal is to win one game at a time,” Glunt said. “So, all we’re concerned about is Curwensville Monday.”
The Bison will begin what promises to be an exciting journey in front of a home crowd that will see a team, including several players who’ve added inches and weight, that worked extremely hard over the offseason, going on the road to compete in shootouts against opponents from several states.
“Weightlifting is a big part of our football and basketball programs, and that’s made a big difference getting our players bigger, stronger and faster,” Glunt pointed out.
All of the returnees stand 6-1 or taller, and all are considered starters by Glunt.
They are seniors Cody Spaid, Caleb Strouse and Carter Wood and juniors Evan Brown, Dave McKenzie, Will Myers and Tommy Hazel.
Spaid, McKenzie, Myers and Hazel were on the floor for the opening tip most nights last season when the Bison averaged 60 points.
Myers, named to the All American Awards & Engraving D9Sports.com All-District 9 Preseason Team last week, was a 2014-15 All-Mountain League Team and D9Sports.com All-District 9 Second Team selection after averaging 16.5 points. He hit double figures in all 20 games he played to finish with 362 points.
Hazel was close behind with 339 points for a 14.1 average and the 6-7 Spaid posted several double-doubles en route to averaging 9.5 points (228) and 9.3 rebounds (224).
Myers and Hazel, both All-Mountain League Honorable Mention choices, hit the boards for 161 and 115 rebounds, respectively.
McKenzie (75 points, 3.1 ppg) was the other full-time starter as a playmaker, while Brown (90 points, 3.8), Strouse (49 points) and Wood (21 points) came through with valuable minutes as reserves.
Glunt also expects junior Ryan Lezzer, who did not play last season, junior Ethan McGinnis and sophomore Johny Gates to be in the mix for playing time.
“Ethan has grown a lot, and he and Gates improved so much over the summer,” he said.
With all their experience and offseason work, Glunt expects the Bison to be better as ballhandlers, shooters and rebounders.
“Those are the areas we’ve focused on from last season to this season,“ he said. “I think the kids have improved in all three, especially ballhandling. That’s a credit to them and how they work.”
The Bison don’t have a lot of set plays on offense.
“We want to push the tempo on offense and just give our kinds an opportunity to make plays. We try to stay simple and let them be good at what they’re doing.
“Our kids are extremely unselfish, almost to a fault sometimes. But they’re all buddies and are happy when someone makes a good play.”
Tough defense always is an emphasis for Glunt, which was reflected in the Bison surrendering only 46.5 points a game last season.
“We want to be fundamentally sound in every thing we do defensively. I know it’s a cliché but we have to focus on the little things, especially defensively, along with our fundamentals in practice on a daily basis.”
With the targets on their backs now, the Bison will draw every opponent’s best effort, and Glunt has made them aware of the fact they’re in for a lot of very tough games.
In the Mountain League, defending champion Penns Valley returns a solid nucleus, and Glunt noted several teams that lost key players boasted very good junior varsity squads.
In District 9, Punxsutawney returns its top three scorers while St. Marys and Bradford also figure to be much improved.
“Whoever wins the district championship is going to have to really work for it,” Glunt said.
Clearfield finished second in the league with an 11-3 record before beating Punxsy 57-33 in the 9-AAA title game to advance to the PIAA Sub-Regional, where the season ended with a 66-52 loss to District 8 champion Obama Academy.
Erik Sellers was the lone senior whose work under the boards and tremendous leadership were very instrumental in the Bison’s success. He scored 245 points, a 10.2 average, to finish his three-year career with a total of 499 in 62 games.
Glunt’s assistant coaches are former Bison head coach Donnie Shimmel, Erik Brown, Rob Lazauskas, Eric Scaife and Scott Way.
The roster, with (*) denoting letterwinner:
Seniors – Sam Evans, 5-11; Cody Spaid (*), 6-7; Caleb Strouse (*), 6-2; Carter Wood (*), 6-3.
Juniors – Evan Brown (*), 6-1; Isaiah DeSantis, 5-10; Tommy Hazel (*), 6-2; Ryan Lezzer, 6-0; Ethan McGinnis, 6-1; Dave McKenzie, 6-3 (*); Will Meyers (*), 6-3; Chris Oshea, 6-2.
Sophomores – Jake Billotte, 6-3; Johny Gates, 6-1; Josh Geppert, 5-9; Wyatt Porter, 5-9; Jake Sorbera, 5-10; Reese Wilson, 6-2.
Freshmen – Spencer Graham, 5-9; Keegan Hess, 5-10; Ryan Lazauskas, 5-10; Taye Lynch, 5-11; Isaac Rumery, 5-9.
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The schedule, with (ML) designating Mountain League games and tip-offs at 7:30 p.m. unless noted:
7 – CURWENSVILLE; 9 – at Central (ML); 11 – HUNTINGDON (ML); 15 – BELLEFONTE (ML); 16 – ST. MARYS; 18 – at Tyrone (ML); 21 – at Punxsutawney; 23 – at Bellefonte (ML); 29 – Harmony at Purchase Line Lions Club Holiday Tournament, 6 p.m.; 30 – Glendale or Purchase Line at Purchase Line Lions Club Holiday Tournament, TBA.
5 – BROOKVILLE; 6 – BALD EAGLE AREA (ML); 8 – at Penns Valley (ML); 12 – PHILIPSBURG-OSCEOLA (ML); 15 – CENTRAL (ML); 18 – DUBOIS; 20 – at Huntingdon (ML); 26 – TYRONE (ML); 29 – at Bald Eagle Area (ML).
3 – PENNS VALLEY (ML); 5 – at Philipsburg-Osceola (ML); 8 – at Curwensville.