HYDE — Experience-wise, the 2018-19 Clearfield Area High School boys basketball team is in a similar position as last year’s squad with one returning starter and five other lettermen.
Junior forward Cade Walker is the returnee who joined four seniors to key a 15-10 season highlighted by the Bison’s fourth consecutive District 9 championship.
However, senior forward Taye Lynch was a valuable sixth man and did earn some spot starts late in the season.
And senior guard Keagan Hess came on down the stretch to supply valuable minutes off the bench, matching Lynch’s six points in the Bison’s 55-44 loss to South Fayette in the first round of the PIAA Class AAAA Playoffs.
Senior forward Barrett Kline, junior guard Andrew Lopez and sophomore guard Karson Rumsky are the other letterwinners.
They will be joined by junior guard Kandyn Hudson, junior forward Harrison Peacock and sophomore guard Matt Pallo in an early nine-player rotation that coach Nate Glunt hopes can replicate or better the 2017-18 team’s accomplishments.
Senior Isaac Rumery has been hampered by a football injury.
How fast and how much the Bison improve will be the key, according to their fifth-year coach who owns an 81-19 record.
“I would say every person has improved since last year,” Glunt said. “I have a good group that has worked hard in the offseason.”
He’s banking on two-year lettermen Lynch and Hess along with Walker to set the tone early on because of their varsity experience, with Rumsky a probable fourth starter. All are 6-2 or taller.
The other spot is up for grabs right now.
“They’re all gonna play,” Glunt said. “We’re kind of positionless.
“Everybody has got to be able to handle the ball and be a playmaker, everybody has to be able to shoot and everybody has to rebound.”
The 6-3 Walker averaged just under eight rebounds while scoring at a 9.3-points clip last season, Lynch (5.8 ppg as a junior) is a 6-2 leaper and newcomer Peacock is 6-5.
“Those three have to lead us in rebounding,” Glunt said.
He expects the Bison to have the same amount of three-point shooting as in his previous seasons.
“We’ve been working on it,” he said.
The Bison again will try to stymie their opponents defensively with a solid, switching man-to-man defense.
“I have good kids,” Glunt said. “They appreciate when the other guy makes a play.”
The Bison will have to make a lot of good to great plays to handle what Glunt describes as a very tough schedule, 14 in the Mountain League.
One plus is that Friday’s opener against Curwensville will be the first of four games in a row at home.
“Pretty much all of the league teams have returning starters and a lot of experience,” Glunt said. “Everybody is really solid or really good. There aren’t any bad teams.
“And our non-league schedule is tougher than it’s ever been.”
Reigning District 6 Class AAA champ Ligonier Valley and West Branch are new additions to the non-league slate that also has DuBois, Punxsutawney and Brookville along with either Harmony or Purchase Line in the latter’s holiday tourney.
Last season’s seniors were All-Mountain League First Team selection Reese Wilson, who led the Bison in scoring with 299 points (12.0 ppg) and was second in rebounding with 147, and fellow starters Jon Gates (8.5 ppg), Ryan Chew (7.4 ppg) and Wyatt Porter (4.9 ppg) and reserve Jake Billotte.
Assistant coaches on the Bison staff are Donnie Shimmel, Erik Brown, Pat Pallo and Seth Beardsley.
The roster with (*) denoting letterwinner:
Seniors – Keagan Hess (*), 6-3; Barrett Kline (*), 6-2, Taye Lynch (*), 6-2; Isaac Rumery, 6-1.
Juniors – Kandyn Hudson, 5-11; Andrew Lopez (*), 6-0; Harrison Peacock, 6-5; Cade Walker (*), 6-3.
Sophomores – Graeson Graves, 6-0; Matt Pallo, 6-0; Simon Quigley, 5-10; Karson Rumsky (*), 6-3; Nick Ryan, 5-11; Luke Winters, 5-10.
Freshman – Nick Collins, 5-10; Ryan Gearhart, 5-8; Caden Irwin, 5-10; Max Paul-Cook, 5-10.
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The schedule, with (ML) designating Mountain League games and tipoffs at 7:30 p.m. unless noted:
7 – Curwensville; 10 – West Branch; 12 – Bald Eagle Area (ML); 14 – Huntingdon (ML); 17 – at Philipsburg-Osceola (ML); 21 – Tyrone (ML); 27 – Ligonier Valley at Purchase Line Christmas Tournament, 6 p.m.; 28 – Harmony or Purchase Line at Purchase Line Christmas Tournament, TBA.
4 – at Brookville; 7 – Punxsutawney; 9 – at Penns Valley (ML); 11 – Central (ML); 15 – at Bellefonte (ML); 18 – at Bald Eagle Area (ML); 21 – at DuBois; 23 – at Huntingdon (ML); 25 – Philipsburg-Osceola (ML); 29 – at Tyrone (ML).
1 – Penns Valley (ML); 6 – at Central (ML); 8 – Bellefonte (ML); 13 – at Curwensville.