Around this time a year ago, twenty-three Lancaster-Lebanon League boys basketball games were getting ready to begin their seasons in tip-off tournaments.
Juxtapose that with the current conditions, as just one Lancaster-Lebanon League boys basketball team is scheduled to tip off its seasons this Saturday, when Lebanon travels to Wilson for a 2:30 p.m. start.
The change has come due to the coronavirus, as some schools pushed back the start of their seasons to later this month or next month, or dropped tip-off games since L-L teams are now limited to just 17 regular season games. For example, Northern Lebanon and Garden Spot were also scheduled for season-openers this weekend. But Northern Lebanon learned Tuesday that its game against Pine Grove had to be postponed since Pine Grove is in quarantine. And Garden Spot learned Wednesday its game at Twin Valley was canceled.
Such is life amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, as the possibility of teams pushing pause throughout the season, games being postponed and rescheduled, and schedules being in flux should be expected. In other words, this basketball season is going to be an adventure.
Team-by-team preview capsules will be posted next week on LancasterOnline. For now, here are five things to watch on the hardwood this season…
Things will look different: If you don’t know by now, face coverings are required for players, coaches, referees, game staff and spectators. Bench players will be spaced apart to adhere to social-distancing guidelines. And crowd sizes are currently limited to 10 percent of a venue’s capacity.
Section races: Section One (Cedar Crest, Hempfield, Manheim Township, McCaskey, Penn Manor) is pretty much wide open considering every team has plenty of fresh faces looking to prove themselves on the varsity level.
A veteran Warwick squad featuring two of the league’s top players (Kai Cipalla, Joey McCracken) will be defending the crown in Section Two, where there are new head coaches at Conestoga Valley, Elizabethtown and Ephrata.
Defending Section Three champ Lampeter-Strasburg lost league-leading scorer Seth Beers to graduation, but apparently has a freshman phenom guard in the ranks who could keep the Pioneers chugging along, while experienced crews at Manheim Central and Cocalico aim to say otherwise.
Lancaster Catholic has two starters back from last year’s District 3-4A championship squad, and should get a push in Section Four from an experienced Octorara bunch, an Elco team featuring the league’s top player in Braden Bohannon, and a scrappy Northern Lebanon brood aiming for a league playoff spot.
Columbia and Lancaster Mennonite are expected to battle for Section Five supremacy, but keep an eye on Pequea Valley as a spoiler.
Players approaching scoring milestones: Bohannon (1,088 career points) is already one of just six players in Elco program history to have scored 1,000 career points. He has some work to do if he hopes to surpass the program’s all-time mark of 1,558 career points, set by Colton Lawrence in 2016. Four other L-L hoopsters have a good shot at cracking the 1,000-point plateau: Pequea Valley senior Devon Colyer (960), Octorara senior Naji Hamilton (868), Warwick senior Joey McCracken (764) and Columbia senior Michael Poole, Jr. (709).
Coaches approaching career milestones: Cedar Crest skipper Tommy Smith (11th season, 185-71 career record) and new Conestoga Valley boss Jim Shipper (first season at CV, 18th year overall, 186 career wins) each have a shot at reaching career head coaching win No. 200. Lebanon’s Tim Speraw (11th season, 138-107 career record) and Annville-Cleona’s Jason Coletti (third season at Annville-Cleona, 13th season overall, 138-147 career record) will aim for No. 150. Lampeter-Strasburg’s Ed Berryman (fifth season, 83-31 career record) has a shot at No. 100. Cocalico’s Seth Sigman (fifth year, 41-53 career record) and Manheim Central’s Charlie Fisher (fourth season at Manheim Central, sixth season overall, 46-67 career record) are each approaching win No. 50.
New coaches: Shipper is in his fifth coaching stop overall, but second in the L-L. He has previous coaching experience at Living Word Academy, Lancaster County Christian School, Harrisburg Christian and Pequea Valley. He’s also one of three new L-L coaches. Scott Gaffey, son of veteran Bishop McDevitt coach Mike Gaffey, takes over at Ephrata after coaching the last two seasons at Mifflin County in the Mid-Penn Conference. Lee Eckert, a former Hempfield and Elizabethtown College standout, is the new Elizabethtown varsity coach after spending the last five seasons as a Bears’ assistant.