BROOKVILLE — Navigating through a challenging schedule, finishing second in the District 9 League and locking up District 9 and District 5/9 Sub-Regional titles before appearing in its first state playoff game in five years and dropping an overtime heart-breaker to Deer Lakes, it was an eventful and successful season for the Brookville Raiders basketball team.
A lot went into a 16-9 campaign and a productive offseason has third-year head coach Dalton Park looking forward to a new season that tips off Friday at home against St. Joe’s Catholic Academy.
The Raiders lost just one player from their regular playing rotation, which put in plenty of work in the offseason. Actually, it was mostly a program-wide theme.
“We didn’t know how many kids would show up for the summer,” Park said. “But our theory was that the gym was open. If you didn’t improve or come out and have an opportunity to improve, the opportunity was there. We made sure that was available to them and for the most part, the kids took advantage of it.
“I was pretty pleased with the overall summer participation.”
Last week’s scrimmage against Cameron County and Curwensville — the Raiders visited West Branch for a second exhibition Tuesday — showed some familiar themes Park wants to see all season.
“Once the defense started playing together help and doing what we need to the offense turned out to play that way too,” Park said. “We got lots of work to do, but I definitely saw the core of what we finished with and did well last year. I saw us passing the ball, making that extra pass to the guy that’s open and showing confidence in each other.”
Four seniors return, led by forward Aaron Park who was a Third-Team All-District selection by D9Sports.Com. He led the Raiders in scoring (11.4 ppg.) and rebounding (7.9 ppg.) while shooting 54.5 percent from the floor. Center/forward Logan Byerly (6.1 ppg., 5.7 rpg, 52.4 FG) was the team’s second-leading rebounder. Guard David Cable (4.9 ppg.) was second on the team with 25 3-pointers while guard/forward Bryce Baughman (2.5 ppg.) gave the Raiders a consistent defense presence on the court.
“They all bring something to the table, obviously, Aaron on the floor. He’ll lead the way, bring the guys up and get them fired up,” Park said. “A lot of the things off the court, David really kind of tends to bring the personalities together. His personality brings the other kids together and they all feed off of that as a team, off the floor and in practice.
“Bryce and Logan bring more of the ‘Hey guys, I’m here to work. I’m going to lead by example. You guys follow us.’ They come in every day they work hard, they do their job the best they can. Bryce gives a little bit of that position-less player that we talk about, shows the guys that the hard work on defense will buy you more playing time … He’s hard-nosed continues to work through all the games and you can’t tell if he’s had a bad game or not, because he’s always there defensively. Logan’s physicality inside is important. Him being strong inside getting that extra rebound for us, and being able to guard there the other teams big guy just being a strong force in there, that really helps us out.”
Juniors Robert Keth, Jack Krug and Jace Miner are all back from last year’s rotation. Keth was the team’s top 3-point shooter (28 at 36.4 pct.), averaging 6.5 points per game. Krug scored 6.8 points and made 1.5 steals per game, leading the team’s transition game as well as Miner, who added a few inches to his frame after finishing second in scoring (7.2 ppg.), steals (2.2) and defensive deflections.
“Robert right now probably our best shooter and he has the body and the size and with his lankiness, he can surprise you on defense,” Park said. “Jack’s quick down the middle and opens things up when he gets to the basket. With Jace, usually when kids grow that much, they lose some athleticism and he didn’t. He has a motor that doesn’t quit and can be a game-changer at times.”
Sophomores Danny Lauer and Griffin Ruhlman were junior varsity players last year and got limited varsity minutes. Park was very pleased with their offseason work.
“People say coaches shouldn’t have favorites. Well, they’re wrong. Kids that have that ‘I want to get better attitude and bring it every day and show up,’ they’re a favorite. When something comes up, they’re going to get the benefit of the doubt in my mind, every time. You know, they sort of remind guys ‘Hey, if you don’t want to give it your all we’re, we’re here.’”
Park carries a 16-player roster into the season which includes his JV squad. The goals are similar as they were going into last year. Contending in the league and repeating the postseason run with a better finish perhaps is the obvious path Park would like to see his team take.
“Obviously, we want to have a better record than last year, but it’s not about winning and losing,” Park said. “My goal is always whether we’re improving and getting better, everybody. And, obviously, you want a nice record at the end and you want to win. As long as we don’t let it go to our head, we know we have to work and we don’t think the games are going to come to us because, let’s face it, we had a good season last year and teams are going to come ready to play us this year, so it’s going to be harder.
“Maybe we only lost one senior, but it’s going to be harder because teams are going to be ready for us. They’re going to want us. I hope we’re up for the task every game, I think we should be.”
Park’s staff once again includes assistant coach Bud Baughman while volunteer assistant Chance Wright joins the team this year for the first time.
Seniors: Logan Byerly, Bryce Baughman, David Cable, Aaron Park.
Juniors: Robert Keth, Jack Krug, Jace Miner.
Sophomores: Owen Caylor, Hunter Geer, Ryan Geer, Danny Lauer, Garner McMaster, Ian Pete, Jamison Rhoades, Griffin Ruhlman, Kenny Spellman.
Host Tip-Off Tournament
6-St. Joe’s Catholic Academy, 7:30 p.m.
7-Brockway or Warren
11-at Cambridge Springs
13-Elk Co. Catholic
20-at St. Marys
23-at DuBios CC
At DuBois Holiday Tournament
31-Homer Center (varsity only), 7:30 p.m.
4-at Elk Co. Catholic
12-at Redbank Valley
JV games begin at 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted