STRATTANVILLE — Returning a number of players from last season’s Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference championship team, the Clarion-Limestone Lions won’t have their MVP in the lineup.
Senior forward Ian Callen won’t be building on his 1,005 points to start the season. He’ll miss at least the first half of the season due to an injury during football season.
Still, Lions head coach Joe Ferguson (13th season, 196-98) feels that his Lions will still try to be in the mix by the end of the year. They start the year at the Grove City Tip-Off Tournament with Fort LeBoeuf on Friday, then General McLane Saturday.
“We knew coming in that Ian would be out for possibly the whole season so we’ve been playing as though we won’t have him and trying to make the most of it,” said Ferguson. “It’s hard to make adjustments when you don’t have the MVP of the league last season. You have to play with what you have.”
The Lions still return a number of players who made major contributions last season including starters in junior guard Deion Deas (13.3 ppg., 40 3-pointers), sophomore forward Hayden Callen (10.0 ppg., 8.2 rpg.) and senior guard Julian Laugand (3.7 ppg.). Junior forward Curvin Goheen, senior guard Ayden Wiles and junior Mitch Knepp also saw significant action last season.
So without Ian Callen back yet, the Lions lost nearly 60 percent of their offense from last year’s high-scoring mark of 66.2 points per game.
“Right now it’s looking like we’ll have Hayden Callen, Deion Deas, Julian Laugand, and Curvin Goheen as four starters,” said Ferguson. “We have several other guys who are fighting for that last spot. We’re a little thin on our bench experience-wise, so we will definitely have to stay out of foul trouble. I have a feeling this could be the first time in my coaching career that we are going to have to play more zone defense than man.
“We do have some solid returning guys with a mix of good ball handlers and some size. We can mix and match with our guards and big guys.”
Despite the loss of Callen — he averaged 19 points, 9.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 6.1 steals and 2.4 blocks, and was a D9Sports.Com First Team All-District player — the goals will still remain the same according to Ferguson.
“We still have the usual goals for the season,” said Ferguson. “We’d obviously like to win the KSAC again. That gives an extra game and is always kind of fun to compete in. We’re still wanting to shoot for a district title. We thought we had a pretty good shot coming in and it hurts not having Ian, but that’s still our goal. We’ll go out and do the best we can with what we have.”
They’ll battle with Clarion and North Clarion most likely for the KSAC-North title while the Lions dropped down to Class 1A from 2A for the new cycle that starts this year. They’ll be with returning state qualifiers that include defending champion Johnsonburg, Elk County Catholic and North Clarion.
Seniors: Julian Laugand, Ian Callen, Ayden Wiles, Trenton Keighley, Drew Beichner.
Juniors: Deion Deas, Curvin Goheen, Kaden Park, Mitch Knepp.
Sophomores: Hayden Siegel, Bryant Smith, Austin Coull, Kevin McNaughton, Braden Rankin, Hayden Callen.
Freshman: Bryson Huwar.
Grove City Tip-Off Tournament
7-Fort LeBoeuf, 5:30 p.m.
8-General McLane, 2:30 p.m.
12-Clarion, 6:30 p.m.
14-at Forest Area, Marienville
18-North Clarion, 6:30 p.m.
20-Venango Catholic, 6:30 p.m.
21-Ridgway, 6:30 p.m.
27-28-at West Shamokin Tournament
8-Redbank Valley, 6:30 p.m.
14-Karns City, 6:30 p.m.
23-at A-C Valley
29-Forest Area, 6:30 p.m.
1-at North Clarion
6-at Venango Catholic
8-Cranberry, 6:30 p.m.
JV games begin at 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted on home games