JOHNSONBURG — The Johnsonburg boys basketball team will look to defend their District 9 Class A title as they return to the hardwood this season.
Last season, the Rams finished the year 19-8 overall, including defeating Elk County Catholic 36-30 in the district title game.
The title game win avenged a pair of regular season losses to the No. 2 seed Crusaders for fourth-seeded Johnsonburg.
Johnsonburg then went on to the PIAA playoffs, where they were defeated 30-28 by WPIAL sixth place finisher Eden Christian after being held scoreless in the final quarter of play.
This season, the Rams will be without Ben Freeburg, Kacey Raubenstrauch, Trevor Lobaugh and Tyler Singer who were all seniors on last year’s district champion team.
Freeburg was a key factor in the Rams’ 45-42 upset over top-seeded North Clarion in the D-9 semifinals last season, as he led the team to victory with 11 points.
Raubensstraugh was named an honorable mention to the Tri-County Sunday/Courier Express All-Star list last season.
The Rams do however return their only selection to either the first or second team TCS/CE All-Stars last season in junior Austin Green, who was named a TCS/CE Second-Team All-Star as a sophomore.
Last season as a sophomore, Green led the team in scoring with 242 points (9.0 ppg) and was among the team’s leading rebounders with 90 despite coming off the bench for most of the season.
The now junior led the Rams with nine points in the D-9 title game victory over ECC and 13 points in their opening round loss in the PIAA playoffs.
Green also added 36 assists and 24 steals last season while shooting 83 percent from the free throw line.
The junior is one of three returning starters this season for the Rams along with seniors Isaac Schloder and Nick Bliss.
“We look for them to be the leaders of the team,” Johnsonburg head coach Bill Shuey said. “We have some inexperienced players but they are very athletic and they need to quickly get up to speed.”
Coming off last season’s district title, Shuey feels his team will be competitive and hopes for them to play a good team game.
“We want them to be competitive every game and give it 100 percent,” Shuey said. “If we do that, we will be successful.”
The Rams’ 18-player roster is split down the middle with nine upperclassmen and nine underclassmen.
Shuey said he hopes his older players will take that younger group under their wing this season.
“I think Green is going to be pretty good this year and he is going to be fun to watch,” Shuey said.
The head coach said his players are still battling for starting positions heading into the start of the season.
The Rams get their season underway today in the DCC Tip-off tournament as they take on Marion Center at 6 p.m.
The game precedes the game between DuBois Central Catholic and Punxsutawney, as the winners of each game will face in the championship game Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with the losers of Friday’s games meeting in the consolation game Saturday at 6:00 p.m.
Seniors: Nick Bliss, Isaac Schloder, Dreydin Lombrana, Logan Notarianni. Juniors: Austin Green, Clinton Zilkofski, Garrett Gregori, Gino Gregori. Sophomores: Cameron Stelene, Isaac Rose, John Douglas, Gabe Watts. Freshmen: Jefferson Freeburg, Jack Elmquist, Austin Jordan, Ethan Wells.