20181206-ce-sp Puhala dribble

Brockway’s Zane Puhala (2) dribbles up the court as he is defended by DuBois’ Alex Beers (4) during a game last season. Puhala, a senior, is the top returning scorer for a Rovers’ squad looking to make it the state playoffs for the third straight year under the direction of head coach Rick Clark.

BROCKWAY — Up until this season, the tenure of Brockway High School boys basketball head coach Rick Clark has been marked by extremes.

In his first season, Clark inherited a team that was chock-full of returners, letterwinners and featured a roster bolstered by 10 seniors. As you’d expect, the second was much different as the loss of those 10 seniors created a huge vacuum.

Still, one thing remained the same — the Rovers were successful enough to compete for the district title and also reach the PIAA playoffs.

In the third year, things are a little closer to normal as Brockway has a good mix of returning players which are spread through three classes. But, the expectations haven’t changed.

Given that Brockway returns five letterwinners, as well as several others with various other experience on the floor, that’s not terribly far-fetched expectation.

“I think that we return enough experience to make that a reasonable goal,” Clark said. “A lot of teams lost some key guys and a lot of us, especially in (Class) AA, are in the same boat as us. They lost a few key pieces but they bring back a few as well.”

While Brockway has an idea of who may fit in where, it’s by no means a done deal as to who will dress for varsity.

The Rovers have three seniors, Zane Puhala, Matthew Clark and Clayton Heckman, who will be expected to contribute again along with juniors Jon Wood and Alec Freemer as their returning letterwinners.

Puhala, Wood and Freemer are the returning point leaders.

Puhala finished with 252 points (8.6 points per game) while Wood finished with 167 points (6.2 ppg.) and Freemer came in with 119 points (4.6 ppg.).

None of them were shy about putting the ball up from outside the arc as they all finished in the top five in 3-pointers attempted and connected on 58 of their 201 attempts (29 percent).

Wood led that group in both attempts (96) and made shots (28) while Freemer was the the leader in percentage (37 percent).

While Puhala took his share of long-range shots, he did most of his damage in a more traditional style going 85-for-167 (51 percent) from inside the arc.

Clark and Heckman both made contributions from the floor as well in limited playing time as each appeared in better than one-third of Brockway’s games.

Junior Brock Cramer, sophomore Marcus Copelli and freshman Noah Adams are also likely to figure in somewhere.

After that, faces could change and the roster could expand throughout the year depending on how well others start to stand out but, right now, the mix of youth and experience seems to be paying off.

“The older guys have been showing some of the younger guys the ropes and they’re picking things up well,” Clark said. “We did some things well in our (last) scrimmage but obviously, at this time of year, there are some things that we’re looking to clean up. And that’s what we’re to do –get better every day and keep moving forward.”

One thing that the Rovers don’t have going into the season is size. That’s something that they’re hoping to counter with speed and an aggressive defense.

“We’re going to have to be very gritty on the defensive end, especially on the boards,” Clark said. “Most teams are going to have a size advantage on us so we’re going to have to be able to get a body on them to make up for it.”

While the lack of size might be a weakness, it may also open up another opportunity for the Rovers.

“The one luxury that we have is that both Zane and Jon have played the point,” Clark said. “So, we have experience at that position and there will be a lot of time that we have at least two point guards on the floor at the same time — and possibly three. Hopefully, that kind of ball handling experience will create opportunities for our other guys.”

Brockway will open the season against Warren in the opening round of the Brookville Tip-Off Tournament on Friday.


Seniors: Zane Puhala, Clayton Heckman, Matthew Clark. Juniors: Steven Wolf, Jon Wood, Mike Drall, Dakota Reasinger, Alec Fremer, Elijah Snell, Chad Bennett, Brock Cramer. Sophomores: Emery Faith, Elijah Gibson, Aiden Bullers, Chase Azzato, Marcus Copelli, Lewis Painter. Freshman: Noah Adams.

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