RIDGWAY — For the first time in nearly two decades, the Ridgway boys basketball team will enter a season without legendary coach Tony Allegretto on the bench.

Allegretto decided to retire at the end of last season after leading the Elkers to one final magical run to the state quarterfinals, winning another District 9 Class 2A title along the way.

Ridgway’s season, and Allegretto’s career, came to end with a loss to in the quarterfinals with a 54-27 loss to eventual PIAA champ OLSH. It marked the seventh time since 2012 that the Elkers advanced to at least the second round of states and was their fourth quarterfinal appearance during that stretch.

The loss of a coach like Allegretto, who finished with a career record of 338-184 in 18 seasons, might cripple some programs and mean a full rebuild or reset. That won’t be the case in Ridgway though, as the school stayed within the “family” and promoted long-time assist Eric Herzing to head coach.

Because of that, don’t expect much to change in Elker land and its “Elker ball” style as Herzing spent 12 years coaching under Allegretto, doing so at every level of the program. Herzing also kept Charlie Bullock as his assistant and junior varsity coach. Bullock coached alongside Allegretto and Herzing for 10 years.

“I’m really proud to be a part of what Coach A and the kids built and accomplished,” said Herzing. “We are gonna miss him, there’s no doubt. That guy is unbelievable at coaching basketball.

“I heard someone say it’s going to be hard to ‘follow’ him and an ‘impossible situation.’ We don’t look at it like that. Ridgway basketball is built on the strength of the group and the people involved. The people we have involved are committed to the journey, and we are gonna try to keep it going. We are going to play Ridgway basketball.”

Beyond Allegretto, the Elkers will also have to overcome the loss of their top two players — Dan Park and Domenic Allegretto (Tony’s son) — from that squad that went 22-7 in reaching the PIAA quarterfinals.

Park was Ridgway’s leading scorer (421 points, 15.0 ppg) and rebounder (196, 7 rpg), while the younger Allegretto did a little bit of everything averaging 11 points (311 total), 3.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.9 steals per game.

Despite the loss of that duo, the cupboard is fare from bare for Herzing and his staff as Ridgway welcomes back three starters from a year ago in seniors Aaron Sorg, Jack Benninger and Erik Panebianco.

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Sorg is the leading scorer back and was third a year ago with 237 points (8.5 ppg) and 4.0 rebounds (112 total) per game, ranking second behind Park in boards. He also shot 47.6 percent from the field and 43.5 percent from 3-point land, making a team-high 30 in 69 attempts. He made an even bigger impact in the postseason (D-9 and PIAA), where he averaged 10.8 points and 5.3 rebounds a game.

Benninger averaged 6.7 points (188 total), 4.8 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game as a junior, while Panebianco had 55 points and 36 rebounds.

Beyond that trio, Herzing also is looking for the likes of seniors Alec DeVallance and Eric Gustafson and juniors Hunter Beeler, Jackson Kilpeck, Alex Merritt, Ethan Streich to step up at the beginning the season.

“These kids are into it and they work pretty hard. They are grinders,” said Herzing. “We got three starters back that have played in some big time games over their careers mixed in with five or six kids that want that chance. I think all that points toward the opportunity for a successful season.

“The starting lineup will take care of itself as we continue to prepare,” said Herzing. “I think it could be any number of players. Merrit, DeVallance, Eric Gustafson, Beeler, Kilpeck and Streich are all showing that they want the open spots along our experienced leaders of Sorg, Benninger and Panebianco.

“We got some great players and coaches in our league, and I’m kinda the new guy on the block. So, we will see what successful means as we go.”

Herzing will get his first real look at his team when the Elkers open the season Dec. 5 at Union.


Seniors: Jack Benninger, Alec DeVallance, Eric Gustafson, Erik Panebianco, Aaron Sorg. Juniors: Hunter Beeler, Evan Gustafson, Joey Kearney, Jackson Kilpeck, Alex Merritt, Ethan Streich. Sophomores: Derek Beimel, Michael Gerg. Freshman: Josh Amacher, TJ Gardner, Frankie Miller, Robert Pruett.

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