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By Mike Copper, Tom Reisenweber, Jeff Kirik Erie Times-News staff bloggers
The Varsity blog is the 2013 winner of an international EPPY award for best sports blog. EPPYs are awarded to media-affiliated websites by Editor & Publisher, an industry trade publication. Varsity is primarily maintained by Times-News sports writers Mike Copper and Tom Reisenweber and sports editor Jeff Kirik.   Read more about this blog.
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Fall Fastbreak – Hickory

Hickory Hornets
Boys
Coach: Geoff Evans (1st season)
2012-13 overall record: 19-4
2012-13 region record: 15-1 (champion)
2012-13 playoff results: Lost to East 46-43 in the District 10 Class AAA quarterfinals.
Top players lost: Matt Votino, Vinnie Mastrian, Marcus Sonoga
Top returning players: Anthony Cannone, Donte Green
Assistant coaches: Tom Roskos, Ryan Anderton, Josh Ward, David Jackson
Outlook: Hickory is going in a new direction under former Hornets standout Geoff Evans. He takes over a successful Hickory program looking to contend for the District 10 Class AAA championship. The Hornets will have to replace all-star Matt Votino, who is playing for Mount Union. Votino was named all-district and was voted to the all-region first team and the Region 5 player of the year. Votino scored 17.7 points per game as a senior, while fellow graduates Vinnie Mastrian and Marcus Sonoga scored 7.6 and 7.2 points per game, respectively. All three will be tough to replace as the Hornets took a hit on their depth because of graduation. Hickory returns two starters in Anthony Cannone and Donte Green. Cannone, an all-region second-team selection, scored 12.1 points per game last year and has plenty of experience at the point guard position. He will be counted on to be a leader along with Green, a small forward. Green averaged 7.3 points per game as a junior and could have a big senior year. The Hornets could also receive contributions from seniors Ross Passalinqua and Aaron Connely along with juniors Brandon Rhodes, Nick Tantuo, Andrew Purcell and sophomores Andrew Pryts, Nicky Cannone and Ryan Laverty. Tantuo can be an immediate contributor at the guard position along with Passalinqua, Purcell and Nicky Cannone. Connely measure 6 feet, 4 inches and could be a perfect complement to Green in the post. Hickory won its region last year before being upset by East in the District 10 Class AAA quarterfinals. Region 5 is one of the toughest regions in D-10 and the Hornets have developed their program to be a perennial contender. With a new system in place with a new coach, Hickory is looking to move forward and contend for the D-10 championship.

Schedule
December
6 Sharpsville tournament
7 Sharpsville tournament
10 at Cardinal Mooney (Ohio) 7:30
13 Farrell* 7:30
17 at Meadville* 7:30
18 Saegertown 7:30
23 at Maplewood 5:30
January
2 at Grove City* 7:30
4 Oil City* 2:30
7 at Sharon* 7:30
10 Franklin* 7:30
14 Slippery Rock* 7:30
17 at George Junior* 7:30
21 at Farrell* 7:30
24 Meadville* 7:30
28 VisionQuest 7:30
31 Grove City* 7:30
February
4 at Oil City* 7:30
6 Sharon* 7:30
8 at Franklin* 7:30
11 at Slippery Rock* 7:30
14 George Junior* 7:30
*Region 5 games

Girls
Coach: Jeannette Whitehead (18th season, 253-164)
2012-13 overall record: 21-5
2012-13 region record: 10-2 (second)
2012-13 playoff results: Defeated Warren 58-43 in the District 10 Class AAA quarterfinals before losing to Villa Maria 49-37 in the semifinals. Hickory defeated Mercyhurst Prep 50-43 in the D-10 third-place game before losing to South Park 71-44 in the PIAA first round.
Top players lost: Julia White, Abby Zreliak
Top returning players: Nikki Arbanas, Brandi Beader, Megan Chess, Holly Grober, Nicole Lacava, Shawna Moore, Jasmine Shephard
Assistant coaches: Bruce Bittler, Roshelle Green, Gary Swanson
Outlook: Hickory has elevated its basketball program to become a perennial contender for the District 10 Class AAA championship. The Hornets ran into Villa Maria in the D-10 semifinals last winter, but they recovered to beat Mercyhurst Prep in the third-place game and reach the PIAA playoffs. Hickory will have two graduates to replace in Julia White and Abby Zreliak. Both were contributors last year and their experience will need to be replace right away. Hickory returns Nikki Arbanas, Brandi Beader, Megan Chess, Holly Grober, Nicole Lacava, Shawna Moore and Jasmine Shephard. Arbanas, Grober, Moore and Shephard are experienced senior leaders, while Beader, Chess and Lacava are juniors. Arbanas, a Youngstown State recruit, scored 18.1 points per game last year to be voted to the all-region first team. Grober is headed to Walsh next year and averaged 15.8 points per game as a junior. She was voted to the all-region first team and the co-region player of the year. Grober went over 1,000 points last year and Arbanas is closing in on the milestone. Lacava averaged 5.6 points per game last season, while Beader scored 5.5 ppg. Jenna Placzek was a contributor for the Hornets but is not playing this season. Hickory could also receive contributions from new players Reganne O’Brien, Heather Grober, Marissa DeJulia, Jordan Wilson and Neely Whitehead. The Hornets have one of the most experienced teams back in Region 5 and look like a strong contender to win the region title. Hickory has one of the top scoring duos in District 10 and this could be the year the Hornets step up and compete for the D-10 Class AAA title. If the Hornets get a little help from the lower levels to build their depth, they will be a tough out this season.

Schedule
December
6 Kittanning tournament
7 Kittanning tournament
10 Rochester 7:30
12 Central Tech 7:30
14 Sharon 7:30
19 at Slippery Rock* 7:30
27 Hickory tournament
28 Hickory tournament
January
2 at Canfield (Ohio) 7:30
6 Franklin* 7:30
8 Youngstown City School (Ohio) 7:30
9 Titusville* 7:30
13 Meadville* 7:30
16 at Oil City* 7:30
20 Grove City* 7:30
23 Slippery Rock* 7:30
25 at Struthers (Ohio) 5
30 at Franklin* 7:30
February
3 at Titusville* 7:30
7 at Meadville* 7:30
10 Oil City* 7:30
13 at Grove City* 7:30
*Region 5 games

–Tom Reisenweber

Posted in: Basketball, Fall Fastbreak

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