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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 (season, record): Nick Cannone (26th season, 385-260)
2011-12 overall record: 16-10
2011-12 region record (place): 11-5 (tied for second)
2011-12 playoff results: Defeated Central Tech 52-49 in the District 10 Class AAA quarterfinals before losing to General McLane 66-41 in the semifinals. Hickory then defeated Girard 37-26 in the third place game to make the PIAA playoffs. Hickory lost to New Castle 83-47 in the first round of the PIAA playoffs.
Top players lost: None
Top returning players: Matt Votino, Vinnie Mastrian, Anthony Cannone, Marcus Sonoga, Michael Nardone
Assistant coaches: Rick Ladjevich, Matt Fabian
Outlook: Hickory looks like a strong District 10 Class AAA contender this season. The Hornets return all five starters and their sixth man. Seniors Matt Votino and Vinnie Mastrian are back to lead an experienced and deep Hickory team. Votino averaged 15.7 points per game last winter to be voted to the all-region first team and will be a four-year starter. Mastrian scored 11.4 ppg and made the all-region second team as a junior. Anthony Cannone (10 ppg), Marcus Sonoga (7.7) and Michael Nardone (6) are also back in the starting lineup. Donte Green was the sixth man last winter and has vastly improved in the offseason according to longtime head coach Nick Cannone. Add in Calvin Pryts and Dionte Pope, who lettered their sophomore years but didn’t play as juniors because of injuries, and the Hornets have a talented team. Hickory has a solid set of guards and could play an up-tempo style throughout the year. If Pryts and Pope can stay healthy, the Hornets will be able to rotate at least eight players in each game. The only issue for the Hornets could be their size and production inside but Hickory’s speed and experience could counter size issues. The Hornets play in a brutal region and need only to survive it enough to get into the playoffs and make a run.

Schedule
December
7-8 Fairview tournament
14 at Farrell* 7:30
18 Meadville* 7:30
January
3 Grove City* 7:30
5 at Oil City* 7:30
8 Sharon* 7:30
11 at Franklin* 7:30
15 at Slippery Rock* 7:30
18 George Junior* 7:30
21 at Struthers (Ohio) 7:30
23 Farrell* 7:30
25 at Meadville* 7:30
29 VisionQuest 7:30
February
1 at Grove City* 7:30
5 Oil City* 7:30
7 at Sharon* 7:30
9 Franklin* 2:30
12 Slippery Rock* 7:30
15 at George Junior* 7:30
*Region 5 games

Girls
Coach (season, record): Jeanette Whitehead (17th season, 232-159)
2011-12 overall record: 22-4
2011-12 region record (place): 11-1 (co-champion)
2011-12 playoff results: Defeated Warren 51-43 in overtime in the District 10 Class AAA quarterfinals and General McLane 58-51 in the semifinals. Hickory then lost to Franklin 48-38 in the District 10 championship. Hickory moved on to the PIAA playoffs but lost in the first round to South Park 46-35.
Top players lost: Macy Horvath, Alexis McBride, Allison Zreliak
Top returning players: Nikki Arbanas, Taylor Beck, Megan Chess, Holly Grober, Shawna Moore, Jenna Placzek, Jasmine Shephard, Julia White, Abby Zreliak
Assistant coaches: Roshelle Green, Gary Swanson, Bruce Bittler
Outlook: Hickory was a bit of a surprise team last winter. The Hornets made a run to the District 10 championship game before falling to rival Franklin. Hickory will need to fill some holes with the graduation of Macy Horvath, Alexis McBride and Allison Zreliak. Horvath average 10.7 points per game last winter and was voted to the all-region second team. Hickory returns three starters in Nikki Arbanas, Holly Grober and Jenna Placzek. Arbana and Grober were voted to the all-region first team as sophomores, while Taylor Beck, Megan Chess, Shawn Moore, Jasmine Shephard, Julia White and Abby Zreliak are back as well. Brandi Beader and Nicole LaCava are new to the varsity level and could contribute right away. The Hornets worked hard in the offseason and their new chemistry will be key this winter. Losing three senior leaders to graduation is tough but Hickory is a young team that could be right back in the mix for a PIAA playoff spot.

Schedule
December
7-8 Kittanning tournament
11 at Rochester 7
15 Central Tech 2:30
18 at Central Valley 7:30
21 Slippery Rock* 7:30
27-28 Hickory tournament
January
4 at Sharon 7:30
7 at Franklin* 7:30
10 at Titusville* 7:30
14 at Meadville* 7:30
17 Oil City* 7:30
21 at Canfield (Ohio) 8
24 at Slippery Rock* 7:30
26 Grove City* 2:30
28 Cochranton 7:30
31 Franklin* 7:30
February
4 Titusville* 7:30
7 Meadville* 7:30
11 at Oil City* 7:30
14 at Grove City* 7:30
*Region 5 games

Friday: Iroquois

–Tom Reisenweber

Posted in: Basketball, Fall Fastbreak

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