PHILIPSBURG — The Philipsburg-Osceola boys basketball team returns five letterwinners, but just over half of them are still nursing injuries from football or the preseason.
Back are seniors Tyler Doyle, Kaleb Richardson and Keegan Soltis, juniors Aaron Depto and Ryan Whitehead and sophomore Jeremy Whitehead.
Both Whitehead brothers suffered injuries during the football season, while Soltis suffered a fractured foot during practice last week.
“Injuries happen every season, we have adopted the mindset of next man up,” said Mounties head coach Matt Curtis. “It will force some kids to be baptized by fire, but it will only benefit us as the seasons goes on. You grow up fast in the Mountain League. It has changed some of our plans, but we have a very versatile team this season.”
Curtis will lean heavily on the letterwinners for leadership, whether they are healthy or not.
“We expect our letterwinners to be our leaders on the floor and off the floor,” he said. “They need to do better job of holding each other accountable and pushing each other to get better every day. I expect our letterwinners to play the majority of minutes and allow the other players to grow as role players and do the little things right.”
Last season, the team had several underclassmen on the court, including both Whitehead brothers and Depto.
“Unfortunately, we have had to rely on some younger players in a junior and senior dominated league and that trend will continue,” Curtis said. “We have a few younger players that we expect minutes out of. They need to lean on the older guys that we have and learn at their own pace, not try to do too much. Just focus on your role.”
The Mounties will also have to fill the hole left by the loss of six seniors to graduation. Four of those (Carson Jones, Ryan Kephart, Isiah Scalzo and Bubba Slogosky) logged a ton of minutes last year.
“We lost 6 players to graduation and it will be difficult to replace all them,” Curtis said. “We expect our letterwinners to eat up a lot of minutes, but we have a nice core of new players that we believe can make an impact for this team.
“The team has adopted a team first attitude and I believe they are all prepared to pull their own weight and not try and do too much.”
Ryan Whitehead was a Progressland first team all-star last year. He averaged 15.0 points per game and pulled down 8.7 rebounds.
He looks to be a contributor on both offense and defense for the Mounties once he is completely healthy. Tyler Doyle, Richardson, Depto and Jeremy Whitehead will also be starters for the Mounties.
“The three seniors will be key,” said Curtis. “They have been around for a lot. They have been very successful in many sports and they need to be able to push their teammates to get better in every aspect of the game.
“Ryan Whitehead is a key to this team as well, he has all the ability to be a great team leader. Tyler Doyle has really stepped up so far this season. We have been really happy with his attitude, effort and leadership.”
Curtis said he is also impressed with his group’s work ethic and feels that the Mounties can compete in the Mountain League this season.
“We want to change the narrative about P-O basketball,” said Curtis. “We want to be competitive night in and night out, challenging for the top of the Mountain League. We want to host the first-ever home playoff game here at P-O.
“This team has a team-first attitude. They are the most disciplined team we have ever had along with athleticism, versatility. We really like how they are pushing each other every day and they continue to work hard on the court, in the weight room and off the court.”
The Mounties are still working hard on the fundamentals and getting reps in with the new starting five.
“We need to have discipline and an understanding how the offense and defense should look,” said Curtis. “We need to get bigger, faster and stronger. The attention to detail has really be stressed this season.
“We have been in so many close games the last 2 years but the little things have cost us those games and I believe with this group they can clean it up and they want to be the group the changes the narrative on P-O basketball.”
Curtis will be helped again this season by Troy Butterworth, Jon Whitman and Greg Whitehead.
Philipsburg-Osceola opens the season on Dec. 6 at the Southern Huntingdon Tip-Off Tournament.
*Tyler Doyle, *Kaleb Richardson, *Keegan Soltis.
*Aaron Depto, Chad Frank, Kyle Hahn, *Ryan Whitehead.
Tristan Doyle, Zack Eckberg, Braedon Fenton, Colby Hahn, Jacob Kosut, Parker Matson, Jeremy Whitehead.
Jake DeSimone, Oliver Harpster.
*Denotes returning letterwinners.
6-7—at Southern Huntingdon Tip-Off Tournament, TBA. 10—Huntingdon. 13—Bellefonte. 18—at Clearfield. 20—at Bald Eagle Area. 27—Curwensville.
3—Moshannon Valley. 7—at Central. 10—Tyrone. 13—at St. Joseph’s Academy. 15—at Penns Valley. 17—at Huntingdon. 21—at Bellefonte. 22—at Curwensville. 24—Clearfield. 27—at Moshannon Valley. 29—Bald Eagle Area. 31—Central.
4—at Tyrone. 7—Penns Valley. 12—at Glendale.
All games begin at 7:30 p.m. unless noted.